Steller Reads for the New Year
Want to rock your book discussion group with controversy, stellar writing, and the unexpected?
Here are three books everyone will want to add to this year’s list!
Faith by Jennifer Haigh
In Jennifer Haigh’s Faith, a sister turns a cool omniscient eye on her troubled Irish-American family. It’s the summer of 2002. Sexual abuse charges, perpetrated within Boston’s hallowed Archdiocese, are already front-page news when a young woman accuses her parish priest of molesting her seven-year-old son.
Father Arthur McGann, hapless, painfully shy, and often self-deprecating, stuns his once proud mother into a state of denial.
His ex-cop half-brother and the father of two small boys, has a more knee-jerk reaction: revulsion.
Only the irreverent Sheila, Arthur’s younger half-sister, has her doubts. And they begin with her mother, Mary. But getting to the truth will mean returning to her old South Shore neighborhood—to the parents she has long been estranged from.
Seductive, compelling, and with an edgy first-person narrative, Jennifer Haigh pokes brilliantly at her characters, backing them into emotional corners in some scenes so revealing you wonder if she herself wasn’t surprised.
Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick
Will Counts, a photographer for the Arkansas Democrat, was waiting on that dazzling September morning in 1957 at the north end of town.
It was the first day of school, and Counts, a sharecropper’s son from Plum Bayou, desperately wanted to be the one to capture what his hero, the great French photographer Jacques Cartier-Bresson once called “the decisive moment.”
Within seconds, a young black teen named Elizabeth Eckford appeared, princess perfect in her new school dress. Nine other black students, (all volunteers), were due to join her. Their goal was to be a historical one: together they planned to climb the steps and walk through the front doors of a white bastion of education: Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas.
But somehow that morning the wires got crossed. The rest of the group congregated elsewhere, leaving a terrified Elizabeth alone but determined to walk what would indeed become her own personal “way of sorrows.”
An angry mob of whites, (indifferently “controlled” by the Arkansas National Guard), began to harass Elizabeth—taunting, yellingeven spitting—as she passed.
But it was one girl’s near hysteria that stood out.
Spewing a mash of racial slurs directed at the back of Elizabeth’s head, fifteen-year-old Hazel Bryan was the personification of sheer and unmitigated evil.
And Will Counts, looking through the lens of his Nikon s2 Rangefinder, saw something indelible: hate and resilience side by side.
He had his moment.
In Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock, author David Margolick walks us forward from that iconic image to meet the two women it haunted most.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Author and paleontologist Mary Doria Russell imagines an interplanetary relationship between a select group of earthlings and a highly aesthetic society of beings in her taut and brainy sci fi thriller, The Sparrow.
In 2019, a sound signal four light years from earth is intercepted at the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. It turns out to be a fragment of cappella singing so exquisite, it confirms a life form with perhaps the same emotional sapience as humans.
The Magellan Mission gets quickly underway, and includes four Jesuits, a physician, her engineer husband, an astronomer, and linguist.
But something goes horribly wrong on the planet Rakhat, and only one person returns to earth and to a frenzied media, an intergalactic murder investigation, and an anxious Rome.
But all will have to wait.
The lone survivor, the once vital Father Emilio Sandoz, now lays curled in a constant fetal state—unable to speak, unable to eat, unable to sleep—for fear of waking to the sound of his own screaming.
The Sparrow gives spooky relevance to God in outer space.
Additional posts by Aimee Zuccarini
- Three Books that Are Spring-Fresh and Fun!, 06 Apr 2013 in Book Reviews
- Challenge Yourself (And Your Book Discussion Group) With a Big Book this Winter, 30 Jan 2013 in Book Reviews
- Inner Peace on Earth, 05 Dec 2012 in Book Reviews
- Steamy Summer Fiction, 13 Aug 2012 in Book Reviews
- Buzzworthy Books, 08 Jun 2012 in Book Reviews
- Girls Rule: 3 Writers Prove that Women Authors Can—and Should—be Taken Seriously, 11 Apr 2012 in Book Reviews
- Feast on These, 02 Dec 2011 in Book Reviews
- Books You (and the Men in Our Lives) Will Enjoy, 02 Nov 2011 in Book Reviews
- Page-gripping Beach Reads, 08 Aug 2011 in Book Reviews