And today, beloved patrons, we celebrate the life of Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who passed away on January 17 at the age of 83.
Mary Oliver was one of America’s most popular and oft-quoted poets. She was born on September 10, 1935, in Maple Heights, Ohio, and attended, but did not graduate from, Ohio State University and Vassar College, finding her best education in nature. As she explained in a rare 2012 interview with NPR, “The two things I loved from a very early age were the natural world and dead poets, [who] were my pals when I was a kid.”
The love of Oliver’s life was the photographer Molly Malone Cook, to whom she dedicated much of her work. The pair met in the late 1950s, and remained together until Cook’s death in 2005. In the book they produced together, titled Our World (Oliver wrote the text and Cook provided the photographs), Oliver wrote : “I took one look and fell, hook and tumble”.
And now…on to the books!
Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974: We hear a lot of discussion these days about the polarization of American society and its inhabitants–but when did it start? For leading historians Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer, it all starts in 1974. In that one year, the nation weathered the Watergate crisis and the departure of President Richard Nixon, the first and only U.S. President to resign. In addition, people coped with the winding down of the Vietnam War and rising doubts about America’s military might, as well as the fallout from the OPEC oil embargo that paralyzed America with the greatest energy crisis in its history. More locally, the desegregation busing riots in South Boston showed a horrified nation that our efforts to end institutional racism were failing. Longstanding historical fault lines over income inequality, racial division, and a revolution in gender roles and sexual norms would deepen and fuel a polarized political landscape in the years to come, and were widened thanks to profound changes in our political system as well as a fracturing media landscape that was repeatedly transformed with the rise of cable TV, the internet, and social media. This is a fascinating, insightful, and thoroughly engaging book from some genuinely savvy historians that earned a starred review from Library Journal, who called it “a concise, riveting, and carefully argued chronicle of the last four decades of American history…This highly readable, compelling book should be required reading for all Americans of voting age.”
The Shaker Murders: Have you met Eleanor Kuhns’ hero Will Rees? If not, this is a perfect time to get acquainted with the revolutionary war veteran and traveler weaver, because these historical mysteries are fascinating. In this sixth series installment, Will is still trying to reconcile himself with his previous case, and has taken his heavily pregnant wife Lydia and six adopted children to take refuge in Zion, a Shaker community in rural Maine. Shortly after their arrival, screams in the night reveal a drowned body … but is it murder or an unfortunate accident? The Shaker Elders argue it was just an accident, but Rees believes otherwise. As Will investigates further, more deaths follow and a young girl vanishes from the community. Haunted by nightmares for his family’s safety, Rees must rush to uncover the truth before the dreams can become reality and more lives are lost. Yet can the Shaker Elders be trusted, or is an outsider involved? Publisher’s Weekly praised this book’s “authentic period detail and nuanced characterizations”, and noted that “Kuhns makes the most of the cloistered Shaker community setting in this top-notch outing.”
The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man: Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson is just what readers need on a cold and snowy weekend like this, and this brilliant second outing for our favorite centenarian is going to make your weekend so much better. It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes! Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated. Booklist wrote a delightful review of his novel, calling it “A welcome visit from an old friend that’s filled with laugh out-loud hijinx as well as thought- provoking and timely satire on the current state of the world and the perils of power.”
An Orchestra of Minorities: Man Booker Prize finalist Chigozie Obioma provides a stunning modern retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria, and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit. Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks. Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements.. Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home. A book that is both enormous in scope and deeply personal in its subject matter, this book has earned starred reviews from a number of national outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, who said in its review “Obioma’s novel is electrifying, a meticulously crafted character drama told with emotional intensity. His invention, combining Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy in the context of modern Nigeria, makes for a rich, enchanting experience.”
Joy Enough: A moving account of loss, love, family, this debut by Sarah McColl, founding editor-in-chief of Yahoo Food, is making waves with reviewers and readers alike. Mining the dual losses of both her young marriage and her beloved mother, McColl confronts her identity as a woman, walking lightly in the footsteps of the woman who came before her and clinging fast to the joy she left behind. Even as she was coping with her marriage ending, McColl drops everything when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, returning to the family farmhouse and laboring over elaborate meals in the hopes of nourishing her back to health. In this series of vibrant vignettes, she reveals a woman of endless charm and infinite love for her unruly brood of children. Booklist wrote a glowing review of this book, saying in part that is it “Written with enough beauty to stop clocks ticking and heart’s beating…. McColl’s resonant first book is resplendent with love, and the hope she finds in discovering that her unfathomable grief also carved a space for more profound joy.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!