Monday, November 6, 2017

Crimes of the Father

Victims. Is it too soon for a novel whose subject is the clerical sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church? Thomas Keneally thought not and wrote Crimes of the Father, a novel set in Sydney Australia in two alternating time segments: the 1970s and 1996. Protagonist Father Frank Docherty was born in Australia, joined a religious order there and was ordained a priest. Following his preaching in the 1970s against the Vietnam War, the archbishop wanted him out of the country, so his order transferred him to Canada where he became a psychologist and teacher. He returns to Sydney in 1996 to give a speech to clerics about sexual abuse, and to visit his ill mother. Both victims of abuse and priests aware of the crimes of fellow priests take Frank into their confidence. Keneally develops all the characters with skill, especially the victims, and by setting the time period when he did, we can see the emergence of attention to the abuse scandal. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Crimes of the Father from

Little Fires Everywhere

Mothers. Things are not as they appear in the planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and when secrets are revealed the consequences are dramatic. Celese Ng homes in on the theme of motherhood in her novel titled, Little Fires Everywhere. A variety of birth and adoptive mothers are faced with difficult choices. The children of those mothers are the beneficiaries or the victims of those choices. Differences in class are dramatic, but disaster knows nothing about class. There are many little fires simmering or blazing in the houses of Shaker Heights, and thanks to Ng, readers are drawn into these lives to become singed. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Little Fires Everywhere from

Manhattan Beach

Anna. While I’m reading historical fiction, I notice what happens when I recognize how much I am enjoying a novel: my mental images of the past change from black and white to color. From page one of her novel titled, Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan sent vivid color to my brain. Set mostly in and around the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, the novel draws readers into that place and time through a well-developed protagonist, Anna, who overcomes resistance to become a diver. Egan leads us into a world of gangsters, complicated family dynamics and a variety of forms of loss and restoration. Her fine prose and well-told story entertained me thoroughly from beginning to end. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Manhattan Beach from

Dinner at the Center of the Earth

Middle. Our finest artists look at the world and explain it to the rest of us. The talented writer Nathan Englander looks at the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and explains it to us in his novel titled, Dinner at the Center of the Earth. When differences divide us, it can be helpful to understand the other’s point of view, clarify our own position, and find common ground or ways of meeting in the middle. The trope of meeting for a meal in the middle of a tunnel expresses the journey each party must take to come together. A long-held prisoner and his guard illustrate the ways in which different parties are put together and uncover common ground. Fans of literary fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Dinner at the Center of the Earth from

Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment

Meditation. Robert Wright offers a secular and not a religious perspective about Buddhism in his book titled, Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Wright is a thoughtful writer who offers his personal perspective about meditation and its place in his life. Readers get to observe Wright and his struggles on silent retreats and with trying to meditate. Each of us is on some path away from suffering and from our delusions, and this book describes the path that Wright has chosen. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Why Buddhism Is True from

Friday, November 3, 2017


Blake. Readers who don’t find Dan Brown’s writing tedious and plodding are those most likely to enjoy reading his latest novel to feature Robert Langdon. Titled, Origin, this novel explores answers that a student of Langdon provides to two perennial questions: where did we come from and where are we going? Brown teases out the student’s answers over the course of 480 pages using quotes from Winston Churchill along the way and aspects of the life and writing of William Blake. The Catholic church is back with a role to play in this novel. Brown has been successful with this formula in earlier novels, and the latest novel will seem very familiar to readers of his earlier books. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Origin from

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History

Unintimidated. NBC News reporter Katy Tur was plucked from a welcome assignment in Europe to cover the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Never suspecting that her assignment would last 500 days and that the candidate she was covering would become President, Tur hit the road and came to understand the scope of Trump’s support. She writes about her personal experience of the campaign and her early life in a memoir titled, Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. Readers looking for some Teddy White style perspective on the campaign won’t find much new in this book. Readers interested in Tur herself and the ways in which she was never intimidated by Trump or his supporters are those most likely to enjoy reading this book. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Unbelievable from