A Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from a Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks

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While you are waiting to obtain a copy of Educated: a Memoir by Sara Westover ( the holds list is still in the 800’s), you might want to try this book.  Mr. Rebanks, the latest in a long family line of Herdwick sheep farmers, has become an international phenomenon with his evocative prose and blunt observations on the rugged lives and culture of his native English Lake District (Wellesley Books).  He rejects everything about school as a boy but ends up at Oxford.  While most memoirs are about people trying to leave a place, James is determined to remain on the land of his ancestors.

“Captivating… A book about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that’s increasingly about mobility and self-invention. Hugely compelling” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A gorgeous book, unsentimental but exultant, vivid and profound, and a fierce defense of small-scale farming against the twin threats of agribusiness and tourism.” ―National Geographic

“May well do for sheep what Helen Macdonald did for hawks.” ―The Guardian (UK)

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Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

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In a rural East Texas town of fewer than 200 people, the body of an African American lawyer from Chicago is found in a bayou, followed several days later by that of a local white woman. What’s going on? African American Texas Ranger Darren Mathews hopes to find out, which means talking to relatives of the deceased, including the woman’s white supremacist husband — and Mathews soon discovers things are more complex than they seem. With fully realized characters and a timely look at race relations in the U.S., this book by award-winning novelist Attica Locke (who’s also written and produced for TV’s Empire) is the 1st in her Highway 59 series.

Winner of the 2017 Edgar Award

Locke is a gifted author, and her intriguing and compelling crime novel will keep readers engrossed.—Starred Review, Library Journal

“A quick course in plotting and nimble characterizations rooted in a vividly evoked setting”―Nicole LamyNew York Times Book Review

“In Bluebird, Bluebird Attica Locke had both mastered the thriller and exceeded it. Ranger Darren Mathews is tough, honor-bound, and profoundly alive in corrupt world. I loved everything about this book.”―Ann Patchett

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The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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Just released – June 2018!  I can’t wait to tell my mother.  She and I had debated for hours about the meaning of the ending of Umrigar’s first book –  The Space Between Us  –  the story of the deep friendship between two women of very different stations in India.  Written as beautifully as her first book, this new friendship and journey of two women both born without privilege pushes the very boundaries on earth.  No need to read in order – both are powerhouse novels!

“The women at the heart of this novel inhabit the harsh world of the urban Indian poor, and struggle separately and together for dignity and survival. Thrity Umrigar has written a moving human tale that vividly brings to life both the women and the city of Mumbai.”  (Salman Rushdie)

“[The Secrets Between Us] provides an almost “Siddhartha”-esque experience of sharing a character’s spiritual journey, as the plot takes Bhima and Parvati to places where they must question their preconceptions, search their souls and ultimately change.” (Newsday)

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbevilles, and meeting her “cousin” Alec proves to be her downfall. When Angel Clare offers her love and salvation, she must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

By the time Tess of the d’Urbervilles was published in 1891, Thomas Hardy was well established as a popular novelist with 12 novels and a book of short stories to his credit. This book is considered by many to be his finest work, yet it was his first to be met with critical outrage, due largely to the controversial subject matter. In fact, when his next book, Jude the Obscure, was also assailed as inflammatory, Hardy became so disillusioned that he retired from novel writing, and spent the last 30 years of his life writing poetry.

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American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

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This is a fascinating true story that I had never heard of, even though it only happened a few years ago. A series of over 80 fires spread through Accomack County, Virginia, committed by two arsonists. This book tells their story, as well as the story of how the community and its firefighters dealt with these events.

Washington Post reporter Hesse leads readers on an extended tour of a bizarre five-month crime spree in rural Accomack County, Va.: a series of over 80 arsons, of predominantly abandoned buildings, committed by a local couple. . . . A page-turning story of love gone off the rails. — Publishers Weekly

Hesse enters the compelling narrative with restraint in probing, essayistic analyses. She tells the story of the fires and of the Eastern Shore and the people she got to know there with an earned familiarity that, at the same time, speaks of the unknowability of a vast, rapidly changing nation. — Annie Bostrom (Booklist, starred review)

A captivating narrative about arson, persistent law enforcers, an unlikely romantic relationship, and a courtroom drama. . . . Throughout, the author offers a nuanced portrait of a way of life unknown to most who have never resided on or visited the Eastern Shore. A true-crime saga that works in every respect. — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

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What woman could hold her own and be married to Ernest Hemingway?  Meet Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gelhorn, who did become one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century.  I have read both The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun, but McLain’s novel portraying this stormy, passionate marriage is by far the best of the three.

“Wonderfully evocative . . . This is historical fiction at its best, and today’s female readers will be encouraged by Martha, who refuses to be silenced or limited in a time that was harshly repressive for women.”Library Journal (starred review)

“Propulsive . . . highly engaging . . . McLain does an excellent job portraying a woman with dreams who isn’t afraid to make them real, showing [Gellhorn’s] bravery in what was very much a man’s world. Her work around the world . . . is presented in meticulous, hair-raising passages. . . . The book is fueled by her questing spirit, which asks, Why must a woman decide between being a war correspondent and a wife in her husband’s bed?”The New York Times Book Review

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Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux

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The perfect book for anyone looking to reconnect with a childhood (or adult!) favorite.  Rioux explores Little Women‘s creation, legacy, and future with insights into Alcott’s life, commentary on the many, many adaptations of her most famous novel, and input from notable people (like J. K. Rowling and Theodore Roosevelt) who’ve felt a deep connection to it.

A 150th anniversary tribute describes the cultural significance of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, exploring how its relatable themes and depictions of family resilience, community, and female resourcefulness have inspired generations of writers.

“Lively and informative…Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy does what―ideally―books about books can do: I’ve taken Little Women down from my shelf and put it on top of the books I plan to read.”- Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review

 “Reading Anne Boyd Rioux’s engaging Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, has made me pick up Alcott’s novel yet again with renewed insight and inspiration. Every fan of Little Women will delight in reading this book. And all the women―and men―who haven’t read the novel will race to it after reading Rioux.”- Ann Hood, author of Morningstar and The Book That Matters Most

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The Ghosts of Belfast (The Belfast Novels) by Stuart Neville

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Selected by the Weston Mystery Book Discussion Group, October 2018. New York Times Notable Book and Winner of The Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Fegan has been a “hard man,” an IRA killer in northern Ireland. Now that peace has come, he is being haunted day and night by twelve ghosts: a mother and infant, a schoolboy, a butcher, an RUC constable, and seven other of his innocent victims. In order to appease them, he’s going to have to kill the men who gave him orders.

“In this well-crafted and intriguing series debut, Neville evokes the terrors of living in Belfast during ‘the Troubles’ and manages to makes Fegan, a murderer many times over, a sympathetic character…The buzz around this novel is well deserved and readers will be anticipating the next book in the series.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“Neville’s debut is as unrelenting as Fegan’s ghosts, pulling no punches as it describes the brutality of Ireland’s ‘troubles’ and the crime that has followed, as violent men find new outlets for their skills. Sharp prose places readers in this pitiless place and holds them there. Harsh and unrelenting crime fiction, masterfully done.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

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Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

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Baby Frankie is born into an unusual family. Her mother is desperate to find someone to take care of her child and she doesn’t have much time. Noel doesn’t seem to be the most promising of fathers but despite everything, he could well be Frankie’s best hope. As for Lisa, she is prepared to give up everything for the man she loves; surely he’s going to love her back? And Moira is having none of it. She knows what’s right, and has the power to change the course of Frankie’s life . . . but Moira is hiding secrets of her own. Minding Frankie is a story about unconventional families, relationships which aren’t quite what they seem, and the child at the heart of everyone’s lives.

“Binchy’s worldview is a large, benevolent one, and the reader is happier for it. . . . Bless her big Irish heart.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Maeve Binchy has done it again [with] yet another warm tale of individual growth and human community, [in which] she assembles a large cast of characters and deploys them with her characteristic playfulness . . . Binchy specializes in exploring human foibles without spelling them out in tiresome detail . . . There’s a good chance that many readers, like this one, will consider Minding Frankie one of Binchy’s best novels yet.” —BookPage

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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I can’t say enough about this book and have already placed it in the hands of my favorite readers. The main character survives an impoverished childhood at a very young age in the North Carolina marshes only to remain isolated for the rest of her life. She opens her heart to everything that lives and breathes in this foreboding, haunting place.  You will too.  It is nature writing at its best with an added coming of age story, romance, and murder mystery.  Guaranteed a deep reading experience.

“A lush debut novel, Owens delivers her mystery wrapped in gorgeous, lyrical prose. It’s clear she’s from this place—the land of the southern coasts, but also the emotional terrain—you can feel it in the pages.  A magnificent achievement, ambitious, credible and very timely.”—Alexandra Fuller, New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature….Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Carries the rhythm of an old time ballad. It is clear Owens knows this land intimately, from the black mud sucking at footsteps to the taste of saltwater and the cry of seagulls.”David Joy, author of The Line That Held Us

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