Check out these book reviews from staff members of the Louis T. Graves Memorial Public Library. The books (with review cards) can be found on the Fireplace Mantel near the front desk at Graves Library. Come on in for a visit and check them out!
Mainers Susan and Tony Conley and their two young sons take a plunge and relocate to Beijing where Tony has an IT job. Susan, a writer, assumes that she can do her work anywhere. But China, in all its mystery and alien culture, makes hard work of the day to day, not to mention the unusual. Conley’s strong writing brings us along with her as she works through the myriad differences in daily life – finding a school, learning Chinese, bargaining in markets. Just when things seem to have settled into a reasonably calm pattern, Susan is diagnosed with breast cancer and returns to the states for treatment with her family. A return to China puts her right back into the alien culture, this time with the addition of the need to deal with “the haze of cancerland”, as she puts it.
Very few times does Conley appear to be the least bit whiney about her difficulties, and she can be forgiven for that. Moving to a foreign country can be difficult in any case, but when the culture and the language are so far removed from one’s own, it’s a far different story.
In true Hoffman fashion, this terrific book about the small town of Blackwell, Ma., at times suspends belief into the somewhat mystical, but also in true Hoffman fashion, you’re led along the path absorbing and accepting everything. This is a series of interconnected stories of the families that founded and peopled the town over the course of centuries. Characters descend from previous characters, sometimes intermarrying to create temperaments and foibles that continue through their lineage. Even the town dogs, collies, seem to have sprung from one original source.
There is superstition, anguish, joy, loss and recovery in chapter after chapter. The book follows the country’s history through discovery, wars, and social shifts, with Johnny Appleseed and Emily Dickinson thrown in for good measure. Excellent!