Japanese lives matter

When Sheriff Art Moran reels in Carl Heine’s body entwined in his own fishing net, there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence implicating Kabuo Miyamoto in the man’s death.

The sheriff finds a battery belonging to Kabuo in Carl’s boat–and Carl’s blood on Kabuo’s fishing spear. An unresolved land dispute between the Heines and the Miyamotos makes a likely motive.

Snow Falling on Cedars

“Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson is available from the library in hardcover, large print, and e-book. We also have the film on DVD.

But the real reason for Kabuo’s arrest is prejudice, still lingering in 1954 on this Pacific Northwest island. Many of the island’s white residents registered no protest as their Japanese-American neighbors–even those who were American citizens–were marched away to internment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

When I read David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, I was struck by the parallels between Kabuo’s behavior as a suspect and that of some African-Americans recently killed by the police.

Kabuo is less than forthcoming as to his whereabouts after the body is discovered, certain that if he tells the truth he won’t be treated fairly. Similarly, some people today believe that running from the police is more rational than getting caught and negotiating the justice system as an African-American.

In the manner of To Kill a Mockingbird, the murder mystery in this book keeps you turning the pages. But the payback for reading it is more profound than discovering whodunnit.

Guterson puts you in the shoes of mid-20th century villagers, who for years had shared the toil and celebration of the local strawberry harvest with Japanese-Americans but also had family members die at the hands of the Japanese. He shows you the hubris of jurors who require meager evidence to move them beyond a reasonable doubt of a Japanese-American man’s guilt. And he immerses you in one of the most evocative descriptions of an incessant winter storm you’ll ever read.

About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

The greatest role model in the world

“Haatchi and Little B.” is available in hardcover at the Nashua Library

Inga Dellea-MessnerThere once was a sweet dog who was left knocked out and possibly even tied to train tracks. This young puppy suffered the loss of a leg and unimaginable cruelty at a very young age. He was soon almost put to sleep by numerous vets who feared they would never find a home suitable for him.

Meanwhile, a little boy suffered from the rare Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, which kept him in constant pain and left him a social outcast. His muscles could contract but never relax, leaving them crushing his very bones and organs. He could not walk, and his face was scrunched in, his eyes stuck in such a squint he could barely see. Little B. refused to go out in public, but when he had to he would cover his face. Still, he knew the crowds stared at him.

The true story Haatchi and Little B. by Wendy Holden is an account of how these two meet and transform each other.

While Haatchi is finally shown unconditional love and loyalty in a new home after the attempted slaughter, Little B. learns what it is to push through. As his mobility, vision, and prognosis worsen, nothing could ever help him like one three-legged dog. This perfect role model was dealt a terrible hand and yet somehow loved, persevered, and even trusted again, with a smile and not even the slightest glimpse backward.

As these two face struggle after struggle with their health, theirs is a story of courage and fortitude, love, acceptance, and courage. It is a story of the truest friendship one can have, and of change.

But the change that they bring about isn’t just in their home. Perhaps the most moving aspect of the story is the way Haatchi and Little B. brighten the world around them. The pair brings out the best in people over and over again.

This is a moving account of karma and love winning out time and again against all obstacles. If you’re looking for a reminder about just how wonderful the world can be (contrasted with the ugly), then this book is an absolute must.

I sincerely hope you’ll read this quick 200-page tearjerker.

About Inga Dellea-Messner

Library Assistant Inga Dellea-Messner grew up in Windham and Hudson. She worked at the Rodgers Memorial Library for seven years before becoming a library assistant at the Nashua Public Library. On her way to earning her bachelor’s degree from Keene State, she spent five months studying French in Bretagne (Brittany).

A Different Look at the Lord’s Prayer

Loren RossonWhen Christians pray the Our Father, they are usually praising God and asking for blessings.

But when Jesus’ disciples prayed it, they were asking for protection against disobedience–for God to keep them on a difficult straight-and-narrow.

The Disciples' Prayer

“The Disciples’ Prayer: The Prayer Jesus Taught in Its Historical Setting” by Jeffrey B. Gibson is available from the library in paperback.

So says Jeffrey Gibson in his hot-off-the-press analysis of what we call the Lord’s Prayer, but which he calls The Disciples’ Prayer since it was the disciples who prayed it. It’s an historical analysis that puts the prayer in its original context.

Gibson asks intriguing questions: Which version of the prayer is more reliable, Matthew’s (6:9-13) or Luke’s (11:2-4)? (He thinks Matthew’s). Did Jesus inherit the prayer from John the Baptist? (He says no.) Was the prayer like other Jewish future-looking prayers? (Not quite.)

The prayer emerges not so much as a plea for God to make his kingdom come, but to help the disciples maintain an obedience which the kingdom required.

To say “Our Father” was a confession of God’s lordship that pledged disciple loyalty whatever the cost. “Hallow your name” asked that the disciples not dishonor God through disobedience, even at the cost of their lives. The plea for “forgiveness” was about the principle of nonretaliation and the constraint to love enemies.

Loving enemies is always a tall order, but martyrdom (especially pacifist martyrdom) is terrifying.

There were Jewish resistance groups in the first century whose messiahs or leaders effectively preached, “an eye for an eye, with a rock through the head, too.” When the disciples were told to turn the other cheek, they weren’t being taught a cute Sunday-school metaphor, but rather to be merciful and even to succumb to martyrdom if it came to that.

The Disciples’ Prayer is a fascinating historical investigation, even for secularists like me. For Christians it carries the bonus of offering an alternative way of thinking about this famous prayer. Perhaps it was less about “praying down” the kingdom of God, and more about keeping oneself constrained to be worthy of it.

About Loren Rosson

Loren Rosson heads up the circulation department at the Nashua Public Library. He's worked at the library since graduating from Lewis and Clark College, with the exception of the two years he spent in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, teaching high school.

Am I crying–over a dog book?

Carol Luers EymanFirst, I should tell you that I’m not a dog person.

Also, auto racing is not my thing.

Which explains why I had avoided The Art of Racing in the Rain, a best-selling novel about Enzo, a lab/terrier mix, and Denny, his endurance-auto-racing owner, since it came out in 2008.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is available from the library in hardcover, CD audiobook, and downloadable audiobook.

Which does not explain why, in 2015, I found myself racing through this story, narrated by Enzo with the diction of a British butler, and holding back tears toward the end.

That reaction I must credit to the clever writing of Garth Stein.

Enzo chronicles his master Denny’s life, from his time as a single guy working as an auto mechanic through courtship, marriage, and parenthood, intertwined with attempts to achieve his dreams of success in endurance auto racing.

Stein manages to insert humor into what is overall a sad story: Enzo rants to us about his inability to control his large, floppy tongue enough to speak. He dreams of what he’d do if he only had an opposable thumb.

Enzo believes he will come back in another life as a human. Yet being a canine gives him a prescience that his human family lacks. Around Eve, Denny’s wife, Enzo is able to sense a tragedy in the wings:

“I had detected a bad odor, like rotting wood, mushrooms, decay….It came from her ears and her sinuses. There was something inside Eve’s head that didn’t belong.

“Given a facile tongue, I could have warned them. I could have alerted them to her condition long before they discovered it with their machines…”

How could I not shed my indifference to canines?

As for the auto racing scenes, while they never had me packing my bags for Daytona, they illustrated Denny’s philosophies of life, which carried him through a struggle with Eve’s parents over the welfare of his daughter.

The family conflict in this book reminded me of the plot of A Theory of Relativity by Jacquelyn Mitchard. If in spite of my words of praise for The Art of Racing in the Rain you still can’t get yourself to pick up a dog book, try that one instead.

 

 

 

 

 

About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

I don’t trust you.

"We Were Liars" is available from the library in hardcover, audiobook on CD, and downloadable audiobook and ebook.

“We Were Liars” is available from the library in hardcover, audiobook on CD, and downloadable audiobook and e-book.

Sophie SmithUnreliable narrators are a staple of fiction.

From Nick and Amy Dunne in Gone Girl to Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, adult literature is rife with both outright liars and narrators who present only their side of the truth.

Teen literature has its own fair share. Two books I’ve read recently come to mind.

The title of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart doesn’t hide the fact that there’s deceit to uncover here. Cady, the main character, is dealing with head trauma and memory issues, which paint the narrative as something more than just another rich kid whining. Lockhart’s exquisitely written story features complex family drama and a truly surprising reveal.

"Belzhar" is available from the library in hardcover or downloadable audiobook or ebook.

“Belzhar” is available from the library in hardcover or downloadable audiobook or e-book.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer is another story of a teen, Jam, who’s suffered a traumatic experience. When we meet her, she’s been sent off to a school for kids with issues and is placed into a very special English class. With the company of her peers, she uncovers a way of reliving her past and revealing secrets along the way.

Having read books by both authors before, I was not surprised at the quality of the writing and the complexity of the stories. Lockhart’s books are not generally as eerie as We Were Liars, and while it was a departure from her norm, she did a wonderful job with it.

I had previously read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings which Carol reviewed a few months back, and I too enjoyed it. In Belzhar, Wolitzer wrapped things up a little too nicely at the end, and for her first YA novel, it felt like she was playing down to her audience.

I still recommend both books, and can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

About Sophie Smith

Sophie Smith is the supervisor of teen services at the Nashua Public Library and can also frequently be found at the reference desk. As a history and Spanish major at Kenyon College she spent a year in Salamanca, Spain. She earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” is available from the library in hardcover, audiobook on CD, e-book, and in a Spanish edition.

Inga Dellea-MessnerEvery now and then, people need a reminder of the wisdom that comes with “difference.”

Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time is one of these reminders.

The story, which takes place in England, is told through the viewpoint of one Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy with a social disorder.

Perhaps it’s Asperger’s Syndrome, but Haddon is very clear in interviews that he does not want this to be a book about Asperger’s. It is a book about a boy who is different, and what he goes through. And, more importantly, how he goes through it.

I see it as a book about being on the outside looking in, which can be a very good thing.

It all starts with a dead dog. A gruesomely murdered dog, actually. Christopher, who understands dogs better than people, is determined to find out who killed it.

In his search for the answer, he ignores rules, breaks promises, and unravels secrets.

How does one “socially malfunctioning” brain uncover hard truths, accept them, and adapt? It is Christopher’s infallible intelligence and logic that lead to the greatest insights.

While this story is full of tragedy–and your heart will go out to this poor kid–you will also laugh yourself silly. Haddon deftly exposes the most outrageous little idiosyncrasies of our everyday habits, while simultaneously making the outrageous habits of an autistic teenager seem perfectly reasonable.

Consider the use of a metaphor in everyday speech. For example: “I had a pig of a day” and “He has a skeleton in his cupboard.” (Remember, the book is written in British English.) Christopher calls them lies, “because a pig is not like a day and people do not have skeletons in their cupboards.”

And have you ever thought about how complex the process of imagination is? Christopher doesn’t like it, saying:

If I start thinking about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen.

Read this book, and you’ll think of yourself, love, loss, and life in a whole new way.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover that that peculiar person who never speaks to you has the most meaningful things to say.

 

About Inga Dellea-Messner

Library Assistant Inga Dellea-Messner grew up in Windham and Hudson. She worked at the Rodgers Memorial Library for seven years before becoming a library assistant at the Nashua Public Library. On her way to earning her bachelor’s degree from Keene State, she spent five months studying French in Bretagne (Brittany).

The case against the war on drugs

Loren RossonChasing the Scream is an indictment of the drug war, a plea for legalizing all drugs, and a sober reassessment of what causes drug addiction.

And a page-turner besides. I read it in two days.

Whether or not it changes how you feel about drug policies in America, it will make you think hard about them.

Chasing the Scream

“Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari is available at the library in hardcover.

For years, opponents of the drug war have been making a case similar to Hari’s: That we ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users (especially nonwhites in poverty) by imprisoning them, and make room for them in prison by paroling dangerous offenders like murderers and rapists. That we make crime worse by empowering gangs and drug monopolies. That the solution to addiction isn’t incarceration but education and rehabilitative support networks.

Hari appeals to the example of Portugal, whose population of addicts went down by half after ending its own drug war through legalization. Most fascinating are his findings about what causes addiction.

One theory says it is caused by moral failure (hedonism and partying too hard), while another insists the brain is hijacked by drug chemicals.

But research shows that traditional theories are flawed. Hari points to evidence that suggests it’s neither our morality nor our brain, but our “cage”–a life full of isolation, stress, and/or misery–that makes drugs attractive to addicts. Which is why, for instance, people who take diamorphine (heroin) for long periods of time for medical reasons, like pain relief after a hip replacement, usually don’t become addicts. And it’s why addicts isolated from society in prisons or rehab facilities usually continue using.

Read the critical praise for Hari’s book at amazon, and also watch Bill Maher’s interview with Hari below.

About Loren Rosson

Loren Rosson heads up the circulation department at the Nashua Public Library. He's worked at the library since graduating from Lewis and Clark College, with the exception of the two years he spent in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, teaching high school.

What did the dog dig up this time?

Jen McCormackTruffle-sniffing dogs are like metal detectors for food: They use their superior olfactory talents to find these delicacies under the soil, hidden from the humans who cook and eat them.

"Not in the Flesh" is available from the library in hardcover

“Not in the Flesh” is available from the library in hardcover.

In Ruth Rendell’s novel Not in the Flesh, Jim Belbury brings his dog, Honey, to poach truffles from “Old Grimble’s Field.”

The truffles are plentiful, and the way Jim sees it, the property has been abandoned for so long no one will ever know that’s where he has been finding them.

Unfortunately for Jim, as the story opens, Honey finishes a hunt by finding a human hand wrapped in purple fabric, and the probing eye of Chief Inspector Wexford turns its attention to Old Grimble’s Field.

Shortly after this grisly discovery, another body is found in the Grimble house, and Jim’s quiet neighborhood becomes the focus of a major murder investigation.

Inspector Wexford finds himself especially interested in local author Owen Tredown and uncovers all sorts of unsavory and unusual family secrets as he probes Tredown’s past.

Rendell is a master at creating quirky and hilarious characters. In Not in the Flesh, my favorites are Tredown’s wives, Maeve and Claudia: Only one of them is currently married to Owen, but they share his home and his company, and perhaps plan to do the same with his estate when he dies.

Want more Rendell?
Wexford is consistently my favorite literary detective. If you don’t already know him from the Masterpiece Mystery series on PBS, I encourage you to introduce yourself! Rendell has been writing Wexford novels for decades, so there are plenty to choose from, and you don’t need to start with the first.

If Not in the Flesh isn’t available I’d recommend Babes in the Wood or End in Tears. Both are great introductions to Rendell’s writing and Wexford’s style of investigation.

Already a Wexford fan? I’d be thrilled to recommend other similar authors. Leave me a note in the comments below or send me an email at jennifer.mccormack@nashualibrary.org.

 

 

 

About Jen McCormack

Jen McCormack is the director of the Nashua Public Library. Previously she was director of the Tewksbury (Mass.) Public Library and assistant director and reference librarian at the Amesbury (Mass.) Public Library. She studied history at UNH and earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.

An 11-year-old with a superiority complex

Carol Luers EymanOnce a week, usually on Wednesday, Loren Rosson adds the latest Next Great Reads book to our staff picks shelf.

Flora by Gail Godwin

“Flora” by Gail Godwin is available at the library in hardcover.

Apparently this is one of your favorite book displays in the library, because he has to refill it daily. He often even has to display additional books by “Next Great Read” authors, lest the shelf appear empty and neglected.

That’s partly why I’m reviewing Flora by Gail Godwin this week.

While I definitely encourage you to read this small novel, I also want to get Gail Godwin’s other books in your face. She comes out with a new one every three years or so.

Literary and character-driven, Godwin’s novels are often set in the South. The protagonists are usually women, often teachers, artists, or clergy.

In Flora, it’s 1945 and 11-year-old Helen is grieving over the loss of her grandmother, who has raised Helen since her mother died when she was 3.

Helen’s father, a school principal, is leaving for the summer to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on what turns out to be the Manhattan Project. So Flora, a naive 21-year-old, travels to North Carolina to look after her niece Helen for three months.

The precocious Helen fancies herself more worldly than Flora. “She was the first older person I felt superior to,” she recalls.

In fact I did wonder about Flora’s ability to maintain the household, especially after her frequent crying bouts. Helen’s grandmother used to say that Flora possessed “the gift of tears.” And Godwin gives this quirk of Flora’s a humorous bent, reminiscent of current late-night comedian riffs on teary-eyed Speaker of the House John Boehner.

In a novel centered around character more than action, Helen’s conceit fuels one of the few plot turns. After she entertains adolescent fantasies for weeks, her blind belief that the young man who delivers groceries A Southern FamilyA Mother and Two Daughterswill return her romantic advances leads to a confrontation among the main characters.

If you don’t see Flora on the staff picks display when you come in, look for two of my favorite Gail Godwin novels: A Mother and Two Daughters and A Southern Family.

About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

Figures in Silk

Figures in Silk

“Figures in Silk” by Vanora Bennett is available from the library in hardcover.

Jen McCormackFigures in Silk by Valora Bennett is an absorbing historical novel set in London during the late 15th century.

Bennett tells the parallel stories of the Lambert sisters, Jane and Isabel, against the dramatic backdrop of the War of the Roses.

Jane and Isabel are married on the same day in 1471,  and King Edward IV himself attends their wedding feast. Their future and their father’s seem guaranteed to be prosperous and successful, but of course this wouldn’t be a novel without conflict! As married women the sisters defy their father’s wishes and choose their own paths.

Jane marries William Shore, a successful but older man destined for moderate success rather than greatness. She capitalizes on his family’s position by starting a poorly hidden affair with the king and becomes deeply involved in political intrigue at the palace. The king’s attachment to her is well known and gives Jane power and influence far beyond her station as the wife of Mr. Shore.

Isabel dreads her marriage to Thomas Claver, the young and buffoonish son of a powerful silk merchant in London. To her surprise Isabel soon finds herself happy and hopeful in spite of bearing the obvious dislike of her mother-in-law, Alice. Then tragedy strikes, and Isabel has to start over as an apprentice to Alice, learning the silk industry from scratch at the hands of a woman who despises her.

Figures in Silk is a long novel at 450 pages but thoroughly entertaining. The author has done a masterful job of depicting the intrigue and drama of the War of the Roses. Even a reader uninterested in the politics of royal succession will be thoroughly captivated by Isabel’s story and the remarkable history of the silk industry in England.

Interested in more novels set in Tudor England? Try The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir or Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

 

About Jen McCormack

Jen McCormack is the director of the Nashua Public Library. Previously she was director of the Tewksbury (Mass.) Public Library and assistant director and reference librarian at the Amesbury (Mass.) Public Library. She studied history at UNH and earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.