Book Discussion Group Title List 2009

January 2009

By Barbara Delinsky

Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party when their car hits a man running in the dark. Grace was at the wheel, but Deborah sends her home before the police arrive, determined to shoulder the blame for the accident. Her decision then turns into a deception that takes on a life of its own and threatens the special bond between mother and daughter. The Secret Between Us is an unforgettable story about making bad choices for the right reasons and the terrible consequences of a lie gone wrong. Once again, Barbara Delinksy has delivered a riveting study of family, perfectly targeted to fans of provocative fiction.

February 2009

By Roland Merullo

In order to settle his parents' estate, Otto and his loopy sister, Cecilia, must drive to the family homestead in North Dakota. Then Cecilia tells him she's giving her half of the farm to her guru, the maroon-robed Volya Rinpoche, and that she wants Otto to drive him there. After a fit of skeptical rage, he accepts, and this spiritual road-trip novel is off and running. In an effort to westernize his passenger and amuse himself he decides to show the monk some "American fun" along the way.

Merullo takes the reader through the small towns and byways of Midwestern America, which look unexpectedly alluring through Rinpoche's eyes. Well-fed Western secularist Otto is only half-aware that his life might need fixing, and his slow discovery of Rinpoche's nature, and his own, make for a satisfying read.

March 2009

By Mildred Armstrong Kalish

This unpretentious yet deeply intelligent memoir of growing up on a central Iowa farm in the throes of the Great Depression radiates the joy of a vanished way of life. With her father banished from the household for mysterious transgressions, five-year-old Mildred and her family could easily have been overwhelmed by the challenge of simply trying to survive. This, however, is not a tale of suffering. Kalish had caring grandparents who possessed all the pioneer virtues of their forebears, teachers who inspired and befriended her, and a barnyard full of animals ready to be tamed and loved. She and her siblings and their cousins from the farm across the way played as hard as they worked, running barefoot through the fields, as free and wild as they dared.

Recounted in a luminous narrative filled with tenderness and humor, Kalish's memoir of her childhood shows how the right stuff can make even the bleakest of times seem like quite a romp.

April 2009

By Chris Grabenstein

A billionaire real estate tycoon is found murdered on the Tilt-A-Whirl at a seedy seaside amusement park in the otherwise quiet town of Sea Haven, New Jersey. Jon Ceepak, a former MP just back from Iraq, has joined the Sea Haven police department. Far from forgetting the horrors of war, he is to lead the investigation, partnered by Danny Boyle, a twenty-four-year-old, part-time summer cop who narrates the novel. At first Ceepak's personal code of honor only amuses or annoys the cynical Boyle. But as he (and we) get to know the former soldier, the portrait of a true hero emerges. Grabenstein brilliantly evokes the endearing seediness of a Jersey Shore town in summer, but it's his development of the Ceepak-Boyle relationship that elevates this award-winning first novel in Grabenstein's Jersey Shore series above the pack.

May 2009

By Paulo Coelho

This simple, yet eloquent parable celebrates the richness of the human spirit. A young Spanish shepherd seeking his destiny travels to Egypt where he learns many lessons, particularly from a wise old alchemist. The real alchemy here, however, is the transmuting of youthful idealism into mature wisdom. The blending of conventional ideas with an exotic setting makes old truths seem new again. The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.

June 2009

By Mary Alice Monroe

Mia Landan, a cancer survivor, returns to Charleston after a fly-fishing retreat and finds her husband in bed with another woman. Shocked, Mia rushes back to the mountains where she'd been fishing and seeks the help of fly fisherman Belle Carson, who offers her the use of a ramshackle cabin for the summer. At first, the solitude isn't easy, and Mia has to overcome some major fears. Her real healing begins after she discovers the long-forgotten diary of Kate Watkins, Belle's grandmother, who allegedly murdered her lover and who also lived in the cabin. Mia feels a strange kinship with the woman who, like her, suffered fears, betrayal, the death of loved ones, and a fall from grace -- yet found strength, compassion and, ultimately, forgiveness in her isolation. Monroe infuses her characters with warmth and vitality in this exquisite, multi-layered novel.

July 2009

By Lily Koppel

In 2003, Koppel, a novice writer for the New York Times, stumbled upon an amazing discovery: the decades-old diary of a privileged teenaged Manhattanite penned between 1929 and 1934. Fascinated by entries detailing theater expeditions, shopping sprees, love interests, and grand ambitions, she put her journalistic skills to good use, tracking down the original owner of this faded and cracked red-leather treasure. Elated to discover 90-year-old Florence Wolfson alive, alert, and eager to share her memories of a bygone time and place, Koppel began interviewing Florence, interweaving the brief diary entries with more detailed personal anecdotes infused with the type of glamour and sophistication associated with a 1930s romantic comedy. After a front-page story appeared in the New York Times Sunday City section, interest in Florence's fascinating story prompted the author to write a full-length book that works as both a biography anda spellbinding glimpse into a vanished era.

August 2009

By Tommy Hays

The Pleasure Was Mine is a moving account of how an irascible man named Prate Marshbanks endures the slow loss of his beloved wife and finds his way back to life. In a wonderful story about the meaning of family and the power of love, Hays beautifully captures a husband's grief as he watches his beloved wife slip into Alzheimer's. The author has rendered an unforgettable character in Prate, who, as he copes with his wife's illness, establishes new bonds with his widowed son and grandson. The novel illuminates one of the toughest challenges a family may face but with his deft touch for humor and generous sympathy for his characters, Tommy Hays reveals the chance for fresh starts where we thought there were only endings. It's a tender, affecting story, simply but powerfully told.

September 2009

By Nelson DeMille

Long Island's Gold Coast, which once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, is practically a character here. We learn some of its storied history and see how its inhabitants live their lives in mansions which have seen better days. We find out what happens to John Sutter, a WASPy disillusioned Wall Street lawyer when Frank Bellarosa, a Mafia crime boss moves in next door. Initially, he shuns him but he is drawn by the mobster's forceful personality and consents to represent him in a murder case. Sutter's beautiful wife Susan becomes involved in more ways than one. With authentic settings and real people, the novel provides an entertaining view of the lives of the rich and famous.

October 2009

By Sandra Dallas

Rennie Stroud looks back to 1942, when she was 13, in this powerful coming-of-age novel. That year, the U.S. government opened a Japanese internment camp outside Ellis, CO, less than a mile from where Rennie and her family farmed sugar beets. Rennie observes the prejudice of some of the townspeople as well as her parents' strong moral code. Her father, Loyal, not only shows open support for the Japanese, whom he views as Americans, but offers to hire them to work on the farm. When a young girl is murdered, suspicion naturally turns to the camp, and the town is divided by fear. This strong, provocative novel is a moving examination of prejudice and fear that addresses issues of community discord, abuse, and rape. Dallas's terrific characters, unerring ear for regional dialects and ability to evoke the sights and sounds of the 1940s all add to its appeal.

November 2009

By Sophie Kinsella

Emma Corrigan has kept her job at Panther Cola for nearly a year, has the perfect boyfriend and hopes for a promotion to marketing executive. On an unusually turbulent return flight from a disappointing client meeting, in a terrified state, she confesses her innermost secrets to the good-looking stranger sitting beside her. When she shows up at work the next morning, she is horrified to discover that her mystery man is none other than the revered and brilliant Jack Harper, American CEO of Panther Cola.

The author of the Shopaholic trilogy, with her wicked humor, buoyant charm and optimism intact, offers up this delightful novel filled with her trademark wit.