By Bartleby’s Books, Tucker’s Pick: “Women Talking” by Miriam Toews
“Women Talking” follows eight Mennonite women as they deliberate a seemingly impossible decision: stay at the isolated Mennonite colony in which they have built their lives, but risk continued sexual violence from the men who raped them and their children; or leave the colony in pursuit of safety and justice but lose their loved ones. Based on real events that occurred in Bolivia between 2005 and 2009, the novel is a fictional response that imagines the conversations that might have gone into the women’s decision to stay or go. “Women Talking” is the recorded minutes of these imagined conversations. Within their conversations, the women offer a searing indictment of the system of patriarchy which has for so long marginalized them, while at the same time attempting to reconcile their belief in forgiveness, a tenant of their Mennonite faith. The product is a story of devastating truth, that challenges its reader to consider the bounds of forgiveness and the cost of justice in an unjust situation. I cannot recommend this book enough. A modern classic. A must-read.
Betty’s Pick: “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong
This is a stunning book in every sense of the word. This literary masterpiece with its beautiful use of language is intensely powerful and breathtaking. It is the story of a Vietnamese American growing up in Connecticut. This letter from a son to his mother, a letter she might never read, is a letter wrought with raw emotion, pain and love. A very impressive and brilliant first novel that is clearly written by a poet. Savor every minute you spend reading this book for it is worthy of your full attention.
Ana’s Pick: “Me Myself and Him” by Chris Tebbetts
Summer starts with the promise of typical fun and friends for recent high school grad, Chris, before he heads off to his dream college in the fall. But when he breaks his nose doing whippets behind the restaurant where he works, life takes an unexpected twist. So begin two parallel narratives tracking the outcomes of Chris’ choices. In one version, Chris must spend the summer with his father, a rigid, no-nonsense physics professor, proving his worth as a substance-free and responsible son (and meeting his first boyfriend in a drug-rehab group). In an alternate reality, Chris stays at home and watches as the fall-out from his accident threatens the future he imagined for himself (and he struggles through becoming a third-wheel to his newly dating best friends). This smart and engaging young adult novel, written by Vermont author Chris Tebbetts, is an exploration of what-ifs. Sometimes a worst-case scenario might not be so bad after all.
Betty’s Pick: “Olive Again” by Elizabeth Strout
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To my surprise and amazement Olive is back!! It is amazing that Strout is able to create a character who is so infuriating, and yet so endearing. This wonderfully written novel begins where Olive Kitteridge left off, in the small town of Crosby, Maine. It explores her life since Henry has past away, as well as her old and new relationships. For anyone that loved her in the first book, you are sure to love her even more. Olive never ceases to amaze me and she will always have a special place in my heart alongside my literary favorites.
Maria’s Pick: “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead
Here we follow story of Elwood, a black boy from Tallahassee, Florida, who is on the precipice of joining the civil rights movement of the 1960s. When an innocent mistake lands him in the juvenile reformatory, Nickel Academy, he and the other children are subject to the “retrainings” of the sadistic staff. Based on the horrific true accounts of the survivors of a hundred year old reform school in Florida, Whitehead’s writing is brutal, honest, and is on par with our most loved American authors. This one belongs on everyone’s reading list.
Lisa’s Pick: “Montauk” by Nicola Harrison
It’s the summer of 1938 and Beatrice Bordeaux is looking forward to reconnecting with her husband in Long Island’s new playground for the elite. The juxtaposition of Montauk’s wealthy vacationers and the locals scraping by a living is visible throughout the novel. This novel has it all: romance, scandal, intrigue, disaster and redemption. A great read for the summer.
Bartleby’s Books is celebrating 30 years in business in 2019. The store is located at 17 West Main St. in historic downtown Wilmington and is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. year-round and until 8 p.m. during the months of July and August. Phone: 802-464-5425. myvermontbookstore.com
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