By Sara Levinson
The Book Club of the Orange County Public Library meets every second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting room of the library. No registration is required, and everyone is welcome.
We will be reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for the June 9th meeting. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR correspondent, Race, Ethnicity and Culture Desk, describes it in her review: “The stories of blind, French teenager Marie-Laure LeBlanc and German orphan Werner Pfennig move across the convulsing landscape of the last half of World War II and come together, eventually, in a walled Breton town just before D-Day. All the Light We Cannot See has received rapturous reviews, and none of them exaggerate when they describe Anthony Doerr’s novel with words like haunting, beautifully written, and gorgeous. It is all that and more. Doerr’s characters stayed with me long after I closed the cover of this luminous book.”
On July 14th the Book Club will be reading Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat. According to the author’s website: “The Boys in the Boat celebrates the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing team—nine working class boys who stormed the rowing world, transformed the sport, and galvanized the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers from the American West, the boys took on and defeated successive echelons of privilege and power. They vanquished the sons of bankers and senators rowing for elite eastern universities. They defeated the sons of British aristocrats rowing for Oxford and Cambridge. And finally, in an extraordinary race in Berlin they stunned the Aryan sons of the Nazi state as they rowed for gold in front of Adolf Hitler. … And even as it chronicles the boys’ collective achievement, The Boys in the Boat is also the heart-warming story of one young man in particular. Cast aside by his family at an early age, abandoned and left to fend for himself, Joe Rantz rows not just for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard, to dare again to trust in others, and to find his way back to a place he can call home.”
The book chosen for August 11th is The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett. The review in Publishers Weekly said, “As she proved in her two previous, critically praised novels, The Patron Saint of Liars and Taft, Patchett has the ability to leaven the gravity of sad situations with gentle irony and ultimate hope. Again in this novel, ordinary people drift into offbeat situations; kindness comes from unexpected sources; and the capacity to change, and to endure, can be awakened in a dormant heart. Sabine had been assistant to L.A. magician Parsifal for 22 years when they finally married. She knew he was homosexual; both had mourned the death of his gentle Vietnamese lover, Phan. What she didn’t know until Parsifal’s sudden death only a short time later was that Parsifal’s real name was Guy Fetters, that had he lied when he claimed to have no living relatives, and that he has a mother and two sisters in Alliance, Neb. When these four women meet each other, their combined love for Parsifal helps Sabine to accept the shocking events in Parsifal’s life that motivated him to wipe out his past. In finding herself part of his family, she discovers her own desires, responsibilities and potential, and maybe her true sexual nature. The muted tone of this narrative matches Sabine’s tentative moves in the void of her loss; yet Patchett’s sweet and plangent voice often reminds one of Laurie Colwin in its evocation of love that transcends sexual boundaries and in the portrayal of reassuring patterns of domesticity. And Patchett’s ability to evoke sense of place–from the quintessential L.A., basking in heat and eccentric characters to the bare Nebraska landscape populated by bland, wholesome Midwesterners (who, of course, are not what they seem) and buffeted by blizzards and temperatures so low that Sabine feels the hook of her bra ‘freezing into her skin, the finest knifepoint against her spine’–is near magical in itself. If the narrative moves at a deliberately slow pace, it’s rich with the rewarding contrast between the precise mechanics of magic tricks and the real possibility of magic in daily life.”