Blame by Michele Huneven

>BlameMichele Huneven‘s third novel — grips you with its guilt-laden plausibility, especially if you’ve ever known a smart, capable addict whose self-destructive behavior seems unstoppable.
Patsy MacLemoore is a smart, functioning alcoholic — a professor at Hallen College in Altadena, California — known for loud, lascivious behavior at faculty parties and for missing the occasional class after a night of drinking and pills. She plays the odds, partying when she knows she shouldn’t, until her luck runs out. Patsy, who has a suspended license, is arrested and jailed for killing a mother and daughter – Jehovah’s Witnesses — in her own driveway. She remembers nothing about the accident, but has to live with the guilt and remorse, facing the bereft husband and brother in court.
The hard, manual labor and indignities of almost two years in jail come as a relief to Patsy, but the desire for a drink never leaves her.
If you like literary novels by authors like Sue Miller or Ian McEwan, you should discover Michele Huneven ASAP.
Michele Huneven talks with Publishers’ Weekly here:

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo


Richard Russo must have had fun writing That Old Cape Magic — a thinking person’s beach book. No, it’s not Empire Falls or The Bridge of Sighs, but it’s not intended to be.
Instead of sitting down and opening a vein, as writers are said to do, author Richard Russo might have sat down at his computer and opened a bottle of locally brewed Shipyard beer to launch himself into the story of ex-screenwriter Jack Griffin. Griffin’s marriage unravels on Cape Cod, in Truro, where he and his wife, Joy, celebrated their honeymoon many years before. The story jumps around—from Griffin’s childhood with two eccentric academic parents to the early years of Griffin’s marriage to his parents’ declining years and Griffin’s own daughter’s eventual wedding—succeeding in the neat trick of making you muse about the nature of marriage and parenthood while you laugh…and wince. A perfect end-of-summer read.
In an entertaining Q&A on Knopf’s Web site, Russo says his two daughters were both married during the period in which he wrote That Old Cape Magic, confessing that he imagined a disastrous wedding scene for the book as a way of warding off catastrophe in real life. (His ploy worked.)
Richard Russo talks on tape with New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I was surprised by Malcolm Gladwell‘s recent New Yorker article about To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Is it fair to judge the actions and sensibilities of characters in a novel from a different time by the standards of today?
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, as seen through the eyes of his young daughter, Scout, was willing to stand up in court and defend a black man against the charge of raping a white woman — an unpopular move and one that was doomed to failure. Mr. Gladwell seems to be arguing that Atticus Finch shouldn’t be held up as a hero because his defense largely rested on asking the jury to make moral distinctions rather than racial distinctions, and because he accepted the reality of the status quo in his small Southern town. Mr. Gladwell thinks Atticus should have been angry at the jury’s unjust verdict although he would have known from the start what the outcome would be, because he knew the racial prejudice of the jury. He faults Atticus for being too tolerant of his fellow townspeople’s intolerance, and seems to miss the point of the book almost entirely in his zeal to present it in a new light.
To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. I think it stands up well almost 50 years later as a testament to a single individual’s principled attempt to act as he would have others act.

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian


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