Book Club Favorites
Recommended by Deb, one of our more mysterious adult reference librarians.
Check our other Fave Five lists, too!
The author, who spent years trying to hide her childhood experiences, allows her story to unfold in this remarkable recollection of growing up. From her current perspective as a contributor to MSNBC Online, she remembers the crushing poverty, hunger, jokes and bullying she and her siblings endured while her parents ignored and failed to improve their squalid situation. Her fathers grand plans to build a home for the family never materialized. The Glass Castle," as the dream house was called, became the family garbage dump in the small mining town of Welch, West Virginia. A shockingly sad and candid memoir that's written with surprising affection about a remarkable childhood and the strength of family bonds. .
This is the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever. That moment eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted. Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule.
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age 13, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate. Her life and role she has never challenged... until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable. A decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
Fourteen-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart's answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily's beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of; Tiburon, South Carolina, and makes the determination to find out more about her dead mother.
An engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames"), Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. The authors in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is the author's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women, between Lily and Snow Flower, that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart, an invisible rebellion that no man can see"). A poignant and profound story of friendship, hardship and loyalty.