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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes, a novel written by Jodi Picoult, explores the moral issues that emerge after a high school shooting rampage. Set in a small New Hampshire college town, where everyone knows each other since grade school, the story focuses on two students, Josie Cormier and Peter Houghton, who were best friends as children but now move in different social circles. In high school, Josie is part of the popular crowd, but is not certain that this is what she wants in life. Peter, a sensitive boy who has been bullied since his first day of school, is a loner. After an ultimate incident of abuse, Peter runs amok, shooting and killing ten people and wounding many others.

Additional sub-plots allow the reader to examine the other characters, including the mothers of Josie and Peter, a police detective and the defense attorney. These individuals’ personalities are richly detailed; their actions serve as a means of exploring the various ethical dilemmas presented.

The shooting incident itself, and its origins and aftermath, are slowly revealed in alternating chapters, from the different characters’ points of view and various points of time, until all is exposed. It remains for the reader to discover that no community is immune from such horrific events.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie

Written by Ole Edvart Rolvaag, originally in Norwegian and later translated into English, this is a story of the early Norwegian settlers and the hardships they discovered crossing the American plains in the 1870s. Tragedy was almost a daily occurrence and hunger a constant companion. Although the men toiled and suffered so that they might bring up their children in the Promised Land, the women sometimes went mad in conditions that they had known only in nightmares.

The conquest of our land was a great American triumph, but it also took its toll in human lives, misery and disaster.

New Biographies

Whether the setting is Hollywood or network television or Broadway, reading the biographies of the stars can be a fascinating experience.

Life with my Sister Madonna, by Christopher Ciccone, is a memoir written by the younger brother and personal assistant of music legend Madonna. He recreates their work and travel experiences throughout her career; it includes the inside scoop about Madonna’s many transformations and ordeals.

Audition: A Memoir, written by Barbara Walters, is a no-holds barred account of Ms. Walters’ remarkable rise through the ranks of television journalism. Her interviews and experiences with many of the world’s most influential people in politics, royalty, show business, and more provide the reader with quite a few “you are there” experiences.

Home: A Memoir of my Early Years, written by Julie Andrews, details the singer/actress’s youth, from childhood to her late twenties during the 1940s to 1960s. As a member of a family act in England’s music hall circuit, Julie’s big voice leads her to fame in London’s theater district and New York’s Broadway, where she meets many theater and music legends along the way.

These and many other biographies are available at the library.