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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mermaid Chair

This novel, written by Sue Monk Kidd, is about Jessie Sullivan, a middle-aged housewife caught up in twin predicaments of marital tedium and empty nest syndrome. An emergency phone call leads her to rush to her childhood home on Egret Island just off the coast of South Carolina, also the home to a monastery in which her widowed mother works as a cook. Her mother inexplicably has mutilated herself. Jessie remains on an extended stay at Egret Island, leaving her husband behind, with two goals in mind: trying to help her mother heal in both body and spirit, and looking into what really happened when her father was killed in a boating accident years ago. Also part of the plot is the situation in which Jessie finds herself attracted to Brother Thomas, a monk who is a few months away from taking his final vows. What ensues between Jessie and Thomas helps both discover what their needs and desires are, and where to direct their lives.

Friday, October 2, 2009

North River: A Novel

Pete Hamill has written a period novel set in Depression-era Manhattan, filled with descriptive language and well-drawn characters. His protagonist, Dr. James Delaney, is a general practitioner who cares for all his patients with skill and compassion; his practice encompassing many of his poverty-stricken neighbors and the local Mafiosi. Always the devoted physician, Dr. Delaney is even more intently focused on his work now that his personal life has received a double blow with the disappearance of his wife (a suspected suicide) and his daughter’s elopement with a foreign revolutionary. Then, during a cold and snowy winter, the ice that forms Dr. Delaney’s lonely existence begins to melt when he receives the unexpected gift of his three-year-old grandson, left on the doorstep by the doctor’s daughter. Needing someone to help him with the child’s care, the doctor hires an immigrant woman who soon becomes an inseparable part of this newly-formed family. The plot moves along agreeably to a satisfying conclusion. Here is a story that shows how love and good people can reign supreme.