Book Club Reading Recommendations

The Evening and the Morning, Ken Follett (Robin S.)
Covering ten years 997AD – 1007AD, this is a semi-historically based story of a small area of Britain. We meet Ragna, a young Norman woman who was married (off) to a nobleman in hopes of getting help protecting the British area from the Vikings. We also meet a young British lad, Edgar, who shows unique talents and abilities. The third major player is Aldred, an intelligent and ambitious young priest. Throughout the book, the small village gradually becomes thriving Knightsbridge, through the input the three main characters. Knightsbridge, of course, is the setting for Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth” trilogy, which begins in the twelfth century AD. “The Morning and the Evening” serves as a prequel. Highly recommended whether or not you’ve read the “Pillars of the Earth” trilogy.

The Perfect Wife: A Novel, JP Delaney (Adrienne)
Abbie awakens with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss. She is a miracle of science.  But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins to question her husband’s motives and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to her?

The Peacock Summer: A Novel, Hannah Richell (Chris)
This is the story of two women who long for more and a house that holds the key to their freedom. In 1955, Lillian Oberon is the young mistress of Cloudesley, a lavish estate. She has made peace with her unfulfilling marriage and fate until a charismatic artist visits for the summer and makes Lillian re-examine the choices she’s made.

In the present, after breaking her engagement, Maggie Oberon escapes to Australia, hoping she can forget the mess she’s made of her life. But when her beloved grandmother, Lillian, becomes ill, she returns to England and confronts the past she ran away from. Maggie tries to find a way to save Cloudesley but is unprepared to learn the secrets that have remained there. Within the walls lies the key that could change its legacy—and Maggie’s life—forever.

Lonesome Dove: A Novel, Larry McMurtry (Dorothy)
A Pulitzer Prize-winning classic of the American West that follows two aging Texas Rangers embarking on one last adventure. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic. Considered by some to be the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America.

The Winemaker’s Wife, Kristen Harmel (Sheryl)
In NYC, 2019, Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother arrives unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. And so begins a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France during the darkest days of World War II.

News of the World, A Novel, Paulette Jiles (Linda)
In the wake of the Civil War, Capt. Jefferson Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to audiences hungry for news of the world. He agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa tribe back to her people in this morally complex historical novel that explores
the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Long Bright River: A Novel, Liz Moore (Cindy H.)
In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling. Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district. Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Jeanette)
1945 Barcelona slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son, finds a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind. He inadvertently opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets — an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Devoted, Dean Koontz (Maggie)
11 year old Woody Bookman hasn’t spoken a word. Not when his father died in a freak accident. Not when his mother, Megan, tells him she loves him. For Megan, keeping her boy safe and happy is what matters. But Woody believes a monstrous evil was behind his father’s death and now threatens him and his mother. And he’s not alone in his thoughts. An ally unknown to him is listening. A uniquely gifted dog with a heart as golden as his breed, Kipp is devoted beyond reason to people. When he hears the boy who communicates like he does, without speaking, Kipp knows he needs to find him and help before it’s too late.

Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel, Celeste Ng (Maggie)A riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned. No one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Mia Warren, an artist and single mother, arrives with her teenaged daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. When friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena tries to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall, by Amy Abramowitz (Brenda)
Davis Winger has it all. A respected engineer who designs roller coasters in theme parks across the country, he is deeply in love with his wife and has a beautiful young daughter and a happy home. Until an accident strikes on one of his rides. Nothing fatal, except to his career and his marriage when a betrayal from his past inadvertently comes to light. In one cosmically bad day, Davis loses it all. His sister, Molly, is at a crossroads herself. She’s a journalist whose deeply personal columns about mothers and daughters are forcing her to confront the truth about her own mother, who abandoned Molly and Davis years ago and disappeared. For these two siblings, it’s about bracing themselves for a turbulent summer in this redemptive and painfully funny family drama about making the best of the sharp turns in life.

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty (Adrienne)
Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So, imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (A gym! She HATES the gym!) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over—she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade and whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

Beach Music: A Novel, Pat Conroy (Peggy)
A Southerner living abroad, Jack McCall is scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one secret in his family’s past that can heal his anguished heart. Spanning three generations and two continents, from the contemporary ruins of the American South to the ancient ruins of Rome, from the unutterable horrors of the Holocaust to the lingering trauma of Vietnam, Beach Music sings with life’s pain and glory. It is a novel of lyric intensity and searing truth, another masterpiece among Pat Conroy’s legendary and beloved novels.

Sycamore Row, John Grisham (Dorothy)
The story brings us back to Ford County where Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial that exposes a tortured history of racial tension. Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens. The new will raises many more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?

Me: Elton John Official Autobiography, Elton John (Cindy H., Sharon G.)
Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt, and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived, and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from friendships with Rod Stewart, John Lennon, and Freddie Mercury to setting up his AIDS Foundation to conquering Broadway with Aida, The Lion King, and Billy Elliot the Musical. All the while Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade. Elton writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father.

Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto, Paul Wilborn (Pat, who experienced the era personally.)
This is a collection of linked short stories about the young artists, writers, poets, musicians and actors who inhabited Tampa’s Ybor City in the 1980s. Drawn there by urban authenticity and cheap rents, they created a surreal, chaotic arts scene set against the backdrop of the empty cigar factories and shotgun shacks of Tampa’s immigrant past. Ybor drew international artists like James Rosenquist, Jim Dine and dozens more. The stories are fictional, but they capture the spirit of the district during the 1980s.

Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel, Marie Benedict (Penny)
With captivating insight and heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.

Clara Kelley is not the experienced Irish maid hired to work in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households. She’s a poor farmer’s daughter with nowhere to go and nothing in her pockets. But the other woman with the same name has vanished. Pretending to be her just might get Clara some money to send back home. However, serving as a lady’s maid in the household of Andrew Carnegie requires skills she doesn’t have. Clara does have a resolve and an uncanny understanding of business. But Clara can’t let her guard down, not even when Andrew becomes something more than an employer. Revealing her past might ruin her future — and her family’s.

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver (Dorothy)
This is Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel and widely regarded as a modern classic. It is the charming tale of rural Kentucky native Taylor Greer, who only wants to get away from her roots and avoid getting pregnant. She succeeds but inherits a 3-year-old native-American girl named Turtle along the way. Together, from Oklahoma to Tucson, Arizona, half-Cherokee Taylor and Turtle search for a new life in the West. This highly praised novel focuses on love and friendship, abandonment and belonging as Taylor, out of money and seemingly out of options, settles in Tucson and begins working at Jesus Is Lord Used Tires while trying to make a life for herself and Turtle.

The Secret Wife: A Captivating Story of Romance, Passion and Mystery, Gil Paul (Maryellen)
A Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries along with love, heartbreak and guilt.

1914: Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger.

2016: Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jeweled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret.