Readers’ Corner – July 2023
By Bonnie McCune & Kathleen Duhamel ~
July 23 is Parents’ Day, so our books center on parents and parental substitutes. Leading, WHITE OLEANDER (Janet Fitch) You would be hard-pressed to find a worse mother than Ingrid Magnussen, narcissistic beauty and self-described poetic genius. When her lover rejects her for a younger woman, Ingrid kills him, is convicted of murder, and receives a life sentence. Her 12-year-old daughter Astrid, thrown into the California foster care system, spends her teenage years enduring abuse and neglect in several unsuitable homes, while manipulated by her mother’s letters from prison. Beautifully written and deeply moving, Astrid’s heart-breaking journey is about finding self-acceptance while coming to terms with a toxic maternal relationship.
Diametrically opposed in content, NEWS OF THE WORLD’S author Paulette Giles positions a kidnapped white girl being “rescued” from her Native American tribe by a rough but educated old frontiersman paid to return her to her pioneer family. His main job comes by riding from town to town, reading newspapers aloud to the locals. Through trials and dangers, the strange duo build strong ties, useful when they reach the girl’s selfish aunt and uncle. Should her erstwhile guardian abandon her, or spirit her away? A touching and beautifully written saga resting firming on history from a writer equally renowned for her poetry.
FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW, a timeless children’s book from American author Margaret Sidney, published in 1881. Left fatherless, five energetic and bright children pitch in to do their best to raise money for their “Mamsie.” A romanticized view of poverty paired with the sudden appearance of a wealthy gentleman who takes an interest in the family to rescue them made me yearn to be impoverished and independent. Old-fashioned values coupled with a democratic, universal definition of “friend” help them to be down-to-earth and deserving of their good fortune. This was the first in a series. Available free on Project Gutenberg.