Readers’ Corner May 2024, Family Values

By Bonnie McCune and Kathleen Duhamel ~

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store. As a book reviewer, I have become skeptical of annual “best of” novel lists. Too many of these books ride on the author’s previous reputation rather than original, compelling storytelling. James McBride’s 2023 novel is a welcome exception. Set in the 1930s community of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in a dilapidated neighborhood known as Chicken Hill, McBride introduces readers to a cast of complex characters—immigrant Jews and African Americans—who live in relative harmony, especially when it comes to helping one of their own. The author’s smooth, lyrical prose brilliantly reflects his background as a jazz saxophonist.

The Casual Vacancy. J. K. Rowling is best known for her Harry Potter series, but she’s a fine writer for adults, too. The title and topic of this book is the British term for a temporary opening in an official position, in this case the town council, which becomes a catalyst in a struggle between many segments of society—teens vs parents, rich vs poor, teachers vs pupils. Complicating the situation, will a housing development remain associated with the local council? The plot will convince you of Rowlings’ ability to deal with complex story lines and even more fascinating characters of all types.

Tracy Flick Can’t Win. Tom Perrotta’s second novel about the firecracker Tracy, now a hardworking assistant principal, finds her just as ambitious as when she fought to win leadership in Election. Now a single mom, she’d love to move up to bigger things. Feeling. stuck and underappreciated, Tracy gets good news when the longtime principal announces his retirement. Can Tracy ascend to the top job? Her career has sent her from unwed mother through the ranks of teaching, to her final.position, threatened by a controversy over the school’s Hall of Student Fame. Sex, murder, football, what can be more American?

Authors Kathleen Duhamel,, and Bonnie McCune,, write women’s fiction.

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