The following is a posting of Carol’s Comments by Carol Rusinek.
Hello Everyone! Welcome to another issue of Carol’s Comments. I am a volunteer at the River Park Branch Library. Summer was a wonderful time for avid book, movie and TV lovers to indulge in guilty pleasures. I was no exception. Along with scheduling Mad Men DVD marathons every weekend, I immersed myself in Kate Morton’s other two novels, The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours.
Like The Forgotten Garden (which I reviewed in May’s column), Morton’s other two novels have very captivating plots because they successfully interweave the present day with the past through flashbacks. The narratives are so spellbinding that the reader has a tough time putting the books down. When I was reading The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours, many evenings I stayed up past midnight engrossed in the storylines.
All three novels feature independent heroines who discover unknown truths about themselves while unraveling long-buried family mysteries and secrets. If you enjoyed Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough or the entire series of Upstairs Downstairs, you’ll love Kate Morton, my new favorite author. I’m eagerly looking forward to her next book.
After pulling myself away from Kate Morton, I wanted to focus on more serious themes as autumn approached. When consulting the ever reliable New York Times Bestseller List online and getting recommendations from friends, I found what I was looking for. The two books I selected featured people who faced challenges with courage and determination.
In the first book, Nothing Daunted: the Unexpected Education in the of Two Society Girls in the West, Dorothy Wickendon tells the true story of her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff who with her best friend Rosamond Underwood , went to Elkhead, Colorado in 1916 and became schoolteachers for a year. Despite its rather academic style, this well researched biography not only vividly recounts these two remarkable women’s adventures on the Colorado frontier but gives the reader a glimpse of everyday life in early 2oth century America.
Ironically, I started the second book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford on the weekend of the 9/11 tenth anniversary. Set in Seattle during World War II, Ford’s debut novel focuses on the unlikely friendship between Henry Lee, a Chinese boy and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese girl. Through the children’s eyes, the reader dramatically experiences the discrimination and prejudice endured by the Japanese-American community during one of the most despicable yet often forgotten chapters in modern American history.
After Keiko and her family are evacuated to internment camps first outside of Seattle and then in Idaho, Henry is determined to find her. With the help of a school cafeteria matron and later his jazz musician friend Sheldon Thomas, he travels to both relocation centers to visit her and witnesses firsthand the hardships Keiko’s family have to face daily.
Despite his father’s adamant disapproval, Henry corresponds with Keiko for over two years. When his letters return unopened in late 1945, he never stops wondering what happened to her. Forty years later, Henry finally discovers Keiko’s whereabouts when he unearths many of her long-lost treasures in the basement of the old Panama Hotel. This heartwarming story poignantly illustrates that time, distance and adversity cannot diminish true friendship.
These books and other gems can be found at all SJCPL locations. For more information ,visit the library’s website at www.libraryforlife.org . Before I go, I’d like to thank all my readers for your thoughtful insights and comments about the books and movies I’ve reviewed in this column. Thanks for reading! See you next time.