Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stone Sky

Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, 413 pages.

More later.


Grant by Ron Chernow, 1074 pages.

When I heard that Chernow was writing this book I was looking forward to reading it, but having recently finished White's American Ulysses, I didn't think that there could be all that much added to that very good book. I was very wrong. Chernow tells a far more complete, interesting and detailed account of America's 18th president, and the hero of the Union. Grant struggled with his alcoholism for most of his life, and Chernow does not shy away from this, or make excuses. He carefully uncovers probable instances of  Grant's drunkenness during the war, and debunks many false accusations by military rivals, political enemies, and subordinates. Chernow also goes a long way toward rescuing Grant's terms as President from those More Later.

You Can't Touch My Hair

You Can't Touch My Hair, by Phoebe Robinson, 285 pages.
A hilarious memoir by one of the Two Dope Queens. More later.

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, 338 pages.
Ng's follow-up to Everything I've Never Told You is quite good. More Later.

No One Writes to the Colonel And Other Stories

No One Writes to the Colonel And Other Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 170 pages.
The Columbian Nobel Laureate's collection of stories from 1968. More later.

Ancillary Mercy

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie,  330 pages.
The final book in Leckie's excellent, excellent "Imperial Radch" series. Fleet Captain Breq, commander of the Mercy of Kalr, and former Ancillary for the AI of the much larger Justice of Toren, must decide how to face the imminent attack by one aspect of Anaander Mianaai, Lord of the Radch. Since Anaander has apparently been at war with herself (she has taken over so many bodies, Ancillary-style over the centuries, and can no longer agree with herself about certain key issues) for some time, Brecq has to decide which, if any of the Anaanders she can serve. Complicating the situation is the dead emissary from the Presger Empire, the newly arriving Presger representative, and Sphene, the representative of a ship that disappeared centuries ago. Characters become even more important as several of the ships, including Kalr, and the Athoek station make their wishes known.
A wonderful conclusion to a great trilogy.

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, 438 pages.

Anna grows up feeling very close to her father Eddie. He's a bagman of sorts for the dockworkers union during the depression. Lydia, Anna's younger disabled sister, is the center of Anna's and her mother's life. Not so much for Eddie though. His disabled daughter frightens and unnerves him. One of my favorite scenes in the book is Eddie's realization of what his unwillingness to let himself love Lydia has cost him.
Eddie disappears and his wife and daughter have to work hard to keep going and care for Lydia. Anna gets work in the Manhattan shipyards as the war starts, and comes to realize that she wants more than she is able to get, work-wise (and otherwise, Anna chafes against the restrictions of her time and place). She wants to be a diver. As her circumstances at home change, she tries to find a way to becoming one of the shipyard divers.
Later in the book we pick up on Eddie's story again, and see where he has gone and find out what happened between him and the enigmatic gangster, Dexter Styles. One of the better books in a year filled with great books, fun to read, good characters.

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, 462 pages.
A really delightful book about the fictional Count Alexander Rostov who is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. It's 1922 when the Bolshevik court hands down the sentence and the book follows Rostov over the coming decades. Rostov rescues young Nina, after her mother disappears. Rostov adapts to his circumstances, eventually becoming head waiter at the hotel's celebrated restaurant. Looking forward to discussing this book in next year's book group.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, 227 pages.
Lockhart's amazing novel about the children of three sisters and the summers they spend at the family compound and the strange ways the family patriarch warps the actions of the grandchildren. The novel slowly reveals the hidden tragedy from one particular summer.

My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, 331 pages.
The first volume of Ferrante's acclaimed Neapolitan series covers the very early years through the early adulthood of Lila and Elena. From rock throwing battles with their elementary school classmates to the first of their weddings, this volume traces the friendship of these two women in post-War Italy.

Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America

Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America by C. Nicole Mason, 242 pages.
C. Nicole Mason tells a compelling story about growing up poor and without the support that could have helped her succeed. She works hard in school and with a couple of lucky breaks, is able to go on to college and then graduate school. We were lucky enough to have the author call in for our discussion this summer.

After Disasters

After Disasters by Viet Nihn, 265 pages.

Kara recommended this book for our book group. Four rescue workers seeking to help after a massive quake in India have to wrestle with their own problems and secrets. They have to work to save themselves as they frantically try to save those around them.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, 228 pages.
Powerful essays by Dyson about the invention of whiteness and about how badly this idea has hurt America. The audio, read by the author, is particularly compelling.

Forest Dark

Forest Dark by Nicole Kraus, 304 pages.

I loved Krauss's History of Love, and I loved the beginning of this book. I felt a little lost by the end, though. I sort of blame myself and intend to re-read this.

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi, 314 pages.
Funny and smart essays about the rise of Trump, undercut by allegations of bad behavior by the author in earlier years.

Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent, 468 pages.
I read this for a book group discussion and while it was a little dry (ha!) I learned a lot, especially about the people who brought about prohibition, the extraordinary power the wielded and about the enormous popularity of the prohibition movement. Incredible that something could be popular enough to have the amendment adopted, and then have it all come crashing down such a short time later.

Theft by Finding: Diaries, 1977-2002

Theft by Finding: Diaries, 1977-2002 by David Sedaris, 514 pages.
The author, as he always does with his books, also narrates the audio, which is a plus.
Sedaris is quite funny, and this collection of diary pieces really show his evolution as a humorist and as a writer.
Here is what Kara had to say about it a short time ago:

Soon I Will Be Invincible

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austen Grossman, 287 pages.

One of my family's favorite audiobooks. We listen to it every couple of years. Dr Impossible attempts to bring down the superhero team, the New Champions, and to take over the world, of course. Fatale, a mousy, unnoticeable woman before her accident, but an almost unstoppable cyborg / killing machine after the surgeries she agreed to after the large truck almost killed her, joins the Champions and attempts to help them bring Impossible back to justice.
It's really a wonderful book.

The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered

The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered by Benjamin Taylor, 183 pages.

Benjamin tells of growing up in Texas during the late 1950s and early 1960s and recounts what a large effect the Kennedy assassination had upon him and his family.

Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perotta, 309 pages.
When her son Brendan goes off to college Eve struggles to find a meaningful relationship for herself. She considers a female co-worker, a former classmate, of her son, and the plumber, among others (and lots of online erotica). While she is trying to find a definition of herself that she can live with, Brendan finds that the selfish jock lifestyle he has been living doesn't work at his chosen University.

Negroland: A Memoir

Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson, 248 pages
I meant to listen to this book or read it for a couple of years, but never sat down with it until recently. I am glad that I finally did, it was a wonderful book.

Less: A Novel

Less: A Novel by Andrew Sean Greer, 263 pages.

Arthur Less, fifty-something semi-successful novelist, accepts every invitation to literary events and honors, no matter where in the world they are, all in an attempt to avoid the wedding of the love of his live, his former boyfriend. Arthur becomes a better and better character as the novel moves along, we really come to cherish him and his writitng.

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, 297 pages.

I think this was Ng's first book, not sure, too close to midnight to fact-check. Lydia is the middle child of Marilyn Walker and James Lee. Marilyn feels forced into her role of stay-at-home mom and puts all her hope in Lydia's academic success. As Lydia dies in an apparent suicide as the book opens, this was obviously not the best plan. The book moves backward and forward, exploring how Lydia's parents met, following her and her older brother in the events leading up to the tragedy, and showing how the family copes with the aftermath.


Patina by Jason Reynolds, 233 pages.

The follow-up to last year's Ghost, Patty, Ghost's teammate on the Defenders track team, runs middle distance as she tries to sort out her family's problems. Her father is dead, her mother is very ill, and Patty and her little sister are living with their aunt and uncle and only get to see their mom about once a week. When Patty comes in second in their first meet, and has to learn how to be part of a relay team, it all starts to seem a bit to much to her. Reynolds does an excellent job with his characters and tells an engaging story.

What We Lose

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemons, 213 pages.
An excellent, much-lauded novel about a woman, Thandi, whose South African mother is dying of cancer, as Thandi tries to make sense of her own life and relationships.

The Songs

The Songs by Charles Elton, 315 pages.
Iz Herzl, a famed protest singer from the 1960s is in his eighties now. His youngest son, Huddie, has Duschene Muscular Dystrophy and is dying. His daughter, Rose, though only a child herself, has been Huddie's caregiver, while the adults in her life, Iz, Iz's longtime helper, Iz's ex-wife and her aide, all pursue their own projects. Rose and Huddie's older half-brother, Joseph, is unknown to Rose and Huddie, having failed some bizarre test his father set for him decades ago. There are som interesting twists and turns in this strange story of a famous man and the odd choices he has made.

Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, 286 pages.
John Green is always fun to read and to listen too. Aza Holmes has some problems with OCD, with her fear of Clostridium Dificile infections (among other fears), and with people too. Her best friend, Daisy, writes Star-Wars fan and is well-regarded for that. Aza and Daisy seek out Davis, a boy Aza had a crush on when she and he attended what she calls "sad camp," after seeing that his billionaire-under-indictment father has disappeared. As Davis and Aza reconnect, Aza has to decide how far to take the investigation she and Daisy have launched into the disappearance, while Aza figures out how to best help Davis, his younger brother (who is having a hard time being rich and parentless), and herself. A moving, intelligent, and compassionate book.

Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, 320 pages.

Gay is a wonderful essayist, whether she is talking about gender issues, sexual violence, race, or Scrabble. She is a self-aware and complicated person and doesn't see any reason that all of the issues she discusses shouldn't be complicated too, and not prone to easy generalizations. Very informative writing, witty and humorous even when discussing serious issues.

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, 337 pages.

Ove's beloved wife has died and he doesn't see any reason to hang around anymore. As he readies himself and his house for his suicide, his neighbors keep interrupting him. I listened to the audio version of this months and months ago and then re-read it for book group. I was really surprised that Ove, his wife who had died after years of ill-health, and his neighbors who are facing involuntary removal to a nursing home, are all seemingly in their fifties. Seems a little odd, but other than Ove, none of their ages are given. I was left with the impression that they were all about the same age. Maybe I missed something. I will look for it on my third reading. Anyway, a nice gentle book, despite all the death.

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell, 113 pages.
I hadn't read Orwell's classic telling of a farm run by the animals (after they have chased out farmer Jones) since high school. Old Major is either Lenin or Marx, Napoleon can be Stalin, with Snowball as Trotsky. I'm not sure who Squealer is in this story, Molotov? or what's his name, Beria? Anyway, it was a better book than I remembered. Still very powerful and with the ring of truth.


Semiautomatic by Evie Shockley
Shockley presents us with a fascinating collection of poems that seem alomst playful in their form while almost weaponized in their content.
In the poem "Keep an Eye on" Shockley starts with anger almost bubbling over. She plays with form as the content homes in on a variety of targets like the coke brothers and sprawl mart

michael brown's body has a hole in it(                   )
michael brown's murder has a hole in it(               )
michael brown's news coverage has a hole in it(   )

And in "A Dark Scrawl" we see the pointed anger in almost playful verse:
war can't amass a brass tack. war's
all bad acts and lack, scandal
         and graft. watch flags clash and tanks
attack camps. arms crack-- rat-a-tat-tat!-- and ban calm. cabals

     plan vast land grabs and trash far-

away clans shacks, pads, plants, halls

An interesting, excellent collection.

Faithful Place

Faithful Place by Tana French, 400 pages.
The place named in the title is a poor neighborhood in Dublin. It's a place that undercover detective Frank Mackey left behind 22 years ago. When his girlfriend Rosie didn't show up that night and Frank found a vague note from her, he assumed that she had changed her mind, dumped him, and gone on to London on her own. When builders find Rosie's suitcase stuffed in the chimney of the abandoned building where he had waited for her, he is forced to reevaluate what happened. He's dragged back into a relationship with the family he fled from decades ago, and he has to figure out what happened to Rosie, especially since he and various members of his family seem to be the prime suspects in her murder. We don't have the downloadable audio of this one, but Kirkwood did have it on a Playaway, so I listened to part of this one. Excellent.

Heating & Cooling

Heating & Cooling: 52 micro-memoirs / Beth Ann Fennelly, 111 pages.

These micro-memoirs vary in length from a sentence to a few pages.  They include childhood memories, stories of her children, her husband and friends.  When described this way, it seems like this is the same as every memoir, but somehow it isn't the same.  These short pieces are all part of a puzzle that doesn't really explain who the author is but gives you a hint.  With that hint, you get to figure out the answer yourself. 

Fennelly is one of those writers who can say a lot with a few words.  It is a trait I continue to admire.

Not sure if this is your thing?  Never fear, it is short and sweet and I encourage you to take a chance on it.

Radio Free Vermont

Radio Free Vermont: a fable of resistance / Bill McKibben, 224 pgs.

Can I just say "Everything that Kara said" about this book?  I will add that the perfect part here is Vern, our unexpected suspected terrorists, takes a call on his radio show from Ed.  Ed disagrees with Vern so Vern tells him why he holds his position.  Then he says "I think you're wrong, but you may be right." He then makes the point that there seems to be a lack of discussions today, instead there is name calling and then entrenchment on every issue.  Harken back to a time when people used to use some critical thinking skills and at least have the ability to see the points that other people make.  I think this book called a fable but it didn't that used to be real? 

I can only recommend this to everyone and hope that it will help people see that we can work together.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, by Kurt Andersen, 462 pages
Kurt Anderson, formerly of Studio 360 on NPR, has put together a fascinating look at the history of the American obsession with conspiracy, fantasy, and the schemes of all sorts of conmen.
He follows Americans heading for the various gold-rushes, the adherents and followers of the several great awakenings, of Mormonism, Christian Science, evangelical movements and Esalen and the followers of all sorts of conspiracies. A fascinating book and the audio is ably narrated by the author.

Kristin Lavransdattir: The Bridal Wreath

Kristin Lavransdattar: The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Unset, 305 pages.
Kristin, who has always been the light of her father's life, decides after a year at a medieval Norwegian finishing school that she cannot marry the man to whom she is to be engaged. She and another student have had some adventures in the nearby town and along the way she has fallen in love with an older man whose life has been almost ruined by scandal. This was not a time and a place where women got to choose and Kristin must tread carefully to avoid ruin, a forced marriage, or a complete rupture with her family.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dragon Teeth

Dragon Teeth / Michael Crichton, read by Scott Brick 295 pgs.

A fictional account of the "bone wars" a rivalry between two paleontologists looking for dinosaur fossils.  This book tell the story of a "dig" in the summer of 1876.  Several characters are real people but the events are compressed and much of it fictionalized.  William Johnson, an young, rich Yale student ends up on this trip to dig for fossils and quite a trip it turns out to be.  He is separated from his group and ends up guarding 10 large boxes of bones that everyone else thinks must be gold or something of real value.  There are good adventures but overall the book isn't as well written as you would hope.  Later I read this was a draft found in Crichton's papers so maybe his next version would have been better.  The narration by Scott Brick is very good but can't totally save the story.

Shit My President Says

Shit My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump  by Shannon Wheeler, 120 pages.
A disappointing collection of tweets from Donald Trump, nothing more, nothing less. The illustrations add nothing to them and there's nothing new here. Amusing if you hadn't seen them already.

My Name is Lucy Barton

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, 193 pages.

In this spare and beautiful book, successful author Barton reflects on her troubled childhood, her crumbling marriage and her relationships with her daughters and her mother while hospitalized and slowly recovering from an infection she develops after surgery. I listened to this 2016 novel after reading and enjoying the equally brilliant collection of stories from this year, Anything Can Happen. The stories in ACH were built around minor characters from Lucy Barton and people who knew her. A wonderful book.

The Midnight Line

The Midnight Line by Lee Child, 368 pages.

The 22nd Jack Reacher novel tones it down a little bit. Reacher's on a quest to return a West Point ring to an officer who graduated in 2005 and then somehow lost the ring. During that quest he injures fewer people than normal and the sex scenes are muted. Yay. During the course of the book Reacher mentions that he would have graduated eight years before that, so 1997. The first Reacher novel was written in 1997 and he was already retired from the Army, so, I don't know, maybe I read it wrong. There are several scenes where the people with whom Reacher would normally fight and whom he would normally stomp, elbow, and headbutt into submission or the hospital choose to walk away. And he lets them. Sure, he does eventually lead one of them to his death, so to speak, but someone else kills that person, while trying to kill Reacher. A decent addition to a long-running series.

The Secret Place

The Secret Place by Tana French, 452 pages.
Tana French is such a good writer. Often I will find myself not wanting to read another book by an author because I loved one book so much and I don't want to be disappointed. I think that this is mostly With French and some other authors it has been a bit different; the first book seems pretty good, and each subsequent book is better. This one has an interesting story; a boy died last year at an exclusive girl's school. His body was found on the grounds, but the case was never solved. A student at St. Kilda's, Holly Mackey, who is also the daughter of the Murder Squad's  boss, finds a note that claims that someone knows who killed the young man. When she turns the note in to Stephen Moran, an officer she admires / trusts, he is able to use this to get assigned to the case along with Antoinette Conway. Conway, a very good detective, has been having a difficult time gaining the trust of or trusting her fellow detectives. It is these two detectives, these two well-drawn characters who make the story even more interesting. Narrated by Stephen Hagan and Lara Hutchinson.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, 289 pages.
I remember reading Salvage the Bones a couple of times and thinking what a great, sad book it was. We had discussed this book, and I enjoyed that too. This year's Christmas present book, though it's not really a celebration.
With the ghosts of children sacrificed to avoid greater horror, and the memory and repitition, Ward channels and echoes Toni Morrison in this great tragedy. Award winning and awesome.

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright, 320 pages.

Jennifer Wright does a wonderful job recounting the history of some of the more well-known epidemics; the bubonic plague, cholera, and the Spanish flu, and she also talks about some of the (at least to me) lesser known plagues. I had never heard of the Antonine Plague before, and was only vaguely aware of the Dancing Plague and Encephalitis Lethargica. A great read.

The Book of Separation

The Book of Separation: A Memoir by Tova Mirvis, 302 pages.
Novelist Mirvis (The Ladies Auxillary, The Outside World and Visible City) recounts her decision to leave the Orthodox community of which she had been a part he entire life and to leave her marriage. She tells us that many people who decide to leave the community do so when they are young, when they first go off on their own, or when they are in college. Mirvis herself grew up in a Modern Orthodox family. Her brother moved to Israel and became a follower of a more Orthodox, Chasidic Rabbi. Her sister led a more adventurous life, but worried that she was still single in her late thirties. Tova married an Orthodox man right after she graduated from Columbia. She was a bit worried that she and Aaron, her future husband, fought all the time, but everyone assured her that this was normal But after years of feeling increasingly confined by her life and the rules that governed everything about it, Mirvis knew that she had to make a big change. As the mother of three children, and as a person who found a lot of her identity in the Orthodox community, Mirvis finds that the big changes she must make, while necessary, are quite traumatic.


Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, 399 pages.
Christa and Kara both told me about this one, and it was one of my favorites of this year, too. Teddy Telemachus and his extended family are a mix of psychics, telekinetics, firestarters, and conmen. Teddy himself can fool almost anyone, from gangsters to the CIA. He has a lot more trouble fooling his talented wife, Maureen, the most powerful psychic in the world, and even less luck pulling one over on his daughter Irene. A rollicking, funny, fast-paced novel that is convoluted and a lot of fun. The audio is very well done too.

Two Kinds of Truth

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly, 402 pages.

Harry Bosch is working as a part-time volunteer investigating cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department when there's a double homicide in a local pharmacy. At the same time he is notified that one of his old cases is being re-opened by the LAPD. New evidence seems to clear a convicted murderer and Harry's old partner Lucia is working that case, and while she does her best to keep Harry informed, he seems to be in the sights of the death row inmate and his lawyer. As that investigation moves forward, Harry finds that it's not just the new evidence that's going to come out at trial, but accusations against him as well. Harry gets his half-brother, attorney Micky Haller to help him out. While all that is going on, Harry and the San Fernando police mount an undercover investigation against the prescription pill dealers who were presumably responsible for the pharmacy murders. Harry's es-partner Jerry Edgar helps out on that case. While the characters of Bosch and Edgar have been made much younger in the popular Amazon series, they are both stil older men in the books, both retired from regular police work, but both still active.
The downloadable audio was narrated by Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch in the series.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, 304 pages.

Gyasi's first novel follows two half-sisters and their descendants over 250 years. The novel begins and spends half its time in the Asante and Fante lands that eventually become Ghana. The two half sisters, Effia and Esi, who don't know much about each other, find vastly different lives. Effia is married to one of the British slavers at the Cape Coast Castle on Africa's Gold Coast. Esi is captured and sold into slavery, passing through that same castle. Esi's descendants live in America, as slaves, runaways and then free people. Effia's descendants must deal with the guilt and burden of working in the slave trade and then with the increasing colonial pressure from the British. An interesting story told in brief glimpses of a variety of people over the years.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by , Neil De Grasse Tyson 222 pages.
Tyson gives a clear, concise overview of the universe. He mixes history, current theory about the state of science, and how it all came together in a book that is only 200 pages long. We'll be discussing this next month, so I look forward to rereading it.

The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin, 407 pages.
The second volume of the really intricate and well thought-out series about a world that suffers through periodic apocalyptic "seasons" that bring the people of that earth close to extinction. The seasons are caused by the earth itself; it's an angry planet.
After Alabaster has started the most recent season, opening a huge rift in a continent and altering the world in a deadly-for-a-lot-of-people sort of way, Essun finds a new place to live and searches for her daughter, while she tries to decide if she can use what Alabaster has shown her to end this season and keep future seasons from occurring.
A wonderful story.
There's a useful glossary in the back of each of the books. The downloadable audiobook from Overdrive is narrated by Robin Miles; she does an excellent job.

Speak, memory, by Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s poetic gifts are very evident in his famous memoir of growing up in an upper-class Russian family in the years just prior to the Russian Revolution, and his life as an exile up until around 1940.  Published in 1951, the book is actually comprised of many shorter pieces many of which were published independently in various journals and magazine.  For example, the first piece was originally written and published in French in 1936, then translated into English, and ultimately became chapter five of the book.  Nabokov wrote Edmund Wilson in 1947 saying, “I am writing…..a new type of autobiography – a scientific attempt to unravel and trace back all the tangled threads of one’s personality….”  261 pp.

Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan

Although I found Manhattan Beach to be a page-turner, I am a little puzzled by the rapturous reviews it received.  It is an enjoyable, well-researched novel set primarily during the Depression and WWII.  During the war years, the main character, Anna Kerrigan, works in the Brooklyn Naval Yard to support her abandoned mother and severely disabled younger sister.  Her father, with whom she shared a close bond, disappeared five or so years ago.  He worked as a bagman for the union and later for a wealthy and somewhat shady character, Dexter Styles.  Anna met Dexter when she is a young girl on a visit her father makes to his luxurious home.  At the Naval Yard, Anna manages to pass the physical exam to become the first woman diver, working in a 200-pound “dress” attached to an air hose.  These divers do the dangerous work of repairing damaged ships underwater.  Now a young woman, her path crosses again with Dexter, who doesn’t remember her and to whom she gives a false last name.  Will she be able to find out from Dexter what really happened to her father?  448 pp.

For Two Thousand Years

For Two Thousand Years by Mikhail Sebastian, 256 pages.

Sebastian's 1934 novel, translated into English from Romanian for the first time, recounts the Jewish narrator's life as a student and worker in Romania as fascism and antisemitism are on the rise.
In the first part of the novel, as a student, the narrator must deal with constant physical threats and assaults from fellow students, as virulent antisemitism holds sway. Later, when working int he oil fields, he reflects on his past and considers his uncomfortable situation, as a Jew, in his home country.