What's Shirley Wells Reading?
Shirley Wells's Reading Page
Shirley is a retired high school English teacher who now works as a Watermark bookseller. She is the Book Club Coordinator, leads the Watermark Classic Book Club, and gives book talks to various clubs and organizations all over town. Shirley is an eclectic reader who enjoys literary fiction, historical fiction, memoirs, mysteries, creative non-fiction, history, psychological thrillers, YA--pretty much anything and everything is on her radar!
To see an archived list of the books Shirley has read recently, click HERE.
When a troubled Irish immigrant commits suicide, his young widow and unborn daughter are taken under the wings of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor who serve their Irish-American community in early 20th century Brooklyn. Through the elegant simplicity of her prose, McDermott demonstrates how the lives of ordinary characters living their everyday lives can prove extraordinary. Lovely and lyrical, Alice McDermott's writing is--as always—exquisite. If you're looking for an action-packed plot, look elsewhere. But if, instead, you want to be transported to another time and place, McDermott's subtle, quiet storytelling will take you there.
I like supporting new authors, and this literary thriller makes that easy to do. Set in an elite boarding school in Virginia, “Shadow of the Lions” is reminiscent of John Knowles' A Separate Peace, especially in its exploration of friendship, betrayal, guilt, and redemption. When struggling writer Matthias Glass is hired to teach English at his alma mater, he has the perfect opportunity to solve the mystery behind his former roommate's disappearance a decade ago and lay to rest the secrets of the past so that he can move on with his life. Filled with surprise twists and turns, this one will keep you guessing!
I've spent more time talking about his book than any other this year...and for good reason. This National Book Award finalist reads like a literary mystery instead of the well-researched non-fiction story it is. Plus, it has regional appeal as it all takes place just south of us on the Osage Reservation in Oklahoma. After oil is discovered on their land in the 1920s, the Osage were some of the richest people per capita in the world. When they mysteriously began to die, the newly-formed FBI undertook its first major homicide case with former Texas Ranger Tom White taking the lead. The greed, corruption, and cruelty White uncovered is both astonishing and depressing, and Grann's riveting account of this appalling conspiracy will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.
Fans of Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh or even Sara Baume's Spill Simmer Falter Wither will find much to like in Eggshells by Caitriona Lally. It features a quirky, socially-awkward protagonist whose interactions with the world around her prove both humorous and heartbreaking.
There's a clever ambiguity about the narrator Vivian; it's hard to get a grasp on her mental state since she really doesn't fit in anywhere. Is she eccentric, autistic, OCD, severely disturbed? She can, at times, appear to be all four. Perhaps Vivian's oddest trait is that she believes she is a changeling. As the Irish poet W. B. Yeats defined it, "Sometimes the fairies fancy mortals, and carry them away into their own country, leaving instead some sickly fairy child... " Vivian's parents told her she was left by the fairies, and she takes their fanciful assessment of her unusual personality literally: "They tried to exchange me for their rightful daughter, but they must not have gone to the right places or asked the right questions." Where her parents failed, Vivian is determined to succeed. Thus, her daily wanderings around Dublin in search of a portal to a fairy land provide readers with a fascinating, albeit a bit bizarre, tour around the capital city. Although this may remind you of another Irish author's tour of Dublin, especially in regard to the author's concern with language and form over plot, this is not just a reworking of or homage to Ulysses.
In spite of her whimsical search, Vivian appears to be stuck in a dreary existence. She lives alone in a dilapidated house that her great-aunt left to her. She has no friends, no job, and few social skills. But then she advertises for a friend named Penelope by pinning a notice to a tree (isn't that how all friendships begin?!), and someone named Elaine actually answers her ad. This friendship causes Vivian's world to change—yes, the changeling herself begins to change. But can she stop searching for a portal to another world if she finds a connection to someone in this world?
Despite her unusual quirks and her odd quest, Vivian is a sympathetic character, and her love—and obsessive recording—of words will especially endear her to many like-minded logophiles. Lally's debut novel reads like an urban fairy tale filled with inventive wordplay and a hunt for meaning through language. It also provides us with a subtle lesson in empathy for the lost and lonely who, like Vivian, are seeking their place in the world.
After surviving a harsh existence in a makeshift shelter in the northern Maine woods for 27 years and committing over a thousand burglaries of the local summer cabins for supplies, Christopher Knight was arrested. What prompted this 22-year-old's extreme experiment in survivalism? Knight wanted to be left alone. This non-fiction book is based on Finkel's interviews with Knight in jail; he also deftly explores a history of hermits and the psychology of solitude. Definitely an illustration of how truth can be stranger than fiction!
"Four score and seven" (plus several dozen more) actors and musicians comprise the acclaimed cast of this audiobook. Here's just a sampling of the first familiar voices you'll hear: Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN, David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III, Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS. And that's only the beginning (Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, etc.). The author himself takes the part of THE REVEREND EVERLY THOMAS.
The "kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices"--both historical and imagined--that Saunders employs in his novel is daring and imaginative but perhaps a bit daunting for the reader. It is all brilliantly sorted out and brought to life, however, in this unparalleled recording. For total immersion and enjoyment, listen to the Libro.fm audiobook while following along in the printed book.