Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Vote for January’s Dear Wendy Book Club Book

We’re starting a Dear Wendy Book Club. Please vote on our January selection from the choices below (I’ll announce the winner tomorrow):

[polldaddy poll=”5795874″]

 
1. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: Even among authors, Jeffrey Eugenides possesses a rare talent for being able to inhabit his characters. In The Marriage Plot, his third novel and first in ten years (following the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex), Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent. –Chris Schluep

2. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Amazon.com Review
In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers’ claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged. The Mormon Church was founded, in part, on the idea that true believers could speak directly with God. But while the mainstream church attempted to be more palatable to the general public by rejecting the controversial tenet of polygamy, fundamentalist splinter groups saw this as apostasy and took to the hills to live what they believed to be a righteous life. When their beliefs are challenged or their patriarchal, cult-like order defied, these still-active groups, according to Krakauer, are capable of fighting back with tremendous violence. While Krakauer’s research into the history of the church is admirably extensive, the real power of the book comes from present-day information, notably jailhouse interviews with Dan Lafferty. Far from being the brooding maniac one might expect, Lafferty is chillingly coherent, still insisting that his motive was merely to obey God’s command. Krakauer’s accounts of the actual murders are graphic and disturbing, but such detail makes the brothers’ claim of divine instruction all the more horrifying. In an age where Westerners have trouble comprehending what drives Islamic fundamentalists to kill, Jon Krakauer advises us to look within America’s own borders. –John Moe –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

3. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Book Description
Eva never really wanted to be a mother—and certainly not the mother of a boy who ends up murdering seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage, in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

4. Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010: From a single, abbreviated life grew a seemingly immortal line of cells that made some of the most crucial innovations in modern science possible. And from that same life, and those cells, Rebecca Skloot has fashioned in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a fascinating and moving story of medicine and family, of how life is sustained in laboratories and in memory. Henrietta Lacks was a mother of five in Baltimore, a poor African American migrant from the tobacco farms of Virginia, who died from a cruelly aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then, turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive–even thrive–in the lab. Known as HeLa cells, their stunning potency gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio. Meanwhile, Henrietta’s family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and their discovery decades later of her unknowing contribution–and her cells’ strange survival–left them full of pride, anger, and suspicion. For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories? –Tom Nissley

 

27 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Addie Pray December 29, 2011, 11:23 am

    Those all sound good! Is Lionel Shriver related to Robert Sergent Shriver?

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    Em December 29, 2011, 12:17 pm

    My vote is for the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time.

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    Elle December 29, 2011, 12:34 pm

    I just realized, after reading the review, that I heard an NPR podcast about the book and Henrietta Lacks. It was fascinating. And the interviews with her family were very moving.

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      Michele December 29, 2011, 1:31 pm

      I read it last year and it is really good! I work at a cancer research center and the scientists here use HeLa cells every day. Rebecca Skloot came to our center to do a reading and I was so enthralled I bought a copy and started reading it that night!

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  • MELH

    MELH December 29, 2011, 12:41 pm

    I would be happy to read all, except the Banner of Heaven. And that’s only because I’m being selfish and I already read it, and I want to read something new! It is an amazing book though, especially if the whole polygamy thing interests you. I have so much trouble deciding what books to read, and I really want to keep up with my reading on my new iPad, so I am very excited for this!

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      kittyk December 29, 2011, 1:27 pm

      That was my vote I find the subject matter fascinating. Anyone interested in polygamy/the cult nature of the compounds & their treatment of women as property & second class citizens should also check out Escape by Carolyn Jessop. It is her personal account of life growing up in polygamy and how she got out and moved on. Its an eye-opener for sure.

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      • MELH

        MELH December 29, 2011, 1:47 pm

        Stolen Innoncence by Elissa Wall is also a good one on that topic, kind of the same story about being married off as a teenage bride and how she got out.

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        ReginaRey December 29, 2011, 2:10 pm

        I’ve read both Escape and Stolen Innocence – Both REALLY good reads! I was so disgusted by how women are treated in polygamist cults…but not entirely surprised.

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    Sarah December 29, 2011, 1:02 pm

    Ok, my vote is for we need to talk about Kevin because I read it years ago and I really want to re-read it before the movie comes out and its REALLY REALLY REALLY good. I think it would open up a lot of discussion about nature/nurture and motherhood and what not and it could make for some healthy debates around here :).

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      kittyk December 29, 2011, 1:23 pm

      See I just didn’t think it sounded appealing, more of a downer to start off the new year. But your comment makes me want to reconsider my vote.

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        Sarah December 29, 2011, 1:27 pm

        Well….yeah…it is a downer. It uh….stays with you awhile. Honestly I would probably label it a horror novel more than anything else, but it is also a very interesting perspective on the role of a mother. But if we’re looking for something uplifting then maybe we should go another way…..

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      Elle December 29, 2011, 1:46 pm

      My vote went to We need to talk about Kevin as well. The premise for Under the banner of heaven is less appealing to me. And The marriage plot – I read the reviews on Amazon. It looks like it would be more appealing to someone who is a lot more interested and knowledgeable about literature than I am.

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      Addie Pray December 29, 2011, 3:05 pm

      Oh there’s a movie coming out? I love reading books right before a movie based on the book comes out, and then going to the movies. For some reason, I can’t read the book after I’ve seen the movie. Is that weird?

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        Sarah December 29, 2011, 3:26 pm

        Its got Tilda Swinton!! Reviewers are saying she could win the Oscar for it! Squeee!

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  • Jess

    jess of citygirlsworld.com December 29, 2011, 1:06 pm

    I am so excited about this!! And I hope its the Kevin book because I have been reading a lot lately about sociopathy/narcissism in relation (or often its lack of relationship) to child-rearing (think Casey Anthony as an example).

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      Sarah December 29, 2011, 1:11 pm

      Oooo, if you’re interested in sociopathy and childhood you which book I thought was amazing? Columbine. The author spent ten years devoting himself to understanding the Columbine shooters and the event and it is a FASCINATING read. He goes into so much about the psychology behind the tragedy and as awful as the subject matter is, I wanted to read it again immediately after I finished it because it was such an interesting read.

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        belongsomewhere December 29, 2011, 1:21 pm

        Yes! I read that earlier this year. At times it’s really difficult to read, but Dave Cullen did a great job being even-handed and sympathetic toward all of the players.

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    • theattack

      theattack December 29, 2011, 6:00 pm

      I have to study a lot about child abuse, neglect, and trauma in school (Social work major), and I’m really interested in this too. An amazing book that I’m rereading right now is The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog by Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist. You can learn SO much about trauma and how it affects the brain. A lot of it is related to child abuse or neglect, and sometimes it’s related to parents who have good intentions but end up messing their kid up anyway. I HIGHLY recommend this book to you, Jess. Seriously.

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  • avatar

    kali December 29, 2011, 2:42 pm

    I voted for the Marriage Plot as the least depressing-sounding of the lot. I hope we can have more fiction choices in the future. And yes, I was a lit major…

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    belongsomewhere December 29, 2011, 4:34 pm

    The Marriage Plot is, in a way, very timely because it’s set during the early ’80s, so the economic downturn of that period is part of the backdrop. It’s not *about* that, but it is present in the story (something I think Eugenides did really successfully). I’m about halfway through it, and it’s delightful in that it brings in a lot of really intriguing information besides the plot itself (about literary theory, religion, the time period in which it’s set, etc.), but none of that stuff ever bogs the story down. If that’s what we end up choosing, there’s a great Fresh Air interview with Eugenides that I really recommend.

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    • avatar

      belongsomewhere December 29, 2011, 4:38 pm

      Plus, as someone pointed out in the original suggestion thread, the book is largely about dysfunctional relationships (between the protagonists, as well as their siblings and parents). I think that would make it pretty appropriate for this site!

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph December 29, 2011, 5:40 pm

    Whoa, some heavy stuff. Good choices folks- I haven’t read any of them yet but they all sound fascinating! I don’t even know what to vote for, because I’d read any of them.

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  • theattack

    theattack December 29, 2011, 6:03 pm

    The description here of The Marriage Plot doesn’t make it sound interesting at all. All I got from it was that it was about some college students. Can anyone else provide a better description without spoiling the story?

    PS – I absolutely love the topic of religious terrorism and religious violence in general. Under the Banner of Heaven sounds like a fantastic read! And if anyone else is interested in religious terrorism, Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer is a wonderful book that studies religious terrorism through case studies of tragic terrorist events from the past few decades.

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      belongsomewhere December 29, 2011, 6:20 pm

      Here’s an excerpt that was published in The New Yorker, which really pulled me in:

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      • theattack

        theattack December 29, 2011, 6:43 pm

        Thanks! I really couldn’t get past the first two pages, but it did give me a much better idea of what the book is like.

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  • katie

    katie December 29, 2011, 8:23 pm

    as i said in the original post, im not going to vote… but im just super freaking excited to start reading cool books again!!

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    WatersEdge December 30, 2011, 10:56 am

    I voted for We Need to Talk About Kevin, but I’d be excited to read any of those. Can’t wait!

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