Monday, May 24, 2010

Calling all History Buffs

I just finished reading a great historical book. Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones is chock full of history. I love books based on historical truth and this book fits the bill. This is a novel about the Civil War and how it tore apart our country, the states and families. Walt Whitman, who befriends one of the brothers, is center to the telling of the story, which is based on a Maryland family dealing with mixed loyalties.

Two of the four brothers are injured in battle and end up in the same hospital. When one, William Prentiss, dies the other brothers, John and Melville, along with Mr. Whitman visit the other injured brother, Clifton, to tell him the sad news. From here the story begins with flashbacks to events throughout the war.

Through the flashbacks, we learn both the Confederate and the Union points of view, the stories of men in battle, the women’s role in the underground, and the free blacks’ role in the 7th U.S. Colored Regiment. All this history wound into an extremely interesting and mostly easy-to-read story. At times the book slows with a bit too much detail but, on the whole, it is a good book for both the historical facts and the intertwining story of the characters.

Civil War buffs will love this book and most everyone else who is interested in our history will enjoy it. I highly recommend Mr. Jones’ Two Brothers: One North, One South.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Am Hutterite - A Beautiful Memoir

I Am Hutterite is an interesting and very well written memoir by Mary-Ann Kirkby. Ms. Kirkby tells about her carefree and loving childhood and about the history of her family in a Hutterite community. Not having heard abort Hutterites before, this turned out to be quite educational for me. The Hutterite community is similar to the Amish and Mennonite communities except that the residents pool all their resources and work with and for each other. They farm together, they cook together, and they eat together. A surprise to me is that they even drink together. Yes, alcohol is allowed in this culture unlike other religious groups.

This is a step back in time for most of us yet the Hutterites live this way in the 21st century. After describing her parents’ history and her upbringing in the Hutterite fashion, the author then describes how and why her family left the community. The Hutterite community was definitely her security but her family left and tried to exist without the support system from which they came. The descriptions of their struggles and near-starvation were heart-wrenching but they did finally succeed to live in the “English world.”

I thoroughly enjoyed I Am Hutterite and recommend it to anyone interested in reading non-fiction. It’s an easy read and will definitely keep your attention.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cutting for Stone Deserves More than Five Stars!

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is a brilliant novel, but that wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read Dr. Verghese’s other books. I loved My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story and I know I’ll be running out to get The Tennis Partner next. Dr. Verghese is a powerful storyteller and his books are beautifully written.

The setting of Cutting for Stone is in both Ethiopia and the United States. A nun and doctor travel to a small hospital in Ethiopia, which begins a series of mishaps and intriguing scenarios. A long story short, the nun gives birth to twins who are co-joined and separated. The doctor disappears and the nun dies in childbirth. But this is only the beginning. Although a piece of fiction, it is based on actual events such as the unrest in Ethiopia during Emperor Haile Selaisse's reign.

The twins, Marion and Shiva, are cared for and loved by two other doctors at Missing (Mission) Hospital. The story continues as the boys grow to become young men with one having to flee the country. He continues his education in the United States and eventually meets his father again. The other twin continues his on-the-job training as a specialist in Ethiopia along with his adoptive mother.

This short description doesn’t give the book justice, but I don’t want to give away the story. Let me just say that I couldn’t put this book down. If there’s any way of giving the book six stars in a five-star rating system, I certainly would. Cutting for Stone is a powerful book. You simply must read it. You won’t be sorry.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Tale of Greta Gumboot and Other Stories - A Great Collection of Stories for Children

The Tale of Greta Gumboot and Other Stories, by Lee Pritchett, is a wonderful collection of stories set in a magical world. Greta Gumboot, the bad witch of the forest, loved turning forest animals into wonderful tasty treats. Imagine a real bunny turned into a chocolate bunny. Yummy! But, of course, this really wasn’t a nice thing to do so Greta Gumboot was taught a lesson by those very same animals she’d eaten. What a cute story with a good lesson. Greta Gumboot, bad witch-turned-good, ends up helping others and being a good friend to those she used to turn into candy!

Greta Gumboot is just the first of several exciting tales in this book. Although the book is geared for the 4- to 8-year-old child, I believe older children will also enjoy it. The tales include Gilby, a wizard’s apprentice, who saves the kingdom, and Mr. Bumbles, the wizard who loses his hat and magic but, thanks to Greta Gumboot, receives both back along with a group of new friends.

This book is full of wizards, witches, goblins, princesses, and even a kitten and an epheline (wondering what that is?). Each story is a unit unto itself but many of them are intertwined in a very intriguing way. Children will want to continue reading, not because it’s passed their bedtime, but because the stories are so good. Luckily, the book is broken up into several tales so that he or she can start a new tale the following day.

All the stories are great but my own personal favorite is Holly and the Unicorn. Holly gets all the forest animals, including a rabbit with headphones and a dancing bear, to help find the baby unicorn’s Mum. This is just too cute.

Each one of these tales could have been a book by itself, but Lee Pritchett has combined them all into one big book for your child to enjoy. This may be Mr. Pritchett’s first book but it certainly won’t be his last. And if you’re wondering what an epheline is, you’ll just have to read Lee Pritchett’s The Tale of Greta Gumboot and Other Stories!