Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Fiction Grab Bag
Before Tara, before Scarlett and Rhett, before the war that would divide a nation... there was Ruth. Ruth's Journey, authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, brings magnificently to life one of the most beloved characters in literature: Mammy from Gone with the Wind.

"Her story began with a miracle."

On the island of Saint-Domingue, a French colony consumed by the flames of revolution, a senseless attack leaves only one survivor - a beautiful little black girl. Upon discovering her, Captain Henri Fournier brings the child home and is pleased to see that his new wife, Solange, is instantly enchanted by the girl. "We shall name you Ruth," she says. When the Fourniers flee the island, they take the child with them to start a new life in the bustling American city of Savannah, a life in which Ruth serves as Solange's companion, comforter - and slave. Solange tutors Ruth in the finer points of deportment and etiquette even as her own ascent into Savannah society takes more than one unexpected turn. As a young woman, Ruth experiences love, marriage, childbirth - but also unspeakable loss and trauma.

When Solange gives birth to a daughter, Ellen, it is Ruth - now Mammy - who nurtures, instructs, and safeguards the child, at her side every single day of Ellen's life. Ellen's unexpected choice of husband, the rough Irishman Gerald O'Hara, takes Ruth to the up-country cotton plantation called Tara and begins a new chapter in her life as Mammy to a new generation of O'Hara girls. She and Ellen turn a broken-down farm into a gracious home, a fitting place to entertain the other county families = the Wilkses, the Tarletons, the Fontaines…they all enjoy the hospitality of Tara, especially the county's young men when Ellen's unruly eldest daughter, Scarlett, blossoms into young womanhood.

In the hands of acclaimed novelist Donald McCaig, Ruth's story is far more than a companion to those of her masters, she exists independently of their gaze and is given an unforgettable voice of her own. She is a rock in the river of time, holding tight to all those under her care, and to the memory of all those who have been lost to her.

Ruth's life parallels America's transformation from former colonial outpost to vibrant young nation grappling with a divided soul and a bloody destiny. This spellbinding novel of fortitude, heartbreak, and indomitable will is a tale that stands on its own, but that also sheds a welcome new light on Margaret Mitchell's unforgettable classic, Gone with the Wind.
No Stopping Train is the magnum opus and final novel of the late writer Les Plesko, a powerful, swirling novel of memory and violence set during the Hungarian Revolution.

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt following World War II that spread quickly across the destabilizing country. A new government pledged to re-establish free elections until a large Soviet force invaded, killing more than 2500 Hungarians and forcing 200,000 Hungarians to flee the country. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months until a new Soviet-installed government suppressed all opposition. Public discussion of this revolution was suppressed in Hungary for more than thirty years.

Although the revolution failed, it served as a source of great inspiration to many Hungarians, and here Les Plesko taps into his country’s history as the dramatic backdrop to his most accomplished and powerful novel. Sandor and Margit are young lovers suffering with their nation through the degradations of war, hunger, and political oppression in Budapest. Into their lives comes the mercurial Erzsebet – ravaged, war-torn, alluring. Their eventual love triangle upends an already tenuous existence and threatens what little safety they have found in a nation on the brink of revolution. When Sandor’s activities as an underground publisher are exposed in a vicious act of betrayal, the lives of each of our characters will never be the same.

No Stopping Train is a stylistic tour de force and the final work of Les Plesko. 
When Jesse's family moves to Roanoke, Virginia, in the summer of 1972, she's 12 years old and already mindful of the schism between innocence and femininity, the gap between childhood and the adult world. Her father, a former pastor, cycles through spiritual disciplines as quickly as he cycles through jobs. Her mother is dissatisfied, glumly fetishizing the Kennedys and anyone else that symbolizes status and wealth. 
The residents of the Bent Tree housing development may not hold what Jesse is looking for, but they're all she's got. Her neighbor speaks of her married lover; her classmate playacts being a Bunny at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club; the boy she's interested in fantasizes about moving to Hollywood and befriending David Soul. In the midst of it all, Jesse finds space to set up her room with her secret treasures: busts of Emily Dickinson and Shakespeare, a Venus flytrap, her Cher 45s, and "The Big Book of Burial Rites," which she reads obsessively. But outside awaits all the misleading sexual mores, muddled social customs, and confused spirituality. 
Girlhood has never been more fraught than in Jesse's telling, its expectations threatening to turn at any point into delicious risk, or real danger.
Patrick Norris has seen the worst that Afghanistan has to offer–excruciating heat, bitter cold, and death waiting behind every rock as comrades are blown to pieces by bombs and snipers. He returns home exhilarated by his new freedom and eager to realize his dream of a sport fishing business. But he is shocked to learn that the avocado ranch his family has owned for generations in the foothills of San Diego has been destroyed by a massive wildfire and the parents he loves are facing ruin.

Ted Norris worships his brother and yearns for his approval. Gentle by nature, but tormented by strange fixations with a dark undercurrent, Ted is drawn into a circle of violent, criminal misfits. His urgent quest to prove himself threatens to put those he loves in peril.

Patrick puts his own plans on hold to save the family’s home and falls in love with Iris, a beautiful and unusual woman, when disaster strikes. When Ted’s plan for redemption goes terribly wrong, he tries to disappear. Desperate to find his brother and salvage what remains of his family, Patrick must make an agonizing choice.

Three-time Edgar Award-winner T. Jefferson Parker is known for his many bestselling crime novels, from Laguna Heat to The Famous and the Dead. Full Measure marks a departure; it is a literary novel that explores many subjects, among them the bonds of loyalty between brothers.

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