At your library: powerful stories of hope



October 8, 2019 - 10:15 AM

One of the most anticipated novels of this fall is “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which debuted at number one on the New York Times’ best seller list. Remarkably, it’s the first novel by Coates, a black activist whose previous writings have been magazine articles, essays, and nonfiction, for one of which he won the National Book Award. “The Water Dancer” features Hiram, born a slave and without memory of his mother, who was sold away when he was young. Hiram has a special power. This power helps him when he is plunged into a river along with his master/half-brother. He sees visions of his ancestors, followed by a woman dancing in the water, whom he realizes is his mother. Hiram escapes into the Underground, a secret network working to liberate slaves. Coates avoids even the use of “slave” and related words, using instead invented language: “the Quality” for white people and “the Tasked” for black.

Difficult yet ultimately rewarding family relationships are at the heart of “Life and Other Inconveniences” by Kristan Higgins. Emma has successfully built a good life for herself and teenage daughter Riley despite a rough start in life. Abandoned by her worthless father after her mother’s suicide and raised by her high society grandmother Genevieve, Emma was kicked out of the house by her grandmother when she became pregnant as a teen. Now Genevieve is dying and wants to meet Riley and ask a favor of them both. Chapters are told from the perspective of different characters, so the reader gets insight into what made damaged characters the way they are. Even seemingly bad characters, it appears, have some redeeming qualities and it’s never too late to build relationships.

“Thirteen” by Steve Cavanagh is a twist-filled thriller. Eddie Flynn is the defense attorney for an actor accused of killing his wife. Flynn manages to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case, but his best chance is to identify the actual killer. The actual murderer, as it turns out, is a serial killer —and a member of the jury.

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