Book by Topeka author among new reads at library

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November 7, 2019 - 10:35 AM

Plucky children traveling on the Mississippi experiencing the tapestry of life as it existed then — could this be Huckleberry Finn? No, it’s “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger, but Twain’s classic is the book to which Krueger’s book is often being compared. Odie O’Banion is thinking back to his childhood, relating the story of the great adventure of his life in 1932. Odie and his brother are orphans sent to live in an otherwise all-Indian boarding school, an abusive place where the language and culture are being beaten out of the native children. With two other friends they make their escape. The group of four care for and love one another, through experience expecting nothing but evil from anyone else. Instead, they find an array of lovely and unique people. They encounter all sorts: a struggling farmer, a faith healer, hoboes, transient people living in “Hoovervilles,” and more. Readers will enjoy joining in their journey.

Ben Lerner, born and raised in Topeka, has become a highly regarded poet and author over the last decade. His latest novel, “The Topeka School,” was acclaimed in the New York Times Book Review as “a high-water mark in recent American fiction.” Set in the late 1990s, the book is about high school senior Adam. He’s the son of two psychotherapists, whose story is also related. It’s also about society’s trajectory, where the roots of today’s society are seen in the developments of two decades ago. This may not be an autobiographical novel, but Lerner was in fact the son of two psychotherapists with the Menninger Clinic. He’s also not the first author from his family. Some readers may remember that one of the huge nonfiction bestsellers of the 1980s was “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, Ben’s mother.

In “The Secrets We Kept” by Lara Prescott, in 1956 two women typists with the CIA who are actually spies are given a unique assignment. Sally is a seasoned spy dating back to World War II. Irina is a complete novice. Their assignment is to smuggle Boris Pasternak’s manuscript of “Dr. Zhivago” out of the USSR so it can be published — and then to get Russian language copies of it back into the country where it is banned.

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