LitWits Book Selections January – November 2018

LitWits 2018 Book Selections

 January 23

One Foot in Eden

by Ron Rash

Will Alexander is the sheriff in a small town in southern Appalachia, and he knows that the local thug Holland Winchester has been murdered. The only thing is the sheriff can find neither the body nor someone to attest to the killing. Simply, almost elementally told through the voices of the sheriff, a local farmer, his beautiful wife, their son, and the sheriff’s deputy, One Foot in Eden is the debut novel of one the most mature and distinctive voices in southern literature.

 February 27

That Good Night

by Richard Probert

Condemned to spend his “Golden Years” cooped up in Sunset Nursing Home, 84-year-old Charlie Lambert refuses this ending for himself. With the help of an old sailing buddy, Charlie heads towards Maine on a 46-foot sailboat, strikes up an unexpected romance with a woman decades his junior while being chased by a former FBI agent-turned-insurance-investigator who is hot on his trail and doesn’t expect a fight from the old man, but that’s just what he gets. Because Charlie has no intention of ever returning to Sunset, whether in handcuffs or a pine box.

Funny, heart-warming, and heart-breaking, “That Good Night” tells the story of a man who wishes to simply sail into a sunset of his own choosing.

March 27

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

by Jennifer Chiaverini

In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion. A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days. A compelling historical novel that unveils the private lives of Abraham and Mary Lincoln through the perspective of the First Lady’s most trusted confidante and friend, her dressmaker.

 April 24

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

by J.D. Vance

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

May 22

A Spool of Blue Thread

by Anne Tyler

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . . . ” This is how Abby Whitshank always describes the day she fell in love with Red in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate an indefinable kind of specialness, but like all families, their stories reveal only part of the picture: Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s parents, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to the grandchildren carrying the Whitshank legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn house that has always been their anchor.

June 26

Lilac Girls

by Martha Hall Kelly

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.  The lives of three women are set on a collision course when one is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as they strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

July 24

The Hamilton Affair

by Elizabeth Cobbs

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution, and featuring a cast of legendary characters, The Hamilton Affair tells the sweeping, tumultuous, true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from passionate and tender beginnings to his fateful duel on the banks of the Hudson River. Hamilton was a bastard and orphan, raised in the Caribbean and desperate for legitimacy, who became one of the American Revolution’s most dashing–and improbable–heroes. Admired by George Washington, scorned by Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton was a lightning rod: the most controversial leader of the new nation. Elizabeth was the wealthy, beautiful, adventurous daughter of the respectable Schuyler clan–and a pioneering advocate for women. Together, the unlikely couple braved the dangers of war, the perils of seduction, the anguish of infidelity, and the scourge of partisanship that menaced their family and the country itself. The Hamilton Affair tells a story of love forged in revolution and tested by the bitter strife of young America.

August 28

Girl Waits with Gun

by Amy Stewart

Based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs. Constance Kopp towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared. A romping adventure, featuring memorable, powerful, courageous, stubborn and resourceful female characters.

September 25

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

by Lisa See

Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. One day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.  In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people.  Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.  A powerful story about the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter adopted by an American couple and a family separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.

October 23

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule

by Jennifer Chiaverini

In 1844, shy Missouri belle Julia Dent met Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant. The two fell deeply in love, but Grant’s abolitionist family refused to attend their wedding. For despite her husband’s objections, Julia kept as her slave another Julia, known as Jule. Since childhood they had been companions and confidantes. Julia was gifted with prophetic dreams, which Jule helped her interpret; Julia secretly taught Jule to read, while Jule became her vision-impaired mistress’s eyes to the world. But as Grant rose through the ranks of the Union army during the Civil War, the stark distinctions between mistress and slave strained their unlikely friendship. Both women risked certain danger as they traveled to and from General Grant’s military headquarters—until the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation inspired Jule to make a daring bid for freedom. This is the first novel to chronicle the singular relationship between Julia Grant, beloved First Lady, and the courageous woman who was her slave and namesake.

 November 27

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

by Jean E. Pendziwol

Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father’s journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck. With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenage performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together. Entry by entry, these unlikely friends are drawn deep into a world far removed from their own—to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse seventy years before. Even more than its vivid evocation of a unique time and place, The Lightkeeper’s Daughters is a sensitive and moving examination of the nature of identity, the importance of family, and the possibility of second chances.