The great books just keep on coming! Here are some that really caught my eye this week:
City of Thieves by David Benioff (Plume Books, April 2009)
Based on the experiences of the author’s grandfather, this is “a rough and tumble tale that clenches humor, savagery, and pathos squarely together on the same page.” Set in Russia during the Nazis brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev, a gawky Jewish teenager, is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell with a deserter. Instead of being exectuted, they are given a chance to save their lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, the two convicts embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
Life’s That Way: A Memoir by Jim Beaver (Putnam Adult, April 2009)
“Jim Beaver, the laconic character actor best known as the appealing prospector, ‘Ellsworth’, on “Deadwood” has written a compassionate, funny, searing, and ultimately transcending memoir chronicling a year of tragedy, grief, and survival that would send the strongest of men, even an ex-marine and West Texas preacher’s son, to their knees. As Jim puts it, “I am no Job, though I think we went to the same school.” That his story is so compulsively readable, inspiring, and ultimately hopeful is due entirely to Jim’s bracing honesty, dry humor, and deeply felt humanity. Read this book, tell your friends about it, and then go hug your loved ones.”
Robert Schenkkan, Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Kentucky Cycle”
The Forgotten Garden: A Novel by Kate Morton (Atria Books, April 2009)
A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book — a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, “Nell” sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to fi nd her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book’s title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.
The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale House Publishers, March 2009)
The Secret Holocaust Diaries is a haunting eyewitness account of Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister, a remarkable Russian-American woman who had seen and survived the unspeakable evils of the Holocaust as a young girl. For half a century, she kept her story secret while living a normal American life. She locked all her photos, documents, diaries, and dark memories from World War II in a trunk. Late in life, she unlocked the trunk, first for her husband, and now for the rest of the world. Nonna’s story is one of suffering, torture, and death-but also of incredible acts of kindness that show the ultimate triumph of faith and love over despair and evil. The Secret Holocaust Diaries is in part a tragedy, yet it’s also an unforgettable true story about forgiveness, courage, and hope. Born into an aristocratic Russian family, Nonna Lisowskaja fully expected to enjoy a cultured, privileged life. Her family had many advantages at a time when other Russians struggled to buy food. By her sixth birthday, Nonna spoke four languages. She had a good life. But then her life fell apart. The Nazis invaded Russia. And, though her family was not Jewish, she lost everything . . . except a few family photos and scraps of a journal hidden from the Nazis in a small pillow. This is her story.