June 5, 2012

Round Fourteen—Library’s Daughter

Some of my coworkers at the library heard more about my Year of Reading at Your Mercy than they wanted to—more than anyone else except perhaps David, who has no choice but to hear me since he signed a paper eleven years ago saying that he would. Having to wait until the second to last round to ask for my coworkers’ book picks was hard, but at last the caterpillar told me to ask them, my wonderful comrades in library land, and I did.

As you can guess, they are book lovers like me. I think they liked being asked, but some of them had a hard time settling on one book. My boss went to her office and filled a notepad page, front and back. Then she went over the items on the list with me, one by one. I hadn’t the heart to make her settle on one, so when it came time to draw, I chose the one about which she spoke most glowingly.

I know these people well.* We spend our time together surrounded by books. So, I cherish each of their picks because it represents a narrowing down, a single light among many that these book-encompassed friends could have plucked for me. And together all their picks are like a string of lanterns.

Anyway… On with the post.

The Elusive Penny, whom I only see once a week now that she’s been promoted, chose The Color Purple by Alice Walker. She’s picked it for me twice now, once as a coworker and once as a Facebook friend. She wants me to read it because of how it’s written, because she knows I’ll eat it up as a reader and as a writer. (I’ve seen the movie several times and love it, but it’s one of those books I’ve never gotten around to.)

My boss, Libby, chose Measle and the Wrathmonk by Ian Ogilvy (among many others that couldn’t go into the pot, as I mention above). She is famous in local library land for her storytimes, so she’s knows a good kids’ book when she reads it.

When I asked Wanda, she had no trouble coming up with several titles off the top of her head. When I asked her to narrow it down to one, she chose Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron, the first one that had come to her mind.

Bill is one of our floating library assistants (isn’t that a great job title?), which means he fills in around the system as needed. He asked if he could contribute a title as a coworker since he’d just read a book he knew I’d love—Fool by Christopher Moore. (I wonder why he thought I’d like it?) How could I resist such a request?

Catherine didn’t waste time when I asked her. The first sentence out of her mouth was something like, “I love the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan.” So I chucked The Lightning Thief into the drawing on her behalf.

Heather, whom I tracked down like a ninja (in my Facebook feed) even though she abandoned us last fall (because she was there when I started this thing, dang it!) wants me to read Lee Smith’s Oral History. I adore Fair and Tender Ladies, so I knew I’d take her up on this pick whether during the challenge or after.

I didn’t ask Willard this time since he’s already played along, and Emily is still getting back to me… Emily?

David drew a title for me a few days before my birthday, and it turns out I got to read Wanda’s pick—Bootlegger’s Daughter. Actually, I listened to the audiobook this time. I haven’t listened to a novel in years but found out that I like being to be read to. (Of course, I had to miss my usual podcasts for several days, which always makes me sad.)

Bootlegger’s Daughter is marvelous. It’s a triple-murder mystery set in small-town North Carolina, and its deeply and authentically entrenched southern voice and sense of humor remind me of Eudora Welty. The protagonist, Deborah Knott, is a strong woman, the kind I’ve been aching for lately. Her strength isn’t physical. It doesn’t rely on domination. Her strength is that she’s brave and smart and trustworthy and she follows her own nose. Her weakness is her father, an infamous “former” bootlegger, who hasn’t spoken to her since she declared herself as candidate for judge.

This novel treads effortlessly among serious subjects like racism, sexism, and prejudice against homosexuals while at the same time weaving an easy tone throughout the story that lets the reader accept all the many and varied locals as real live flawed but wonderful people who live in a lovely and messed up world, just like we do.

And boy does Maron hit small-town life in the South spot on. I’ve never lived this exact life myself, but I’ve visited it enough to know it when I see it. There are so many scenes that breath life into this novel, but one I love in particular is a funeral scene. I kept thinking, I’ve been in this receiving line before!

Another scene I love is one that could have been cut from the novel, in terms of what it adds to the plot. It takes place while the protagonist, Deborah, is waiting for another character to show up for a clandestine meeting. I’m glad this scene made the cut. It is an homage to merry-go-rounds and to the childhoods they call back from memory.

In closing, I’ll say the narrator of the audiobook, C.J. Critt, does a wonderful job. I found one voice (Gayle’s) somewhat overdone and misfit to the age of the character, but other than that, I think having the novel read to me by Critt was one of the reasons it felt so alive.

So, thanks to Wanda for a great pick and to all my other fellow book movers who have encouraged me on down the challenge road. Library Power Go!

The Color PurpleMeasle and the WrathmonkFoolThe Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)Oral History

*(Except for Catherine. She’s new, but I feel like I know her anyway. Two patrons have asked if we are sisters.)

I bought the audiobook of Bootlegger’s Daughter and listened to it on my iPhone.

2 comments

I’ve had a book drought lately and am gathering titles to add to my e-bookshelf. It’s very satisfying knowing that I have list of lovely books waiting for me. I just got Oral History from Itunes but it appears that Bootlegger’s Daughter isn’t available electronically:(

by Jenn on July 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm. #

I know. I tried to get it as an ebook too, but I ended up listening to the audiobook, which I really enjoyed. Have you read it yet? And what about Oral History?

by wendy on August 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm. #