This classic, the Color Purple by Alice Walker, is available as all the other books at Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street. We are very thankful for their cooperation with the 16 Days of Action and I hope that our blog readers have been able to enjoy the recommendations and reads as well. You can keep the poster for future reference and of course pass it on to your contacts as well.
The Color Purple – Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
Day 15: We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (1996)
Elegiac and urgent in tone, Oates’s wrenching 26th novel (after Zombie) is a profound and darkly realistic chronicle of one family’s hubristic heyday and its fall from grace. The wealthy, socially elite Mulvaneys live on historic High Point Farm, near the small upstate town of Mt. Ephraim, N.Y. Before the act of violence that forever destroys it, an idyllic incandescence bathes life on the farm. Hard-working and proud, Michael Mulvaney owns a successful roofing company. His wife, Corinne, who makes a halfhearted attempt at running an antique business, adores her husband and four children, feeling “privileged by God.” Narrator Judd looks up to his older brothers, athletic Mike Jr. (“Mule”) and intellectual Patrick (“Pinch”), and his sister, radiant Marianne, a popular cheerleader who is 17 in 1976 when she is raped by a classmate after a prom. Though the incident is hushed up, everyone in the family becomes a casualty. Guilty and shamed by his reaction to his daughter’s defilement, Mike Sr. can’t bear to look at Marianne, and she is banished from her home, sent to live with a distant relative. The family begins to disintegrate. Mike loses his business and, later, the homestead. The boys and Corinne register their frustration and sadness in different, destructive ways. Valiant, tainted Marianne runs from love and commitment. More than a decade later, there is a surprising denouement, in which Oates accommodates a guardedly optimistic vision of the future. Each family member is complexly rendered and seen against the background of social and cultural conditioning. As with much of Oates’s work, the prose is sometimes prolix, but the very rush of narrative, in which flashbacks capture the same urgency of tone as the present, gives this moving tale its emotional power. 75,000 first printing; author tour. –Publishers Weekly
The Woman who walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
A skillful mixture of buoyant farce and wrenching drama from the popular Irish author (The Commitments, 1987; Bookerwinner Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, 1993, etc.). Doyle’s protagonist and narrator, Paula Spencer, will remind readers of the hilariously feisty, foulmouthed women of his earlier books. Indeed, Paula’s a match for any of them as she recalls episodes from her experiences as competitive sibling and worldly- wise schoolgirl, moonstruck young wife, and, finally, embattled mother. And the core of her adult life is her terrified relationship with abusive husband Charlo, a charismatic monster whose unpredictable swings between tenderness and violence keep the hopeful Paula in a constant state of submissive confusion. (“He loved me and he beat me. I loved him and I took it. It’s as simple as that, and as stupid and complicated.”) Charlo’s uncontrollable thuggishness eventually removes him from her life for good, but that isn’t the end of her trouble. Doyle’s masterly use of jabbing, staccato sentences and emotional repetitions produces a nervous intensity that exactly reproduces how his heroine–and she is that, no other word will do–lives out her imperilled days. The novel is filled with sharply observed, amusingly distinctive characters, including even Paula’s young children. Hardly any other writer alive can create families and neighborhoods full of mutually involved people with such easy authority. And nobody alive uses filthy language with such exuberant expressive virtuosity. Only in the closing pages, when Doyle’s empathy with his character’s plight takes on some of the righteous quality of a case study, does the grip falter. Even so, few readers will be able to look away even for a moment. Some may object that Doyle, having perfected a winning formula, is merely writing the same raucous story of small-town Irish life over and over. Well, let them. It’s a bloody wonderful story. –Kirkus Reviews
Know this classic? Pick up the sequel, Paula Spencer.
Lucky by Alice Seobold is available at Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street.
When Sebold was a college freshman at Syracuse University, she was attacked and raped on the last night of school, forced onto the ground in a tunnel “among the dead leaves and broken beer bottles.” In a ham-handed attempt to mollify her, a policeman later told her that a young woman had been murdered there and, by comparison, Sebold should consider herself lucky. That dubious “luck” is the focus of this fiercely observed memoir about how an incident of such profound violence can change the course of one’s life. Sebold launches her memoir headlong into the rape itself, laying out its visceral physical as well as mental violence, and from there spins a narrative of her life before and after the incident, weaving memories of parental alcoholism together with her post-rape addiction to heroin. In the midst of each wrenching episode, from the initial attack to the ensuing courtroom drama, Sebold’s wit is as powerful as her searing candor, as she describes her emotional denial, her addiction and even the rape (her first “real” sexual experience). She skillfully captures evocative moments, such as, during her girlhood, luring one of her family’s basset hounds onto a blue silk sofa (strictly off-limits to both kids and pets) to nettle her father. Addressing rape as a larger social issue, Sebold’s account reveals that there are clear emotional boundaries between those who have been victims of violence and those who have not, though the author attempts to blur these lines as much as possible to show that violence touches many more lives than solely the victim’s. – Publisher’s Weekly
Beyond the tears: A Survivors Story by Lynn Tolson
Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s Story begins with the suicide attempt of an abused and addicted twenty-five-year-old woman. In the aftermath, she commits to counseling to recover from anxiety and depression. The author engages the reader in the therapy sessions, where the young woman reveals dysfunctional family relationships, including mental illness, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. The reader not only views the horrors that caused the author’s hopeless condition, but also experiences the wisdom that lead to health and happiness. Due to the therapeutic process, the woman discovers a path to love and the value of life, and she ultimately achieves a life that reflects health and happiness. By sharing the problems and solutions discussed in counseling, the author provides a message of hope. – librarything.com
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, is now available at Chapters along with the rest of the 16 books. Pick one up this weekend! You can also pass on the 16 Books recommendations with this flyer.
Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive “theory of mind” by which most of us sense what’s going on in other people’s heads. When his neighbor’s poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents’ broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open-overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns (“4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks”). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, “This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them,” the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice. –Publisher’s Weekly
Pick up a copy of Purple Hibiscus by Chimamand Ngozi Adiche at Chapters on Parnell Street where you can find all the 16 Books. This is one you’ll not want to miss!
By turns luminous and horrific, this debut ensnares the reader from the first page and lingers in the memory long after its tragic end. First-person narrator Kambili Achike is a 15-year-old Nigerian girl growing up in sheltered privilege in a country ravaged by political strife and personal struggle. She and her brother, Jaja, and their quiet mother, who speaks “the way a bird eats, in small amounts,” live this life of luxury because Kambili’s father is a wealthy man who owns factories, publishes a politically outspoken newspaper and outwardly leads the moral, humble life of a faithful Catholic. The many grateful citizens who have received his blessings and material assistance call him omelora, “The One Who Does for the Community.” Yet Kambili, Jaja and their mother see a side to their provider no one else does: he is also a religious fanatic who regularly and viciously beats his family for the mildest infractions of his interpretation of an exemplary Christian life. The children know better than to discuss their home life with anyone else; “there was so much that we never told.” But when they are unexpectedly allowed to visit their liberated and loving Aunty Ifeoma, a widowed university professor raising three children, family secrets and tensions bubble dangerously to the surface, setting in motion a chain of events that allow Kambili to slowly blossom as she begins to question the authority of the precepts and adults she once held sacred. In a soft, searing voice, Adichie examines the complexities of family, faith and country through the haunted but hopeful eyes of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood. Lush, cadenced and often disconcerting, this is an accomplished first effort. – Publishers Weekly