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Chat ’n’ Chew January 2024

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At our Chat ’n’ Chew meetings, we all share what you’ve been reading recently. This group does not have a specific selected book to read. Our next meeting will be virtual on Wednesday, February 21st from 12:30-2:00. Please register using our calendar and you will be sent a link so you can get into the meeting. We welcome everyone to participate.

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

This is a debut novel by this author, and it’s a stunner. In the early 1960s, four-year-old Ruthie, the youngest daughter of a Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia, disappeared from a blueberry field in Maine where her family was employed for the summer. The authorities offer little help on account of their “transient” status. Ruthie’s family and their coworkers desperately search for her that summer but to no avail. Ruthie’s brother Joe, six years old at the time, was the last to see her and her disappearance would haunt him for years to come. He can never accept that her disappearance wasn’t his fault yet it impacts his life and his family’s.  No one can understand why an indigenous child would be taken. The narrative is shared from dual perspectives in alternating chapters with Joe telling his story and Norma, who Ruthie becomes. She is taken by a white mother who has suffered through several miscarriages and believes Ruthie is a lost child. The story tells how Norma is raised in this overbearing, distant white family, discouraged from overthinking the meaning of her recurring ‘dreams’ and dark skin. Norma does not ever feel that she quite fits into this family.

This incredibly moving story revolves around themes of family, identity, loss, hope, and grief, spanning fifty years. It is tragic yet heartwarming.

My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s by Sandeep Jauhar

This non-fiction book is a realistic, heartbreaking, and beautiful memoir from a son as he witnessed his father fall deeper into the descent of dementia. It was mixed with the writer’s own research (who himself is a renowned cardiologist) as he hoped to better understand what his father was going through. Dr.Jauhar gives his readers a deeply personal look into the impact this disease can have on the individual and the entire family. The author also doesn’t paint himself as a saint. He reveals his blindspots regarding his father’s illness and his disagreements with his siblings about his dad’s care. This book was a great reminder to cherish the time we have with our parents while highlighting how much work there is still to be done in treating and curing dementia. There is a certain solace that comes from hearing about another person’s story in managing a loved one with this disease. This is a must-read and is accessible to many readers on this subject.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

This writer is a favorite of several of our members and always a pleasure to talk about another title by this mystery/suspense writer and go back to the seemingly cozy town of Three Pines and its familiar cast of characters.  In this #13 book in the series, scenes flip back and forth in this story with Armand Gamache in court giving testimony in a murder trial. He also has a new role as chief Superintendent of the Surete, where his mission is going after the major drug cartel in Quebec. Things could fall in place or fall apart this time, especially when Gamache discovers that all drug smuggling routes converged in Three Pines village which did not even appear on a map. Back in the village, there is a “Cobrador”, traditionally a person from Spain who serves as a debt collector.  He is a masked, black-robed, hooded figure standing on the village green hour after hour, day after day. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache says the figure is doing nothing illegal. The villagers are nervous and afraid, and the children are not outside playing. This strange figure happens to appear on the night of the Three Pines Halloween celebration. A mob threatens the figure. Then a body is found in the church. All this makes people feel unsettled.  Was there more going on than it seemed? Lousie Penny is very good at expertly pacing her books so that information is released in a slow but intriguing trickle and the first half of the novel is slow as the scene is set. However, it will all come together in a huge, explosive finish that will have major repercussions.

The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis

A little historical fiction, a little fantasy, an antique book store set in New Hampshire, called the “Unlikely Story”. One part of The Echo of Old Books takes place in 1984 in New Hampshire and the other part in the past during 1941 in New York City. The main character, Ashlyn, uses the bookstore as her safe place to go. The owner of the rare bookstore was fond of her and over the years taught her a lot about books and how to restore and repair them. When Ashlyn was young, she discovered that she possessed a very special gift. Ashlyn was able to feel the echoes of the book’s previous owners when she opened a book and touched its pages. The owner of the bookstore dies and leaves the store to her. One day a friend donates some books to the store and Ashlyn discovers two very unusual books; the books have never been published and the authors are Belle and Hemi. The books described the same love affair from the perspective of each writer. Ashlyn became obsessed with these books. With no trace of how these mysterious books came into the world, Ashlyn is caught up in a decades-old literary mystery, This begins the journey back into the 1940s, New York City, and two lovers. This is a fascinating story and you will not be able to put the book down. This is highly recommended.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

From this book, you learn that every story has two sides. This story is about a marriage, two fascinating and seemingly beautiful characters, and their families and friends. The married couple are named Lancelot “Lotto” and Mathilde. The first half, “Fates” is told from Lotto’s perspective and the second half, “Furies” is told from Mathilde’s point of view.  Lotto is the big egotistical son of a wealthy Florida family who has this intense love for Mathilde, mixed in with self-absorption and neediness. Then there’s Mathilde where we learn about her impoverished dark childhood and adolescence, and her intense love for Lotto, mixed in with a fury and secretiveness fuelled by her past. This is a complex love story, full of secrets, regrets, and passion. Their charged relationship makes for a juicy read, especially when you get to her story and you get to see what’s behind the curtain. They have been married for twenty-plus years.

This is a big- long- lush- slowly progressing story making the book a little too long. Still, this reader was amazed throughout the story by the many revealed surprises which eventually sucked her in and kept her reading until the end. 

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This book is about a Monday night cooking class held at a popular local restaurant, Lillian’s. 

Lillian, chef and restaurant owner, presides over these classes. Each chapter in the novel is told from the point of view of one of the students, as we find out more about their pasts, discover their reasons for taking the class, and witness how new relationships are forged. As readers, we discover how the lives of these students intersect in surprising ways. Reading each character’s narrative is a little like people watching–only instead of wondering what the lives of strangers are like, we get to peek inside their lives. Not very plot-driven, but a lovely, heartwarming foodie read. You might become hungry while reading it. Well worth reading.

Finally here is a five-star rated list of books that have already been discussed, reviewed, and posted for this group but several members have recently read: “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig’ Tom Lake by Anne Patchett, and The Radcliff Ladies’ Reading Club by Julia Bryan Thomas. Because we talk about great books, often our members will choose to read a book that someone else has read and recommended. Since all of these books have been given a thumbs up for the second time by our readers, it’s time you seek them out and read them yourselves. You won’t be disappointed.