Quickie Reviews – From Brooklyn to Mississippi

There are a few books that I’ve recently finished which are listed below with my brief review attached.  They are all newer titles that currently sit on or very near the latest best seller lists. Friends will often ask me if I have read a particular title, or for the suggestion of a solid personal or book club read. Because it takes a lot of time and thought to do a detailed review of each book, I am posting these “quickies” for your reference and perusal.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I’m not surprised Brooklyn made the Man Booker Prize longlist this year. This tight novel about a young woman who makes her way from small-town Ireland to big-city Brooklyn caught me completely off guard. I’d heard the title being tossed around quite a bit, but I’m glad I went into the story blind.

The hitch is Toibin’s simple prose which runs counter to the emotional juice fired sentence by sentence. Small movements, choice descriptions, and spare yet perfect dialogue enhance the sensitivities of each character, ultimately entangling the reader as active participant. I’m not quite sure when it happens, but you’ll see that Brooklyn: A Novel subtly morphs into Brooklyn: A Mystery which keeps you guessing right up to the last page.

*This is a an interesting literary work on all fronts. There is much to discuss in both content and form. As a book club read, everyone will have an opinion; the book begs it. If it feels slow, look for the undercurrents. As a personal read, it depends on your tastes. This is not fast-paced action as you know it, but trust that you will get involved.

Alex Cross’s Trial by James Patterson & Richard DiLallo

I haven’t read James Patterson since Along Came A Spider which was so long ago I don’t even remember it. However, when I noticed this book rocketed to #1 and held its standing, I decided to see what the fuss was about.

This is a bit tricky because while the book is made-for-movie material, its subject matter is utterly disturbing. Dealing with the KKK, white supremacy mentalities, and lynchings of the Old South, I felt nauseated reading this novel but pushed on needing to see how it would resolve. I suppose one might call it entertaining if it wasn’t so distressing, and hopefully this discomfort is the impetus behind Patterson and DiLallo’s latest work. Assuming the wrenching events in the book are research-based, this novel could be used as a teachable moment rather than mere fiction based on the historical plight of Southern Blacks.

*I would recommend this book as a personal or book club read only to enhance sensitivity/awareness toward our volatile racial history in America.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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