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Summer Irish American Book Club: August, already???

Indeed, it is. Another summer nearly over. But, nearly is the operative word. There is still time to knock a couple more titles off your summer reading list. Regan (my sis) and I started reading Pete Hamill’s Snow in August and I am really enjoying it so far. Order it up and join us…click here, less than $7 on Amazon.

Snow in August takes us to Brooklyn (we’ve been there a lot this summer!) For a change of pace, this novel gives us a male perspective on 20th century Irish American life. The novel opens in December 1946 with eleven-year-old Michael Devlin waking up in the apartment he shares with his mother. That’s all I am going to say. I don’t like when people give things away about books. Isn’t that why we read them? To find out what happens? Click here to read the proper New York Times review.

Regan and I are reading Snow in August at the same time so it will be nice to talk about it as we go. I missed that with the last couple of books which we read alternately.  That doesn’t make for much of a book club, now does it?

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read so far this summer. You will notice a couple of non-Irish-America-related titles. I took a bit of a detour last month. This list begins with the most recently read book.

 

SUMMER 2017 BOOKS, SO FAR

 

Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe.

What I liked most about this book was that Donohoe’s characters felt real. Sometimes they bugged me and I sighed and rolled my eyes at their decisions. Other times I was surprised by their bravery, commitment, and compassion. It’s just how I feel about my family and friends. I also appreciated the way she structured the book and was very consistent in weaving the elements and generations together.  We were given a backstage pass into the world of the F.D.N.Y. and it was fascinating and heartbreaking. Really enjoyed this book.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

I loved Holden Caulfield when I read this for the first time at age fifteen, and I love him today (many years later). If you haven’t read this for a while, do it. Holden mentions that his last name is Irish and his dad used to be Catholic when he talks about how “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re a Catholic.” (p.125)  So many good quotes and insightful observations from Holden. Holden is definitely near the top of my “all-time favorite characters” list.

 

At Weddings and Wakes by Alice McDermott.

When I finished this book and noticed it was published in 1992, I could not understand what took me so long to read it! I fell in love with this book on the first page. McDermott’s writing is beautifully subtle, but she doesn’t try to be mysterious. Bits and pieces of each character reminded me of some old relative in my own Irish American family (those I knew as well as those I’d only heard stories about.) So much felt familiar…like how Lucy never left her aunties without a bag of stuff.


Three Days in Damascus by Kim Schultz.

This memoir has nothing to do with Irish America, but Kim is an old friend of mine. She should be proud of herself for this book. I know I am proud of her! As I read it, I felt like it was 1994 and I was sitting at a crowded table at Chang O’Hara’s, drinking beers and listening to Kim tell us a story. Those were good times. The origin of this memoir is a one-woman play Kim produced following her experience meeting and interviewing Iraqi refugees. Kim met a special refugee and brings us along on the bumpy and confusing road of loving through language and cultural barriers. Well done, Kim. I wish Chang’s was still here…I’d buy you a beer!


Don’t Tell the Girls by Patricia Reilly Giff.

This was a delightful family memoir in which Patricia Reilly Giff explores her Irish heritage. She took the stories she had heard throughout her life and set out to learn details of the real events in her family history. I know the feeling of pouring over census records and passenger lists, looking for something – anything – familiar. What Reilly Giff learned, I will leave it for you to read. There is usually more to the story that Grandma tells…we just have to figure it out! This is currently a real bargain at Amazon…cute hardcover volume for less than $5 would make a great gift…click here.

 

 Saints for all Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan.

Please click here to see my earlier post for more on this book.

 

 

 

 

ON DECK

I just got a copy of Will Murray’s King Kong vs. Tarzan and I think that’s going to be an awesome way to close out the Summer of Irish American Reads! I’ll update you on what we thought of Snow in August

 

Let me know what you are reading and if you have any suggestions for great Irish American book. Leave a comment or send an email to TheIrishInAmerica!

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Getting Started… A Summer Book Club!

We heard from a few of you last week with great suggestions for The Irish in America Laid Back Summer Book Club. It’s laid back because no one is trying to boss you around, tell you what to read and when to finish. We’re just here, taking/making suggestions, learning about Irish American authors and chatting about books.

Back in May, Regan and I simultaneously read Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. Since Regan and I are neighbors, we found ourselves talking a lot about the book as we read it. This made me more critical of the book than was perhaps necessary. Has anyone else read the book? I’d like to hear what you thought. Leave a comment or complete the form at the end of the post.

 

AINE’S CURRENT SELECTION…

Eileen suggested an Alice McDermott novel. Since I usually follow Eileen’s advice, I chose At Weddings and Wakes, McDermott’s 1992 novel. McDermott has several books from which to choose, but this one felt right for a summer read. The book begins in the summer and the stifling heat in the Brooklyn apartment McDermott describes is not unlike what we had in Saint Paul over the weekend, although I do enjoy air conditioning!

I am on page fifty-four, and I love this book. McDermott is a beautiful writer. I am not a fan of overly descriptive, flowery language – when I feels as though the author is trying to impress me with their writing. McDermott is the opposite of that. She writes with confidence. Her descriptions are integral to developing the characters, to telling the story.

One of my favorite passages so far is on page eight where McDermott describes the three children from the perspective of their fellow passengers on a subway car. This is the youngest daughter:

And then, nearly dangling from her mother’s arm, another in the same white eyelet dress. No beauty here, what with the freckles on the moon face and those small green eyes, but it was she they smiled at, those who smiled, she who drew them to smile up at the mother (the door sliding shut behind her, cutting off the noise), whose face brought to mind not only the map of Ireland, but the names of two or three other women they knew who looked just or something like her.

Isn’t that great? I can picture the girl (and the two or three or four other women) exactly.

Click here for a review of At Weddings and Wakes.

Let me know if you decide to read this book…we can discuss!

 

WHAT’S REGAN READING?

Regan is currently reading Ashes of Fiery Weather, by Kathleen Donohoe. Stay tuned to the blog, she will tell us all about it. You can also follow Regan on Twitter…click here.

 

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

NEXT UP FOR AINE…

Mary suggested King Kong vs. Tarzan, by Will Murray. Looking forward to this one…more about the book and its Irish-American author coming soon!

 

JUST WONDERING…

I include links to amazon.com because that’s where I buy a lot of my books. Where do you get yours? I will include links for you, too. If you go to your local library – or your sister’s bookshelf – you will be on your own!