Every now and then we come across a novel that moves us like no other, that seems like a miracle of the imagination, and that haunts us long after the book is closed. James Levine’s The Blue Notebook is that kind of book. It is the story of Batuk, an Indian girl who is taken to Mumbai from the countryside and sold into prostitution by her father; the blue notebook is her diary, in which she recalls her early childhood, records her life on the Common Street, and makes up beautiful and fantastic tales about a silver-eyed leopard and a poor boy who fells a giant with a single coin.
In 1925, Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, vowing to make one of the most important archaeological discoveries in history. Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization (the glittering kingdom of El Dorado)- which he dubbed “Z”- existed. Then he and his expedition vanished. Fawcett’s fate- and the tantalizing clues he left behind about “Z”- become an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the unchartered wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. The author’s quest for the truth, and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z”, form the heart of this enthralling narrative.
When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops. The child in the photo looks exactly like her adopted son, Will. Could the child in the photo really be her son? Everything inside her tells her to deny the similarity between her son and the boy in the photo, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: If Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up?
It’s 1936 and the Great Depression has taken its toll. Eighty-six-year-old Hennie Comfort has lived in Middle Swan, Colorado- up in the high country of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains- since before it was Colorado. When she meets seventeen-year-old Nit Spindle, Hennie is drawn to the young grieving girl. Nit and her husband have come to this small mining town in search of work, but the loneliness and loss Nit feels are almost too much to bear. One day she notices and old sign that reads “Prayers for Sale” in front of Hennie’s house and takes out her last nickel. Hennie doesn’t actually take money for her prayers, never has, but she invites the skinny girl in anyway. The harsh conditions of life that each has endured help them to create an instant bond, and a friendship is born, one of which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed.
On September 6th, 2007 an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at the age of thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were “You be good. I love you.” Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous- two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex’s brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet over the years Alex proved many things. Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin- despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one university to the other. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and an unforgettable human-animal bond.
This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement- a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has not been explored in fiction before. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution.
The Twelve is an extraordinary and unforgettable novel about a most unusual and unsuspecting hero. As a child, Max lives in a world of colors and numbers, not speaking until the age of six. As an adult Max ventures on a journey of destiny to discover the secret behind the ancient Mayan prophecy about the “end of time,” foretold to occur December 21, 2012. At fifteen years old, Max has a near-death experience during which he has a vision that reveals the names of twelve unique individuals. Max’s voyage of discovery begins, as he strives to uncover the identities and roles of the twelve individuals he will meet during his journey toward truth. All of The Twelve seem connected, and all of them are important to what will happen at the exact moment the world as we know it will end.
So how did I fare this week? Did I pick out some real dogs, or are there treasures in my stack just waiting to be opened. If you have read any of these please let me know what you thought of them!