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No. of Recommendations: 2
In the Field
Rachel Pastan's Kate Croft is a fascinating and infuriating character... filled with passionate determination, keen intelligence, and unconventional imagination. She is usually the smartest person in the room but often dismissed because she's a woman studying in the field of science in the 1920s. A character flaw -- or is it a positive distinguishing feature? -- is her belief that 'fairness' will be the reward for being right. Repeatedly, Kate confronts the men who did not have the intelligence and imagination to overcome the next hurdle in their work, taking her ideas and analyses and convincing themselves they were theirs and theirs alone, neglecting to share credit with her or even to cite her contributions.

As a reader, it can be frustrating to watch Kate make the same 'mistakes' again and again; but it is her nature, and she is a wonderful character to watch over the decades of this outstanding novel. LGBTQ characters.

Paul Fleischman's book for grades 4 and up offers readers hopefulness through diversity. A Vietnamese girl plants six lima beans in a modern inner-city neighborhood and much more grows besides the lima beans.

The Keeper of Lost Causes
This Nordic Noir written by Denmark's leading crime novelist, is a thoughtfully constructed novel in which the reader -- as a result of the rather slow pacing, the unfolding of the various backstories, and the split story lines -- is made to experience the same level of frustration as the book's characters. Clever. Many of the characters are both annoying and sympathetic, struggling with their own personal and professional lost causes. Dark, difficult at times -- the subject of the investigation who had gone missing, her body never found and her case never solved, is tortured -- though not oppressively so... eventually there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Blue Nights
With the death of Joan Didion, I read her book, Blue Nights. Lovely, thoughtful reflections on the loss of her daughter and husband in the space of two years, a soul-searching examination of past choices, present fears, and lost opportunities. Aging now within these pages, and alone, Didion remembers friends who have died too young and her own challenges facing various symptoms and maladies that only become more mysterious and debilitating with the years. Sad, certainly, but not morose, and even comical here and there. Didion was one of America's finer writers, a writer who pioneered a storytelling non-fiction that combined the imaginary and the real, truth and memory, candor and artistry.

The Lincoln Highway
Amor Towles' novel is filled with richly imagined settings, characters, and themes, featuring two brothers on their way to find their mother in California, traveling, eventually, on the Lincoln Highway in 1950s America. A nicely layered novel that is told from multiple points of view and certainly has echoes of Twain's 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. An impressive novel that is deservedly on several 'best of' lists.

Set in the 12th century, Lauren Groff pens a vivid, realistic, and carefully detailed portrait of a time and place that is at once distant and foreign but also surprisingly contemporary and relevant to today's social order. Marie is thought too tall and too plain -- and also because she was born of an adulterous royal relationship -- to remain in the royal family or to ever marry, and is sent off to a failing, destitute abbey. There, Marie witnesses violence, humor, empowerment, spirituality, and finds that her intelligence and leadership abilities are right at home.

Marie finds that the sisterhood of the abbey is far superior to the world of men and she sets about making the abbey financially secure, expanding the land of the abbey and its influence over England.

Most surprisingly, this is a remarkably contemporary work, passionately feminist and pulsating with power. Marie refuses to be constrained by her sex and this electrifying book explores the power of women, spirituality -- including religious visions which may or may not be miracles -- sexuality, ambition, and enterprise.

Send for Me
A lovely, quiet novel of mothers and daughters (and granddaughters) that begins with eighteen-year-old Annelise in the decade before World War II, working in her parent's bakery and experiencing her first love. The novel moves back and forth in time and place to a more contemporary America as Annalise, seeing the building persecution of the Jews in her city, escapes to Wisconsin with her husband and daughter, becoming displaced persons, refugees.

Fox writes beautifully in this largely character-driven novel that explores families, family trauma, memory, heritage, racism, and how we find out way in life -- sometimes by others making decisions that alter our paths, sometimes by our desires, and sometimes by the ties that bind us.
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