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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, July 11, 1999

Summertime Choices Are Varied And Brief

A busy summer has left me little time for recreational reading so I have been on the lookout for short books. A library convention in New Orleans gave me some brief time slots waiting in airports and a hotel. . Short stories are always a good bet because I can usually get through at least one in a sitting. But many readers shy away from stories and want a novel. Today's recommendations are short, their subjects are varied and all are available through your public library which has summer reading programs for all ages, and is a good place to escape from the summer heat.

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (Viking, 1999).

An East-coast girl learns about life, love and the publishing business. Her brother brings home girlfriends, her aging lover is an alcoholic and her father dies. Sounds more depressing that it really is, actually I found it smart and sassy and recommended it to a friend who was looking for a gift for her twenty-something daughter. Literary but light.

A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan (Holt, 1999).

For those readers who are looking for a short book that isn't fluffy. When a diptheia epidemic sweeps through his Wisconsin town, Jacob Hansen--constable, deacon, and undertaker must consider his actions and the nature of evil. One critic describes it as "a philosophical horror novel".

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (St. Martins, 1999).

Recommended by a fellow librarian, this wicked tale of a high school girl who is serving time in prison "..because high school can be so stressful, you just want to kill someone". The ultimate revenge fantasy.

Who's Irish by Gish Jen (Knopf, 1999).

A provocative cover and some provocative short stories about the Chinese-American experience. The first story is told from the viewpoint of a Chinese grandmother ho has trouble with her half-Irish granddaughter, her banker daughter and her unemployed Irish son-in-law who is too "manly" to take care of his daughter. Entertaining and offbeat.

The Last Lovely City by Alice Adams (Knopf, 1999).

Thirteen stories dealing with relationships, with the last four stories about a divorced psychiatrist who finds her private life fusing with her patients' lives. I enjoyed the book because many stories were set in the San Francisco and Berkeley area where I spent a number of years. One critic called it "a melancholy but superb collection about aging relationships".

Candles on Bay Street by K.C. McKinnon (Doubleday, 1999).

If you are looking for a short, sweet read this may be it. From the author of Dancing at the Harvest Moon once more writes about the joys of friendship, the problems of growing older and the reunion of two people who once loved each other. Uplifting.

My Russian by Deirdre McNamer (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).

McNamer creates a character to care about in this "Hot Pick" from Library Journal. While her husband and son assume she is vacationing in Greece, Francesca Woodbridge is hiding out in a motel near home examining her life and revealing a series of stories from the past forty years. One reader described it as "disturbing and funny".

Still Waters in Niger by Kathleen Hill (Triquarterly, 1999).

An atmospheric first novel about a middle-aged American woman who returns to her former home in Niger to heal a rift with her grown daughter, and find "…an Africa (she) had longed to see but had not known where to look." Fiction with an autobiographical feeling.

Death in Lacquer Red by Jeanne M. Dams (Walker, 1999).

A historical mystery set in 1900 in which Hilda Johansson , working as a domestic in the home of a wealthy family, discovers the body of a woman who has just returned from missionary work in China. The author lives in South Bend, Indiana which is the setting of this new mystery series.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.