We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg (2006)

This story is set in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1964. It is about three extraordinary women – Paige, a victim of polio, who is paralyzed from the neck down; Diana, her 13-year-old daughter; and Peacie, their black caregiver. The reader gets a real glimpse into each of their struggles, and also sees how hard it was for blacks to live in the rural South during this time period. As usual, Elizabeth Berg’s character development is so terrific, the reader will be sorry to see this story come to an end.

Don't forget -- starting April 16, call the Downers Grove Public Library at 630-960-1200 to get your tickets for An Evening with Elizabeth Berg on May 8.

The Eye of the Abyss by Marshall Browne

The Eye of the Abyss by Marshall Browne (2003)

In late 1938, Franz Schmidt, an unassuming, slight man and bank auditor, takes up the anti-Nazi cause as his bank is taken over by the Party.

The New York Times has an overview of this novel and other crime stories from 2003.

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002)
A spare, yet poignant, first novel about the ordeal of a Japanese family sent to an internment camp during World War II. Never melodrama— the novel's honesty and matter-of-fact tone in the face of inconceivable injustice are the source of its power.

Them by Nathan McCall

Them by Nathan McCall (2007)
Interesting human introspection story about a changing neighborhood. It makes suburbanites think about other places. As western suburbs of Chicago tear down houses and neighborhoods change, it is everywhere and good to hear about other places and circumstances. It makes the reader think.

Read a review from the Los Angeles Times or check out the official website for fun extras like reading guide questions, an excerpt, a Q&A with the author, or a video.

The Judas Field by Howard Bahr

The Judas Field by Howard Bahr (2006)
A return to the site of the Battle of Franklin twenty years after the battle brings back bitter and horrific memories to former Confederate soldier Cass Wakefield.

Howar Bahr received the 2007 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction. Read more about the prize, about the author, and Bahr's acceptance speech. Check out reviews in the Boston Globe or Washington Post and look at a reading group guide.

The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon

The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon (2007)
It’s France in the 1930s, Inspector Maigret has been shot, and incredibly he solves the case never having left his hospital bed. It’s easy to read the Maigret series because the stories are short and can be read in one day.

Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann Patchett (2007)
A beautifully written story that proves several themes tied around relationships. A prominent man has raised his son and two adopted African-American sons since his wife’s death years ago. His relationship with his oldest son is lacking and his plans for his adopted sons are at odds with what they want for their lives. The tangle of feelings within the family, including the hole left in their lives when the mother died, are brought into focus when an accident brings new people into their world. In fact, their world is turned upside down. The characterizations are wonderful. I didn’t want the book to end.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (2007)
A novel that succeeds as both historical fiction and crime-thriller, the story contains fascinating details of historical forensic medicine, entertaining notes on women in science (the medical school at Salerno is not fictional) and a wonderful plot with lots of twists.

Four children have been found dead and mutilated. The Jews of Cambridge have been blamed for the murders, the most prominent Jewish moneylender and his wife have been killed by a mob, and the rest of the Jewish community is shut up in the castle under the protection of the sheriff.

King Henry I is invested in their fate because without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping to exonerate the Jews, he appeals to his cousin, the king of Sicily, to send his best master of the art of death: a doctor skilled in “reading” bodies. Enter Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, 25, the best mistress of death that the medical school at Salerno has ever produced. Adelia, along with Simon of Naples (a Jew) and Mansur (a Moor), must find the murderer before he can kill again.

The Good German by Joseph Kanon

The Good German by Joseph Kanon (2001)
An American journalist in post-war Berlin tracks down the whereabouts of a former Nazi. Check out the 2007 movie adaptation featuring George Clooney.

Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth

Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth (2002)
Narrated by Christopher Kay, this mystery stars the “everyman” of hometown detectives, Ben Cooper. The heart of the story hangs on an airplane that crashed during World War II. The intertwining threads of the plot create a great audio experience.

Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates

Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates (2004)
This coming of age novel is a wonderfully written, unique and imaginative, first novel. Set in the 1960s, this is the story of a young girl, the daughter of a small Ontario town’s solitary Chinese family, over the course of a summer.

Told through Su-Jen’s eyes, the hard life behind the scenes at the Dragon Café unfolds. Su-Jen’s elderly father and beautiful young mother are unhappy in their marriage. Su-Jen’s mother is miserable in this new small town.

Su-Jen is rapidly adapting to life in Canada and goes through all the ups and downs of a typical 1960s childhood. She develops a friendship with Charlotte, a spirited girl who behaves in a way that is older than her years. There is also tragedy, foreshadowed, yet still a shock when it finally occurs.

The first and last paragraphs of Midnight at the Dragon Café are poignant and are Su-Jen’s reflections on a fate she thinks should have been hers.

Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg

Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg (2007)
This novel tells the story of how a loving Chicago Irish family copes with WWII back home in the big city. The book centers around the three daughters who wait for their beaus and fiancées to return home safely from the war. A warm and well-researched depiction of life at home during the war.

Dream When You're Feeling Blue is the 2008 Big Read selection for Indian Prairie and nine other libraries. Check out all of the programs at area libraries in March and April -- you can listen to radio broadcasts, watch movies, learn to swing dance, and see WWII-era personalities come to life. The Big Read culminates with "An Evening with Elizabeth Berg" at Ashton Place on May 8.  

For more information on The Big Read, contact the library at 630-887-8760, visit our website, or read the February 20 Doings article.

Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (2005)
Carrie McGavock has her plantation home turned into a hospital during the Battle of Franklin. When the field of battle might be plowed under for planting, Carrie turns her own yard into a cemetery for the re-burial of the dead.

The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (2004)
If you’re looking for something a little different in the mystery genre, try this! Interesting locale, great characters and an intriguing mystery make this a good book.

This novel takes place in 1976 in Laos. The royal family has been deposed, the professional classes have fled and the communists have taken over, and Dr. Siri Paiboun has just been appointed state coroner for the Laos People’s Democratic Republic. The 72-year-old Siri has got the coroner’s job because he’s the only doctor left in Laos. But when the wife of a Party leader is found dead and the bodies of tortured Vietnamese soldiers surface on a Laotian lake, all eyes turn to the new coroner and his small staff to figure things out. Siri looks to old friends, consults tribal shamans, and uses forensic deduction to figure out what’s going on.

Listen to an NPR interview with the author where he discusses the unique setting for the novel and how that affected his main character.

The Serpent’s Daughter by Suzanne Arruda

The Serpent’s Daughter: A Jade del Cameron Mystery by Suzanne Arruda (2008)
This is the third entry in the Jade del Cameron mysteries. Jade grew up on a ranch in New Mexico and served as an ambulance driver during WWI. Her abilities to survive in extreme circumstances serve her well as her adventures take her to Colonial East Africa. In The Mark of the Lion, she searches for the murderer of her dead fiancé’s father and in Stalking Ivory, she tracks down elephant poachers. Her latest adventure takes her to Morocco where she is to meet her mother before heading off to Spain to buy a stallion for the family ranch. When Jade’s mother is kidnapped, Jade chases after Tangier to Marrakesh. These charming books are part mystery, part Saturday afternoon matinee adventure.

Check out the author's blog for information on Jade and the time period in which she lives.