Tag Archives: religion
Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday; $24.95; 416 pages)
“…many of the prophets were either criminals, or prisoners, or had spent time among criminals.”
Avi Steinberg’s story will ring true for anyone who has ever worked inside of or visited a prison. This is the account of a Harvard graduate, a once highly ambitious and religious person, who accepts a job among society’s outcasts. Steinberg worked as a freelance writer before being hired as an afternoon shift librarian in Boston’s oldest prison. He winds up, in Running the Books, telling some great stories of the inmates he was both attracted to and repelled by. This, however, leads to one of the faults with this telling… The author never seems to be sure whether the inmates he worked among were unlucky people who were not truly bad, or truly bad people who may have been fortunate to be incarcerated (a number of the inmates died of drug overdoses and violence after being released).
This is like one of those nonfiction narratives where someone with money decides to live without a job to see what it’s like among the working poor. Here, an upper middle class highly educated young man goes to work in an alien culture and writes about it. What seems to be lacking is the life’s lesson to be learned from it all.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Thanks to Picador, we have a giveaway copy of the novel Come Sunday by Isla Morley. This trade paperback book will be released on August 3, 2010 but you have a chance to win it now. Here is a synopsis of the story:
Abbe is a restless young mother living on the outskirts of Honolulu with her husband, Greg, the pastor at a small church. Their lives are suddenly riven by tragedy when their three-year-old daughter, Cleo, is struck and killed by a car. As Greg turns to God and community for comfort, Abbe turns inward and reflects upon her own troubled past. Isla Morley brilliantly weaves the story of Abbe’s grief with a gripping tale of her tempestuous childhood in apartheid South Africa – and how Abbe’s father, a villainous drunk, held her family hostage for decades with his rage, until they finally began to plot their escape from him. Come Sunday is a spellbinding drama about a woman breaking free of her grief and of her past, and what it takes to revive hope when all seems lost.
Here are some of the critical comments about this work:
“A heart-wrenching tale of unthinkable loss and hard-won healing. This is a novel to savor.” Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
“A phenomenal debut…” San Diego Union-Tribune
“A compelling tale of survival, reinvention, and hope, in the end, Come Sunday is… about personal redemption and resurrection… Vivid and poignant.” The Boston Globe
“An intense and ambitious first novel, and an exquisitely detailed exploration of the mother-daughter bond.” Los Angeles Magazine
“Firmly establishing her in the pantheon of such insightful authors as Chris Bohjalian, Sue Miller, and Anita Shreve, Morley’s… read-in-one-sitting tale of loss and renewal will haunt readers.” Booklist
To enter our contest, just post a comment here or send an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to Josephsreviews@gmail.com . This will count as a first entry. For a second entry, just post another message here or send a second e-mail with the words, “This is my second entry.” Easy, huh?
The winner’s name will be drawn by Munchy the cat, our contest administrator, and the winner will be contacted by e-mail. This person will be asked to supply a residential (street) mailing address in the U. S. – not a P.O. box or business address – so that Picador can ship the book directly to him/her.
You have until Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at Midnight PST to submit your entry/entries. Good luck and good reading!
Forensic handwriting experts and religious cults are not exactly a natural combination. In this mystery novel, the expert is Claudia Rose and the religious cult is the Temple of the Brighter Light. Claudia’s childhood friend Kelly seeks her assistance in determining whether the father of her exquisite toddler niece, Kylie, has kidnapped his daughter. A warning note was left for the toddler’s mom who happens to be Kelly’s estranged half-sister. These are folks who have had their share of family squabbles and trouble over the years. Claudia must decide what is fact and what is smokescreen.
Author Sheila Lowe just happens to be an expert in handwriting analysis; therefore, the thriller is loaded with fascinating information one assumes to be accurate. The reader can’t help sneaking peaks at the writing of friends and family wondering if there are clues to deeper meaning in their scribbles. The psychological implications that accompany an analysis are used to explain the strange and confusing behavior of the folks who populate this tale.
This novel is filled with enough scary ideas and erratic actions to make it a page-turner. Lowe’s mastery at describing subtle character aspects brings doubt and confusion to the reader who is tracking Claudia Rose’s progress in solving the mystery of Kylie’s disappearance. To make matters worse, the threat of a religious sacrifice on the toddler’s third birthday puts a painful edge on the heart-wrenching tale.
Last Writes is more than a thriller, it is a morality tale designed for readers who are not afraid to look into the dark side of religious communal living. Recommended to those who are up for the challenge.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was received from the publisher.