The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan by James Farell

We will discuss The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, by James Farell on Tuesday, March 14

The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan is a 1934 novel by James T. Farrell, and the second part of Farrell's trilogy based on the life of William "Studs" Lonigan. 

This novel covers about 12 years in Studs Lonigan's life, from 1917 through 1928. In this time, we witness the physical and spiritual deterioration of a boy whose life once held a great deal of promise.

The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

We will discuss The Grass Dancer, by Susan Power on Tuesday, February 14

A major talent debuts with this beguiling novel whose characters are Dakota Sioux and their spirit ancestors. Covering some of the same themes as Louise Erdrich but displaying her own distinctive voice and transcendent imagination, Power has produced an authentic portrait of Native American culture and characters who are as resilient and tangible as the grass moving over the Great Plains. In interconnected stories that begin in 1981 and range back to 1864, the residents of a Sioux reservation endure poverty, epidemic illness, injustice and--no less importantly--jealousy, greed, anger and unrequited love. The tales begin and end with Harley Wind Soldier, a 17-year-old whose soul is a ``black, empty hole'' because his mother has not spoken a word since the accident 17 years earlier in which Harley's father and brother died. Eventually we discover the true circumstances surrounding that event and other secrets--of clandestine love affairs, of childrens' paternity--that stretch back several generations but hold a grip on the present. 

Meanwhile, Harley falls in love with enchanting Pumpkin, an amazingly adept grass dancer whose fate will make readers gasp. Mercury Thunder and her daughter Anna use magic in a sinister way, and tragedy results. Herod Small War, a Yuwipi (interpreter of dreams), tries to bring his community into harmony with the spiritual world. The existence of ghosts in the real world is accepted with calm belief by the characters, who know the old legends and understand that the direction of their lives is determined by their gods and ancestors. Power weaves historical events--the Apollo Moon landing; the 19th-century Great Plains drought--into her narrative, reinforcing the seamless coexistence of the real and the spirit realm. A consummate storyteller whose graceful prose is plangent with lyrical metaphor and sensuous detail, she deftly uses suspense, humor, irony and the gradual revelation of dramatic disclosures to compose a tapestry of human life. Seduced by her humane vision and its convincing depiction, one absorbs the traditions and lore of the Sioux community with a sense of wonder reflecting that with which the characters view the natural world. This is a book that begs to be read at one sitting, and then again. A chapter appeared in The Best American Short Stories 1993. BOMC and QPB selection.

Young Lonigan, by James T. Farrell

We will discuss , Young Lonigan, by James T. Farrell on Tuesday, January 10

It's a story about coming-of-age and sexual awakening in the mean streets of 1910s Chicago. It's the beginning of a trilogy that will follow Studs Lonigan throughout adolescence. And, claims Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, it reveals "his vision of the truth-the truth about people, the truth about writing, the truth about America."

- From Good Reads

The Death of the Detective, by Mark Smith

We will discuss  The Death of a Detective by Mark Smith  
on Wednesday, November 9

Detective Arnold Magnuson has retired to his upscale penthouse to live in misery and alcoholism, his life turned hollow after the death of his wife. In his heyday he built the Magnuson Men from the ground up, a powerful force of security guards and ushers by way of the Pinkertons who offer invaluable security to a scarred city. Now, he wallows without direction or course, abandoning some friends he invited to his apartment to play pinochle in favor of hiding in his room. He needs something to latch onto—what he gets is a mysterious call from a dying friend, the millionaire Farquarson, who has something he can discuss only with Magnuson. When he arrives at Farquarson’s estate, he finds the man dead; his nurse and nephew report that a stranger had prowled around the estate, and that the dying man worried about one John Helenowski, an escapee from a state mental institution who believes himself death incarnate. Magnuson determines that this Helenowski must have murdered Farquarson; thus begins his investigation for a mad killer and the reason behind Farquarson’s death, a road that will lead to the death and ruin of many people—all characters bound, whether they know it or not, a crisscrossing patchwork of death and decay.

Death of the Detective has a Dickensian quality to it, a sweeping scale and grandeur that encapsulates the detective story plot: it is a sprawling, ambitious novel, highly stylistic, wealthy beyond measure in characters and atmosphere. It deals with race relations and ethnic identity, something that comes up often due to its 1950s/early 1960s melting-pot megalopolis setting. The prose is literate, adroit, and stylized to the point where one good sentence piles onto another, but the novel never buckles under that weight. Some would call it overwritten or overblown; others would call Smith a “writer’s writer” or a “stylist of the highest caliber.” It can be overwhelming at times, and demanding, given its density—six-hundred pages of rich, stylized prose is not something you ingest in just a day… if only because you want to savor it, swish it over the taste buds like a fine wine. Imagine the bastard love-child of John Gardner and Charles Dickens, imagine that it cut its teeth reading Lew Archer and Carl Sandburg’s hog butcher, and you have a glimpse of this novel’s style and power: one of the most intense, atmospheric detective novels ever written.

- From Yellow and Creased

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

We will discuss  Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow  on Tuesday, September 12

Rusty Sabich is chief deputy prosecuting attorney in a large mid-western city. His boss is in the midst of a bitter campaign for re-election. A fellow prosecuting attorney, Carolyn Polhemus, has been brutally murdered. Rusty is handling the investigation-- and he needs results. 

Before election day. 

Before his illicit affair with Carolyn is uncovered. 

Election day brings a new prosecuting attorney into office. A political enemy who wants Rusty out. A man whose own secret investigation has revealed Rusty's relationship with Carolyn. A man who takes Rusty off the case-- and charges him with murder. Rusty now faces a long battle in court. Each side will twist the evidence to win its case, and try any procedural ploy, any courtroom trick that might ensure victory. Rusty's ordeal will uncover corruption, deceit, depravity and incompetence-- and keep you spellbound. Who did kill Carolyn Polhemus?

- From Goodreads