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Literary Giants Book Club

Literary Giants: The Voice at the Back Door

Date: 
Monday, August 27, 2007 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Elizabeth Spencer
Title: 
The Voice at the Back Door

In the mid-1950s, the town of Lacey in the Mississippi hill country is a place where the lives of blacks and whites, though seemingly separate, are in fact historically and inevitably intertwined. When Lacey's fair-haired boy, Duncan Harper, is appointed interim sheriff, he makes public his private convictions about the equality of blacks before the law, and the combined threat and promise he represents to the understood order of things in Lacey affects almost every member of the community. In the end, Harper succeeds in pointing the way for individuals, both black and white, to find a more harmonious coexistence, but at a sacrifice all must come to regret. Employing her extraordinary literary powers - finely honed narrative techniques, insight into a rich, diverse cast of characters, and an unerring ear for dialect - Spencer makes palpable the psychological milieu of a small southern town hobbled by tradition but lurching toward the dawn of the civil rights movement. Read more about Literary Giants: The Voice at the Back Door

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Literary Giants: A Lesson Before Dying

Date: 
Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Ernest J. Gaines
Title: 
A Lesson Before Dying

A young black named Jefferson is a reluctant party in a shoot-out in a liquor store in which the three other men involved are all killed, including the white store owner. Jefferson, the only survivor, is accused of murder. At the trial, the essence of the defense is that the accused, a lowly form of existence lacking even a modicum of intelligence, is incapable of premeditated murder. His lawyer argues: "Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this." But Jefferson is condemned to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his small rural black community to go to university, has returned to the plantation school to teach children whose lives promise to be not much better than Jefferson's. But he wonders whether he has the will to take off north or west like so many before him who knew it was the only way to climb out of a centuries-old rut. He is grappling with his own situation when Jefferson's godmother and Grant's aunt persuade Grant to impart something of himself, of his learning and pride, to Jefferson before his death - to prove the lawyer wrong. (Club Rating: 9) Read more about Literary Giants: A Lesson Before Dying

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Literary Giants: House of Sand and Fog

Date: 
Monday, March 31, 2003 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Andre Dubus
Title: 
House of Sand and Fog

In this page-turning, breathtaking novel, the characters will walk off the page and into your life. House of Sand and Fog is a narrative triumph in which a traditional immigrant success story and a modern love story are turned upside down with brutal, heartrending consequences. It is an American tragedy, and a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today. (Club Rating: 8) Read more about Literary Giants: House of Sand and Fog

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Literary Giants: The Lovely Bones

Date: 
Monday, April 28, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Alice Sebold
Title: 
The Lovely Bones

On her way home from school on a snowy December day in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon ("like the fish") is lured into a makeshift underground den in a cornfield and brutally raped and murdered, the latest victim of a serial killer--the man she knew as her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. (Club Rating: 6.5) Read more about Literary Giants: The Lovely Bones

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Literary Giants: Angle of Repose

Date: 
Thursday, May 22, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Wallace Stegner
Title: 
Angle of Repose

Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents' remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America's western frontier. Through the prism of one family, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel illuminates the American present against the fascinating background of its past. Wallace Stegner has said of his epic novel, "It's perfectly clear that if every writer is born to write one story, that's my story." It is a testament to the power of Stegner's prose and vision that Angle of Repose, winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, can be appreciated as America's story as well. (Club Rating: 9.8) Read more about Literary Giants: Angle of Repose

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Literary Giants: Seabiscuit

Date: 
Monday, June 9, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Laura Hillenbrand
Title: 
Seabiscuit

One of the greatest legends of the 20th century, Seabiscuit was a discarded, bottom-level runner who became a champion with the help of three men: a trainer, an owner, and a jockey. This is the spellbinding tale of how they did it. (Club Rating: 7.9) Read more about Literary Giants: Seabiscuit

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Literary Giants: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Date: 
Monday, July 28, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Alexander McCall Smith
Title: 
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency tells the story of Precious Ramotswe, a delightfully cunning and a profoundly moral woman who is drawn to her profession to "help people with problems in their lives." Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by evil witchdoctors. (Club Rating: 6.4) Read more about Literary Giants: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

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Literary Giants: All the King's Men

Date: 
Monday, August 25, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Robert Penn Warren
Title: 
All the King's Men

The rise and fall of Willie Stark, a southern political boss, graphically told by his right-hand man, Jack Burden, an idealist and a cynic. Willie rises from a decoy candidate, who sincerely wants to help the people of the state, to a successful governor who admits that a little graft is necessary to make the wheels go round and that every man has his price, until he is shot down by the outraged brother of his mistress..... a vital, compelling narrative. (Club Rating: 6.7) Read more about Literary Giants: All the King's Men

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Literary Giants: Nickel and Dimed

Date: 
Monday, September 29, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Barbara Ehrenreich
Title: 
Nickel and Dimed

Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity�a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor. (Club Rating: 6.8) Read more about Literary Giants: Nickel and Dimed

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Literary Giants: Empire Falls

Date: 
Monday, October 27, 2003 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Richard Russo
Title: 
Empire Falls

"Elijah Whiting...had not succeeded in killing his wife with a shovel, nor had he recovered from the disappointment." These lines from the prolog of Russo's (Straight Man) latest novel prove prototypical. A keen observer of human nature, Russo explores the tragicomic realities of life in a small mill town in central Maine whose best days are behind. Miles Roby is a basically decent guy who runs the Empire Grill for the widow of the last Whiting male (who shot himself when he, too, couldn't recover from his failure to dispatch his wife). Miles's own wife has left him for a sleazy gym owner, and his angst-ridden teenage daughter has befriended a sullen, ominously silent classmate shunned by the rest of his peers. Meanwhile, his ne'er-do-well father is in the process of trying to con a senile old priest into financing his annual jaunt to Key West. As the world careens around him and his fellow townfolk, Miles is trying desperately to figure out what went wrong and the answers, both complicated and simple, seem to lie mostly in the house across the river in which Mrs. Whiting resides. Russo has constructed a sensitive, endearingly oddball portrait of small-town life, a wonderful story that should appeal to a wide audience. (Club Rating: 5.7) Read more about Literary Giants: Empire Falls

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