Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on July 2. There’s a long look at To Kill a Mockingbird, a World War II novel by one of the best writers of our time, a highly personal novel by Southern writer Silas House and a creepy thriller that is beach-perfect.
Why To Kill a Mockingbird Matters (St. Martin’s Press) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, opens on Broadway this fall, so now seems like a great time to take another look at this classic work of American literature. The book and the film from 1962 both are part of the country’s vernacular (no matter where in American you are), and they show the fight for civil rights like few other works have ever done. In Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters, Tom Santopietro looks at the Mockingbird phenomenon, showing readers why the beloved classic matters more today than ever. He traces the writing of the book and its ongoing appeal, including perspective and comments from current writers such as Adriana Trigiani and Wally Lamb. He also reveals the complete behind-the-scenes story of the film, from the earliest casting sessions to the choice of director and the three Oscars it won to the 50th-anniversary screening at the White House. He investigates claims that the book is actually racist and considers the controversy of Go Set a Watchman. He also explores what makes this work—whether book, movie or play—so captivating and how Atticus Finch continues to represent essential, common decency for so many people. There might be no better time in America to look at the significance of Harper Lee’s book and all that came after it.
Warlight (Knopf) From the author of The English Patient, this is a mesmerizing new novel by Michael Ondaatje that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are shaped by their unwitting involvement. Ondaatje’s writing is always luminous. We read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey–through facts, recollection, and imagination–that he narrates this story.
Southernmost (Algonquin Books) This is a courageous and deeply personal new novel from award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Silas House. The inspiration: the award-winning author’s own life. After a fundamentalist upbringing that caused him to come out later in life, House was alternately rejected and embraced by his Southern community. That (often painful) experience led him to craft a candid, compassionate novel that explores our ability to escape the confines of intolerance and hate and move toward dignity, understanding, and grace. At the same time, this is a nuanced portrait of the culture of the contemporary South, in all its complexity. Asher Sharp is an evangelical preacher in Tennessee whose belief was tested after his brother, Luke, came out to him. When he offers shelter to two gay men after a flood washes away most of his small town, his actions cause chaos in his congregation and in his marriage. Losing custody of his young son, Justin, he flees with the boy to Key West—the southernmost point in the country—to find Luke. His also discovers a new way of thinking about love, faith, parenthood and life.
The Captives (Ecco) Debra Jo Immergut has crafted a twisty, creepy novel that begs to be read at the beach. Frank is working as a psychologist at a women’s prison when his high school crush walks into his office. She remembers nothing about him; he remembers everything about her. The woman, Miranda, is in for murder. Frank is there after a misstep in his career. (“I’d been in a cushy practice in Manhattan in fact,” he says vaguely, “and was tossed out amid some kind of litigation mess.”) Frank has an interesting history beyond that: His father is the inventor of the famous “Lundquist Curve,” a predictive test that foretold marvelous things for Frank, its “Baby Zero,” once upon a time. This book is an intimate and gripping meditation on freedom and risk, male and female power, and the urges toward both corruption and redemption. It’s about how weakness can turn into obsession and how a single misstep can send a life careening off course.