Virginia Lawrence | Caminito Del Rocio
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Hoping to identify Del Mar’s favorite books for 2013, the Sandpiper polled 4 local book clubs: the DMCC’s Book Babes; a guy’s group (Guys Don’t Do Book Clubs by Judd Halenza, October 2013 Sandpiper); and two gal’s groups.
The overall front-runner among the groups was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. According to Joe Sullivan (Guy’s Group):
Asked to name a favorite book from our 2013 reading list, the eight members of my men’s book group could not come to consensus, forcing this recorder to calculate a weighted average. On that basis, the favorite was Rachel Joyce’s acclaimed first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This is the story of late-middle-aged Harold Fry, recently retired, who lives a life of ennui in a small English Village with his wife of many years. On impulse he undertakes a six-hundred-mile walk across the countryside to find a one-time friend, now on her deathbed. Since I’m not a psychologist, I won’t speculate on the reasons that so many members of our group, all middle-class men in late middle-age, living in the small village of Del Mar with our wives of many years, chose this book as their favorite.
Jill Weitzen MacDonald’s group singled out Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove, 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction. This is a detailed explanation of the life of Thurgood Marshall as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the chain of events that led him to defend four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Florida in 1949. While the members of my book club were alive in the ‘40s and ‘50s, none of us grew up in the South, and this book taught us about a chapter of United States history that included racism, segregation, violence, corruption and injustice that few of us were aware of previously.
For Ann Gardner’s group, and by a margin of 2 to 1, Alexandra Popoff’s biography Sophia Tolstoy came in on top! In second place was Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov, and finally Georges Simenon’s The Man Who Watched Trains Go By. “Theme reading has become one of our book group’s most rewarding ways of selecting, reading and discussing books. We have just finished a quintet of Russian reading (The Russians Are Coming, September 2013 Sandpiper.) No reason was offered for the choice of Simenon’s novel.
Among the Book Babes independent opinions reigned. The only books mentioned by more than one reader were:
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff ~ Karen Lockwood: A non-fiction WW II tale of the survival of three Army personnel, two men and a woman in a plane crash at high altitude in Papua New Guinea. Each with bad injuries, no food or water. I found it gripping and fascinating from many angles--anthropology, medicine, team work, ingenuity, courage. It has a horrible title, but that’s what the press at the time called the valley they ended up in.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver ~ Susan Morrison: My favorite book club book was Flight Behavior. I think Barbara Kingsolver is a beautiful writer and her metaphors take my breath away. I also enjoyed learning about Monarch butterflies.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor ~ Joanne Sharp: For me a two-way tie between Luis Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir My Beloved World. Urrea for his incredible storytelling style; wild, funny, tragic and colorful. Sotomayor for the powerful intelligence, strength and persistence with which she achieved her goals against great odds.