If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God? A vanishingly small number of people would recognize God…and most of them had simply missed a dose of Thorazine.
When the novel opens, we meet Father Emilio Sandoz, sole survivor of a failed Jesuit mission to Alpha Centauri. That’s right. Priests in Space. Using a dual narrative structure in alternating chapters, we go back to learn how this bizarre mission came to be, while in the “present” we follow the efforts of Emelio’s religious superiors to find out what happened to the broken man. And Emelio is broken, in both mind, faith and body. There are terrible rumors about what happened to him on the alien planet they visited, but Emelio is too traumatized to explain the mission’s colossal failure. Watching the efforts of this broken priest to come to grips with his experiences is a grueling thing to read. But knowing the end somehow does not detract from the other narrative, which is how it began and unfolded. It seems that a signal is picked up at a remote radio observatory in Puerto Rico; a signal that sounds like singing. But it is singing that could not possibly be from earth. The technician who discovered the signal is friends with Father Emelio Sandoz, a parish priest working in the slums of Puerto Rico. Emelio, the technician Jimmy, and a handful of other vividly drawn and achingly real characters end up signing on to be the ones to find out where the signal is coming from. This is a novel that deals with issues of religion, but rather than being preachy, it is a fascinating look how other people use faith to try and understand their experiences. Religion and science fiction could be a tough sell on their own, much less in the ingenious combo you get here. But Russell uses the formal framework of religion to tap into the truer issue of what it means to have faith, and the science fiction framework to examine what it means to be human. I’ve read this book twice, and both times it made me cry, but left me immensely satisfied.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: The Sparrow
If we could understand its loves, as well as its hates, we would be nearer to understanding the mystery of human life.
Why did the great nations of Europe, enjoying the highest level of prosperity and freedom in the history of the world, suddenly throw themselves into war against each other? And why didn’t they stop before they were financially ruined, their leaders disgraced, their populations imbued with racial hatred, and 10-million of their finest young men dead on the fields of battle? Keegan, a teacher at Britain’s Sandhurst military academy, tries to make sense of it all, using episodes from the war to show how generals, politicians, and ordinary soldiers became caught in a tragic unfolding of plans they could neither foresee nor control. This is history at the highest level.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: The First World War
I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district.
A fellow staff member recommended this book to me, and I am glad she did. The Little Stranger is a suspenseful edge-of-the-seat tale about a haunted house. Sarah Waters is a great storyteller. Her plots are riveting, but never at the expense of her lushly descriptive prose. The Little Stranger reaches a level of psychological depth that isn’t for the faintest of heart. It didn’t just scare me – it creepy-crawled its fingers into my brain and unsettled me for a long time afterward. When I reached the middle of this book, I could not stop reading (even though it was four o’clock in the morning and I had work the next day)! If you enjoy a good haunted house story, be sure to check out this book!
Check the BPL catalog for this title: The Little Stranger
The German Democratic Republic lives on — in 79 square meters!
Alex Kerner was arrested protesting against the GDR in East Germany in 1989. The shock sends his mother into a coma and she remains comatose through the fall of the regime and Berlin’s opening up to the west. When she wakes in 1990, her doctors warn that she should be protected from any further shock. But that’s a little tricky since everything she knows about her beloved country has changed. Wanting her to recuperate in a familiar setting, Alex sets about to recreate the communist GDR in their tiny apartment. Part comedy, part family drama and part political commentary, Goodbye Lenin is a funny and touching film about the difficulty of standing still in a world that is constantly changing.
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: Good Bye Lenin!