Entree: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. What a wonderful book! I've enjoyed every minute of reading about two young people on opposite sides of WWII - a blind French girl and a German boy who loves to tinker with radios. The story moves back and forth in time and place, so I wish I would have kept a little scorecard, but nevertheless, it is a supremely satisfying mystery/thriller/historical novel.
Side: The Hunter by Richard Stark. Mystery author, Donald Westlake, has a toughguy version of himself writing as Richard Stark. The opening pages of this slim book describe a woman picking herself up off the floor after having been shoved there by an angry man. I almost feel guilty reading this, but I guess I have to see how the other half lives (or reads).
Side: Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain. The next book club selection by Eileen, an Irish immigrant who has adult children living in Ireland and who travels there regularly. This was a longtime bestseller in Ireland, but it's so depressing that I can't understand why. Apparently, many people there were so grateful that someone like them wrote about living with disappointing parents - one an alcoholic, the other neglectful. Reading the epilogue, where the author describes the reaction of the public to the book, was more enjoyable to read than the book itself. Go figure.
Side: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Another remarkable book! Gawande is a doctor raised in the U.S. by parents who immigrated from India, where elderly people are cared for until death in the homes of their families - although that is changing even there now. Gawande compares the Indian way of eldercare with that of the U.S., where most people die in hospital hooked up to machines. He describes his own learning curve in changing from being an "informative" doctor who lays out the facts and probabilities for patients with life-threatening conditions with that of a patient "guide" who helps patients figure out what is most important to them and what tradeoffs they are willing to make to have those things as long as possible. Really a wonderful book with excellent case histories that everyone should read.
Dessert: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham. This is a Newbury award-winner for kids, written in 1955. It's a fictionalized biography of Nathaniel Bowditch, who lived through the American Revolution as an indentured servant, but learned mathematics and navigational skills on his own. He wrote The American Practical Navigator, the sailor's bible to this day.