Jim Gocha - The Book Whisperer
Jim is a self-professed word nerd, who has been in love with books since childhood. He fondly remembers wearing the text off early favorites Fox in Socks, Caps for Sale, and Henry and Ribsy. Jim started working in bookstores while attending college in the early ‘80s. His tenure at Gibson’s began the year he moved to New Hampshire from New York - 1987. Currently he teaches English Language Arts at Rundlett Middle School, his twenty-fifth year there, and continues as a literary minion at Gibson’s, which he considers a well of sanity in an otherwise chaotic world. At the moment he enjoys the works of authors John Irving, Jasper Fforde, Nevada Barr, Peter Ackroyd, Christopher Paul Curtis, Laurie Hulse Anderson, David Almond, David McCullough - aw, heck, anyone who has a good story to tell.
Jim writes so many reviews that we've had to give him a second page! You can read his older reviews (up through February 2015) here.
Jim's May 2015 pick, 1 of 2
X, A Novel, by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X. With Kekla Magoon
Malcolm X lives! Well, at least in these pages. Ms. Shabazz brings her father's story to vivid life in this retelling of his story. Told in the first person, the book has an urgency to it that makes it an exciting read.
Shabbazz doesn't give a complete narrative of Malcolm X, focusing instead on the most formative years of his life; his father dies when Malcolm was 6 and soon after his family disintegrated, which started a bitter fire of hate deep inside him. The book ends in 1948 with Malcolm in jail for foolish and sometimes dangerous acts but enlightened to the ways of Islam. It is with his acceptance of a higher purpose, that Malcolm is able to overcome his anger at his father, whose words he saw as lies since despite his interest in becoming more, White society repeatedly offered him less.
To help the reader understand a fuller picture of her father, she includes additional passages in the end: a timeline, family tree, and a section on historical context.
This is a good starting point for anyone interested in one of the most provocative civil rights leaders in our country's history.
Jim's May 2015 pick, 2 of 2
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I approached this book with a little skepticism. I am drawn to stories about WW 2, but this one is written by an author mostly known for sappy, touchy-feely novels. I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found is a stirring tale of friends and family affected by war.
The old saw that war is hell is an understatement in light of what happens to the citizens of the French village of Carriveau after the Nazis invade. The reader sees everything unfold through the lives of the two Mauriac sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne's husband leaves to fight and her daughter Sophie's childhood comes to an abrupt halt as she witnesses the increasing terror that envelops Carriveau. Isabelle, young and impetuous, leaves, too, to aid in the underground resistance, unable to sit idly by as her world crumbles around her. Both women find themselves doing things never thought possible just months before the invasion, but that's what war does, strips innocence and purity to shreds in an effort to just stay alive.
Hannah does throw an occasional maudlin line or two into the mix, but for the most part, her writing is straightforward. She tends not to dwell on violent scenes, adding just enough to give the reader the idea of the horror unfolding, like a Hitchcock film. There have been many stories written about WW2 and I am sure there will be more to come. For now, enjoy The Nightingale.
Jim's March 2015 picks, 1 of 2
Revolution, by Deborah Wiles
Oh, the times, they are a changin'. Wiles' previous documentary novel, Countdown, introduced the world to Franny Chapman, a fifth grader with a lot to deal with, including the dreamy neighborhood boy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here, Wiles takes us two years ahead to Freedom Summer. Franny's older sister has gone down to Mississippi to help register people to vote. Jo Ellen is the only character carried over from the previous novel but the same sense of historical turbulence and urgency is on every page. The focus here is on Sunny, a teenager with a myriad of problems: a mixed family, the loss of her mother, the invasion of Northerners bent on turning the Southern way of life upside-down, increasing racial tension, and the mysterious identity of Hightop, the nickname Sunny and her stepbrother Gillette gave to a colored boy they accidentally had met in the town's swimming pool late one night. If you are a fan of history, the 1960s, Civil Rights, or a good read, you will enjoy Revolution immensely.