atkinson life after life homeLife After Life has an intriguing premise. The central character, Ursula, dies numerous times throughout the story returning time and again to her life in pre-WWI England, each time meeting a different fate and demise, depending on shifts in her choices or events and having life altering effects on all those around her. It is a story of “what ifs,” reincarnation, and fate. You need to have an open mind because this is not a linear story. The writing is beautiful, atmospheric and tension-filled.

On one level this is a story of one family's life in England over the course of two world wars. The details of everyday life are written so effectively  that I felt I was there witnessing the life changes for returning veterans, the political tensions leading to WWII, and experiencing the horrors of Londoners during the Blitz.

It’s a book that is difficult to explain. You must experience it for yourself!

before we were yours2Before We Were Yours, a work of historical fiction, is based on the real-life nefarious activities of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis starting in the 1930s and lasting for over 20 years. Tann operated a black market adoption trafficking ring. Tann had poor children kidnapped to be adopted out to unsuspecting clientele and, unfortunately local authorities knew about Georgia Tann and even colluded in the kidnappings.

The fictional story of the five Foss children parallels the real life experiences of hundreds of victims of Georgia Tann's adoption agency. The story begins when the children are stolen from their family's riverboat one night in the 1930’s. Their parents have to go to the hospital due to complications with their mother's pregnancy and childbirth. Left alone, the children are taken by corrupt police officers working for Tann and eventually adopted off one by one.

Emotional, engrossing, even shocking at times, this is a book that you will long remember after reading it especially so because the story is based on real events.

starry skyAn epic historical fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s and his artistic, strongly  independent American wife Fanny. Their travels to find a place that provided the best climate for RLS’s physical condition from TB, their potent love story, their struggles to provide a secure living and their professional challenges are covered in a captivating book.

Like her husband, Fanny was also an artist, painting and writing but she often felt devalued by her husband's friends and sometimes by Robert himself. However, they were deeply in love and Fanny's determined care pulled him through again and again his bouts with consumption (TB).

The settings, from France and England to Scotland, Switzerland and finally Samoa to find the best climate for Robert are well detailed and the complex nature of Fanny and Robert’s personalities are beautifully portrayed.

 unbowedFrom her life as a Kikuyu child in Africa, to a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Matthai tells in a very personal and easy conversational account of her growth into a tenacious activist in ecology and human rights. Raised in rural Kenya, she never lost her deep connection with the land . As she saw the destruction of her environment around her, she started the Greenbelt Movement to plant trees to reclaim the land as a campaign for and with rural women. An amazing, inspirational fighter for the environment and human rights, it demonstrates how one person can really make a difference in the world.

This book also weaves in some of the history of Kenya and Kenyan culture from the 1940’s to the present, which is important in understanding Maathai's work and her impact

fikryA. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly—until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew. 

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