Selection #1: Beneath a Scarlet Sky | by Mark Sullivan
The Story: When teenager Pino Lella’s family home in Milan is bombed by Allied forces, he joins an underground network to help Jews escape over the Alps. His parents force him to enlist as a German soldier and he becomes the personal driver for Hitler’s left hand man in Italy. With the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret.
Linda’s comments: This novel is based on a true story–there really is a Pino Lella, who did not reveal his underground activities till much later, and even then, very reluctantly. This one was unputdownable, as Pino used his position as a driver for a high Nazi official to glean information for the Allies. A tribute to those who pay a high cost to do the right thing.
Quote: “You know, my young friend, I will be ninety years old next year, and life is still a constant surprise to me. We never know what will happen next, what we will see, and what important person will come into our life, or what important person we will lose. Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy. But after everything, and even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive, we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment of every day, no matter how flawed.”
Selection #2: These is My Words | by Nancy E Turner
Inspired by the author’s original family memoirs, this story introduces the indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s. As a child, Sarah forges a life as full and fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes, and our grandest dreams. Rich in authentic detail, this novel depicts a vanished world that comes vividly to life through her diary.
The best recommendation for this novel I can give is that the Book Club loved it so much that we all went on to read the rest of the Sarah Prine Trilogy. (There’s a new one out and that will also be on our reading list soon.) The hazards of surviving in the harshness of the untamed West are engrossing reading, with the land itself having personality and functioning as one of the characters. Totally absorbing and brilliantly done.
Quote: “My life feels like a book left out on the porch, and the wind blows the pages faster and faster, turning always toward a new chapter faster than I can stop to read it.”
Selection #3: Whistling Season | by Ivan Doig
“Can’t cook but doesn’t bite.” So begins the newspaper ad offering the services of an “A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition” that draws the hungry attention of widower Oliver Milliron in the fall of 1909. And so begins the unforgettable season that deposits the non-cooking, non-biting, ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee along with a stampede of homesteaders drawn by the promise of the Big Ditch-a gargantuan irrigation project intended to make the Montana prairie bloom. A paean to a vanished way of life and the eccentric individuals and idiosyncratic institutions that made it fertile.
If you read this and don’t fall in love with Morrie, check to see if you’re still breathing . . . Told from the viewpoint of Paul Milliron, whose widowed father hires Rose and Morrie, the landscape and times of Marias Coulee in Montana come to life. From the first lyrical sentences, you’ll know you’re in for a treat. Unexpected and uncomplicated, this one is simply a delight.
Quote: “THERE ARE MOMENTS in a lifetime when you can taste history as it is happening. When the flavor of time, from one hour to the next, somehow is not quite the same as any day before.”