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Library Happenings – New books reach range of interests (Aug. 26, 2015, issue)

It’s not a secret: My favorite part of this job is ordering and cataloging new books. Kristy and I look forward to opening the boxes and checking each book off the packing list as it comes to light. We send each one to the new books shelves with hopes that someone will take it home and gasp, laugh, cry or learn from it and then tell someone else who will do just the same.
Last week we launched a sizeable number of books for adults and young adults. Among the novels that I found intriguing was J. Ryan Stradal’s “Kitchens of the Great Midwest.” The protagonist is Eva Thorvald, a child born with a gifted palate. As a consequence, she was destined to become a highly successful chef.
The narrative consists of a series of linked short stories, each of which describes her introduction to a particular dish or ingredient. Some reviewers have likened its structure to Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Olive Kitteredge.” The comparison ends there, however, since “Kitchens” is funny and chock-full of recipes. You don’t have to be a “foodie” to enjoy the novel, but if you happen to be one, you’ll relish this book!
New in Historical Fiction
Paula McLain, the author of “The Paris Wife,” transports readers to colonial Kenya with her new novel “Circling the Sun.” It is based on the real life of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. Abandoned by her mother, left to run wild by her father and married at sixteen to a drunkard, Beryl turns to horses for companionship and becomes a renowned horse trainer.
She forms a friendship with Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen, author of “Out of Africa”) and something more than friendship with Karen’s lover Denys Finch Hatton. You may recall that Robert Redford played Finch Hatton in the movie version of “Out of Africa,” and there already is speculation about who could play his role if this new novel is adapted for the big screen.
If you’d like to visit another exotic locale, Alice Hoffman’s “The Marriage of Opposites” offers a sojourn on the Virgin Island of St. Thomas when it was ruled by Denmark. Rachel Pomie was the daughter of Jewish refugees who settled on the Caribbean island to secure the rights granted them by the Danish king.
Longing for the France from which her grandparents had fled, Rachel was a disappointment to her conventional mother. Nevertheless, she marries a widower with three children in order to save her father’s business venture. When her husband dies, Rachel scandalizes the Jewish community by taking up with his handsome nephew. This union produced the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro and eventually took Rachel to the Paris for which she had yearned as a young girl.