Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Out West Books in Grand Junction recommends some of its favorite historical fiction.
By Anne Berest
From the publisher: January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest’s maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques—all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why.
From Marya, Owner: Wow. This book left me with so much to think about. I’ve read a fair few WWII books and even been to Auschwitz, yet Berest’s book left me with a haunting feeling. “The Postcard”is head and shoulders above the normal WWII novel; maybe it’s because the story is a true family saga. The author, in a radio interview, mentioned that only the names of towns in France have been changed, which is why it is fiction. Perhaps other authors don’t have skin in the game…it’s not as personal to them. This is a mystery, a family saga and a treatise on what being Jewish means to different people. It’s a history lesson you won’t soon forget. One of my favorites so far this year.
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women
By Lisa See
From the publisher: According to Confucius, “an educated woman is a worthless woman,” but Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet haunted by death, separations, and loneliness—is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient.
From Marya, Owner: I never miss a book by Lisa See, but this one was just the right book at the right time for me. It is a terrific read from the start; a story of love and loss and women helping other women. Losing her mother to a treatable (in 1400s China!) infection from bound feet, YunXian is taken in by her grandparents, who are doctors of traditional medicine. Her grandmother, a doctor ahead of her time, teaches YunXian to be a women’s advocate/doctor as well, because male doctors were fearful of anything “below the belt” and even examined women from behind a screen by asking questions only. I was intrigued by the ins and outs, drama and ennui of life in an upper class strict hierarchy of women. Incredibly, some of YunXian’s remedies are still used in Chinese Traditional Medicine. Loved it!!
By Victor LaValle
From the publisher: The year is 1915, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, forcing her to flee California in a hellfire rush and make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will become one of the “lone women” taking advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can tame it—except that Adelaide isn’t alone. And the secret she’s tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing that will help her survive the harsh territory.
From Didi, Bookseller: The horror in this brutal weird western is palpable. I could feel the cold, the hunger, the loneliness. As a Black woman in 1915, Adelaide’s life is going to be hard but what she faces and what she hides is worse. Horror is not my genre but the authentic historical aspects drew me in, the vividly harsh depiction of parts of the rural West, and the trunk, that mysterious trunk, kept me captivated.