Unforgettable Characters Make Books Memorable

SHELF LIFE

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Memorable books, great authors and unforgettable characters -- few authors today can lay claim to these traits.

Most are busy cranking out four, five, six books a year.

The majority are full of words that say little or nothing. The characters are shallow and lackluster. You read the book and wonder how in the world it made it to the New York Times best-seller list.

It is sad to think that to produce a multitude of books in a year that say very little, raking in mega dollars, running out of something to say and writing anyway is more important than being a "great" author.

And yet, amongst the many volumes are books that are worth reading again and again, many of which are written by authors who, over the years, may or may not have fallen prey to writing for the money, rather than the joy of watching their characters come alive on the page.

"A Time to Kill," John Grisham's first novel and possibly his best, was originally published in a small print run in 1989 and for years was unavailable in hardcover.

The setting is Clanton, Mississippi. Tonya Hailey is raped, beaten and left for dead.

The rapists are caught and when the men appear in court, Tonya's father bursts out of the courthouse basement and kills them with an assault rifle.

Was this murder or revenge?

A young lawyer, Jake Brigance, will be representing Carl, Tonya's father. Jake is young and ambitious.

He dreams of being famous. The rapists are white, the judge is white, Carl is black and Jake is about to face the fight of his life. This is an over-the-top novel that will challenge everything you're sure you know about justice and equality. Excellent read.

In "Secret Life of Bees," by Sue Monk Kidd, young Lily and her "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, are on the lam, heading for a town called Tiburn, South Carolina, a name Lily found on the back of a picture left by her mother.

Upon arrival they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black sisters named, May, June and August. There they enter into the mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey, and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women.

Maternal loss, betrayal, guilt and forgiveness intertwine in this story.

You will find a rare wisdom about life, about mothers and daughters and the divine power of women and the transforming power of love. Excellent character study.

"Encore Provence," by Peter Mayle is a delightful romp through Provence in the South of France.

Pauses for refreshment include visits to eventful weekly markets. There is a memorable tour of Marseille, a lesson on olive oil, a search for the perfect corkscrew and invaluable recommendations for delectable cheeses, wines, bread, out-of-the-way restaurants and places to stay.

The French, unlike Americans, place a great importance and value on eating. It is an integral part of their culture to make time to enjoy food and the friendships that develop from the joy of experiencing a variety of culinary treats. Wine, cheese and a good loaf of crusty bread, and friends -- what more can you ask for.

The author entices you to go explore his beloved Provence, where life is a little slower and the characters are unique. Another good read: "A Year in Provence."

"Ya Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells, begins in the 1930s and roars through years of marriage, children and hair raising events that revolve around three generations of crazy bayou debutantes.

A sisterhood of four young women who, through it all, rely always on their love for each other and their Petites Ya Ya Children. A wonderfully irreverent look at life in small town Louisiana.

This book is the middle of a trilogy -- go back and begin at the beginning with "Little Altars Everywhere" childhood antics. Grow up with the "Ya Ya Sisterhood" and grow old with "Ya Yas in Bloom." Antics and characters you will never forget.

"Object Lessons" by Anna Quindlen is a novel about a large Irish-Italian family in the late 1960s and the summer that changed their lives.

Young Maggie Scanlon begins to sense that her normal, everyday life is suddenly changing. Everything seems to be going wrong.

Her grandfather is struck helpless by a stroke, her mother is suddenly never home. Her cousin, Monica and best friend, Debbie start doing things that leave her confused and frightened about sex and sin.

All these shifts become linked in Maggie's mind to the building of a housing development behind her home, that, years later, whenever she smells the odor of new construction she is taken back to that summer.

Anna Quinlen's ability to depict a young girl, her family and coming of age is solid proof that she is an acute observer of family relationships. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

"Living Out Loud" and "Blessings" are other examples of her writing ability.

"Honk and Holler Opening Soon" by Billie Letts -- The neon sign had seemed appropriate when the Honk and Holler was being built. But, twelve years later the highway outside Sequoyah, Oklahoma is little traveled and "opening soon" is a joke.

Today the sign is as battered and beaten as its owner, Caney Paxton.

The characters don't change much. With Christmas only days away, their lives are to be forever changed with the arrival of Vena Takes Horse, a Crow woman on a quest, and Bui Khanh, a Vietnamese refugee looking for a home.

Letts captures a small town's prejudice, tolerance and big heartedness. We come away convinced that dark clouds really can have silver linings.

Her first novel, "Where the Heart Is" resonated with original ideas and an inspiring message about human goodness.

Other Great Authors and Books

  • Taylor Caldwell's "Captains and Kings"
  • Anya Seton's "Winthrop Woman"
  • James Michener's "Hawaii"
  • E. B. White's "Trumpet of the Swan"
  • Irving Stone's "Agony and the Ecstasy"
  • Scott O'Dell's "Island of the Blue Dolphins"
  • Jean Toomer's "Cane"
  • C. S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia"

Relieve the stress in your life -- Get lost in a great book.

Book reviews by Emily Arnold: The Fire Within and The Deathly Hallows

"The Fire Within," by Chris D'Lacey, is an original and thrilling tale of a young college student named David who is a tenant at Liz and Lucy Pennykettle's eccentric house.

David is frustrated and confused as he tries to figure out the mystery of the detailed little clay dragons Liz makes.

And why are the Pennykettles so secretive about the room they call the "Dragon's Den"?

You'll have to read it to find out. This is an exciting story that you'll never forget.

If you haven't read any of the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, then you don't know what you're missing!

Personally, it is one of my favorite series, and "The Deathly Hallows" is now one of my favorite books ever.

This entry of Harry's life is absolutely stuffed to bursting with mystery, wand duels, tears, hatred, love, friendship, sacrifices, teenage angst, and of course -- magic!

For those of you who have spent your lives waiting for the Potter books and are now tearing your hair out for the chance to read this last one --

YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED!

Go read it right now.

The Payson Public Library is located at 328 N. McLane Road at Rumsey Park. Telephone (928) 474-9260.

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