Conversations From the Cubicles: Oprah’s Latest Pick and More
and Betty J Roiger,
Kris: Well, we’ve done it again.
Betty: Uh oh. What’d we do?
K: We read the same book, which happens about twice a year.
B: You’re right, but “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead was getting a lot of buzz
K: And then I told you it was publishing early because Oprah picked it for her book club. I had to see what the hype was about. What did you think?
B: Honestly? It was good, but it was tough. It’s one of those books that you recommend because it is important and captivating, but it’s hard to find the words to describe it.
K: I’ll try. I loved Whitehead’s writing constructing the Underground Railroad as an actual, physical thing was genius and I loved Cora, but I can’t say I loved a book that unflinchingly told such a violent part of our nation’s story. I can say that I was deeply moved by it, it’s a significant story, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
B: I agree. Even though there was graphic content, I was glad that Whitehead didn’t belabor his descriptions. Reading “The Underground Railroad” prompted some of your other recent reading, right?
K: That’s right. I wanted to explore some nonfiction books about race, and two titles resonated with me. “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race,” a contemporary companion to the 1963 James Baldwin classic “The Fire Next Time,” was edited by the incomparable Jesmyn Ward. It includes essays, memoirs, and poetry divided into three sections: Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee. The other book was “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education” by Mychal Denzel Smith. I’ve been hearing a lot about intersectionality, and Smith has captured it in writing about the overlap between race, gender, and LGBTQ rights. Both books contributed to my ongoing efforts to be a good person in this world.
B: After my experience with “The Underground Railroad,” I needed fast, intriguing, escape reading, and “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena was that kind of ride. After their babysitter cancels on them, Anne and Marco go for drinks at the couple next door’s house. They have the baby monitor, and they periodically check in on their 6-month-old baby. Still, the unthinkable happens, and Cora goes missing. Why did I like this book? There were plenty of suspects, and they kept changing, like they were tossing a hot potato back and forth.
K: Unreliable narrators?
B: Not so much. Sometimes they were lying to each other, and other times they were just clueless. It was a bunch of surprises, and I enjoyed it for that.
K: Anything else?
B: Several. “Good as Gone” by Amy Gentry is about a young girl kidnapped from her room. Years later she shows up at the doorstep. Or does she? That is the mystery, yet it also spotlights one girl and one mother’s journey through some tough life experiences. I thought the author was pulling a lot of today’s issues into her narrative that needed to see the light of day. It kept me turning pages.
K: I can tell you want to talk about the one you liked most of all.
B: Oh, my gosh! Run, don’t walk to put a hold on “The Lost Girls” by Heather Young. Yes, it takes place in Minnesota, which sold me immediately, but this also is a well-written, well-put-together mystery/family drama. Lucy has died and left the family cabin to her niece Justine. She also has left a document detailing what happened the summer her sister went missing 60 years before. She figures all the players who played a part have died, and she wants to set the record straight. Alternating chapters of the pieces of Justine’s life intersect with Lucy’s story. This was so well done. I didn’t just like the mystery and the writing; I really liked getting home and knowing that I would be back in this story.
K: That’s a lot of great books this summer. And we’re heading into the big book season, so there will be even more to talk about.
B: A plethora, a cornucopia, a bounty of books, if you will. They’re coming!