The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey 
submitted by Rob

“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail…the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay.” - Elisabeth Tova Bailey

When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck with an illness of uncertain origin, her life dramatically changed, as she was left almost completely incapacitated, and all those daily motions that we take for granted, from rising in the morning to brushing one’s teeth, became, in all practicality, impossible. As a result, Ms. Bailey was forced to leave the familiar surroundings of her home for a studio apartment that was easily serviced by a professional care provider.

As one can imagine, this situation left Ms. Bailey significantly challenged and overwhelmingly distraught, but then one day, a friend of Ms. Bailey’s dropped by for a visit with a peculiar gift – a pot of violets taken from the local woods that included a wild snail, and it is from this deceptively simple present that Ms. Bailey experiences a sublime sense of renewal in her life as a convalescent.

Through close observation afforded by her confinement, Ms. Bailey comes to admire her new roommate and to realize that once one takes the time, whether by choice or force, to examine life from a different perspective, that of a snail’s in this case, modern life for the human being begins to seem entirely too fast in its pace, and that, just perhaps, it might be warranted to ponder why it is we all run about in such a frenzy.

And peppered throughout Ms. Bailey’s frank prose concerning a single year of her illness and the ruminations sparked by a single snail, were scientific sections about the snail as an animal, based on the extensive research that Ms. Bailey conducted, and I must admit that I had no real idea how truly amazing the snail is, regardless which of the roughly forty thousand types is being referenced. In the words of Ms. Bailey in a letter she wrote to her doctor:
“I could never have guessed what would get me through this past year – a woodland snail and its offspring; I honestly don’t think that I would have made it otherwise.”

With so many demands on our time and attention, it would be wise to remember the myriad details of life that are so easily missed, lest we forget the wonder that surrounds us always.

You can reserve a copy of her memoir, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by clicking here.

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How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid 
submitted by Caren

I had read a bit of buzz about this book so I picked it up, not really knowing what to expect. I absolutely couldn't put it down and read through it in one day. It begins as what appears to be a parody of a self-help book, in an unnamed country (but probably the author's native Pakistan), about an unnamed village boy addressed in the second-person as "you".

The story opens with the boy living in the family compound in a rural area. Each chapter heading is a piece of advice for how to get “filthy rich”. The first is: “Move to the City”. The boy’s father has been working in a big city and has finally saved enough money to bring his wife and three children to live with him.

The boy describes the strange feeling of being just five people now. He says,
“…you embody one of the great changes of your time. Where once your clan was innumerable, not infinite but of a large number not readily known, now there are five of you. Five. The fingers on one hand, the toes on one foot, a miniscule aggregation when compared with shoals of fish or flocks of birds or indeed tribes of humans.” (p. 14)

Each chapter takes us further along this boy’s odyssey. The early bits of advice are fairly basic: ‘Get an education’, ‘Don’t fall in love’, ‘Avoid idealists’, ‘Learn from a master’, and ‘Work for yourself.

The boy notes that some aspects of his life have made him fortunate just by chance. He is not a girl, so he won’t be sent back to the village at a young age to marry; he has an older brother who will be expected to get a job before he himself will, meaning there will be time for him to go to school. As he matures and enters the business world, the advice becomes more troubling: ‘Be prepared to use violence’, ‘Befriend a bureaucrat’, ‘Patronize the artists of war’, and ‘Dance with debt.’

Approaching the end of his story and of his life, the protagonist seems to change the focus of his advice: ‘Focus on the fundamentals.’ The ‘fundamentals’ no longer seem to be about getting “filthy rich”. They are a beautiful musing about the meaning of the life he has led. Really, even though this story takes place in a Third World country, it speaks to our modern striving wherever we are, and it is, at its heart, a love story.

The unnamed "you" is in love, all his life, with the also unnamed "pretty girl", even though one of the early injunctions as a requisite for becoming "filthy rich" was not to fall in love. Both the protagonist and the pretty girl do become rich but find it is ephemeral and that what really remains is their attraction for each other, formed in their youth.

Reading the last chapter, I found myself catching my breath at the exquisite way the author captured what it means to be human:
“We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.” (p.219-220).

Not so many books can capture the essence of humanity the way this book does. It is deeply felt, yet unsentimental which is a rare achievement.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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Spotlight: Graphic Novel Discussion Group 
submitted by Tony

Did you love comics as a kid and do you still? Or are you new to the magic of graphic literature?

No matter when you started, LFPL's Graphic Novel Discussion Group is the place for you!

The Group meets at the Main Branch on the second Monday of every month at 7:00 PM.

Join us on June 10, 2013 where we explore the topic of Metafiction in Comics.

Below are some suggested titles to read for June’s meeting. All of these items can be found at LFPL. Just click the links to reserve your copies!

For more information, call Anthony at (502) 574-1611.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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Jet Set  
submitted by Natalie

Whether or not you’re plan on traveling overseas with children this summer, you can still enjoy reading these picture books set in far off destinations.

Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan
“Dodsworth was a little nervous. Japan is a land of customs and manners and order. The duck wasn’t very good at those things.”

A mild mannered mole travels with his duck companion to Japan for sightseeing. To the surprise of Dodsworth, the duck manages to control himself (most of the time) but occasionally slips up in full public view. This beginning reader book is peppered with Japanese language and culture with characters that both parents and children can identify.

Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout
Many first time air travelers are naturally a bit nervous about flying. Prepare for takeoff with this boldly graphic counting book that asks, “When taking a flight, what do you see?”

Kiki and Coco in Paris by Nina Gruener

A lucky girl and her doll go on a journey documented in large photographic illustrations to the City of Light. They visit palaces, museums, a Parisian salon, and chic cafés. It will make you dream of visiting there yourself.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer 
submitted by Lynette

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer is not a new teen book but I do feel like it has gotten a little lost and perhaps is on the way to soon be forgotten. This book is a gem I discovered several years after publication, just perusing the book stacks for a good read. It was a 2002 National Book Award winner, and additionally won honors from both the Newbery Medal and Michael L. Printz Awards in 2003.

This is a nice change of pace if you feel like you’re stuck in a teen reading rut. It is not formulaic, which I have been finding too much of my teen reading is falling into one of several basic plots – and it is getting old. This is a nice way to shake thing up for the spring if you, too, feel like you keep reading the same book over and over.

The story takes place in the not too distant future in Mexico – on the beautiful hacienda with a poppy plantation, owned by El Patron, Mexico’s oldest, and most dangerous, drug lord. El Patron is so old, no one can say his exact age, but he is still around to see his great-great grandchildren. Even El Patron’s grandson, El Viejo, is described as “a very old man.” This raises the question; how has El Patron been able to live for so long?

Matt has grown up on El Patron’s vast estate his whole life. He’s not a grandchild or child of anyone there, nor a worker. Matt is El Patron’s clone, and is raised like a second class citizen, only getting care and pity from others because they were instructed to do so by El Patron.

Though Matt is family to El Patron, he is never treated as such. Never included in the family affairs, and regarded as almost a “pet” to their old patriarch. The family is dysfunctional, spiteful, power hungry, and rather unloving - even to their own family. This means that though Matt is almost always surrounded by the family, servants, and field workers he is nearly invisible to them. This leaves Matt alone with just himself for most of the time.

Not having contact with anyone outside of the poppy plantation and house, Matt doesn’t see his life as so strange. Up until his teen years he never really considered why El Patron would need a clone. Surely it is just to relive his childhood through him? El Patron loves Matt too much to ever hurt him – or does he?

This was a book I could not put down! The story was captivating, and the writing was stellar! I would recommend this young adult title for middle school readers and up.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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