Book Club Feature: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

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I am so thrilled to feature another novel by Sarah McCoy as our second May book club feature! Our book club loved her The Baker’s Daughter and we’re excited about her new book!

The Mapmaker’s Children tells the story of two women–an abolitionist and one from present day.  Here’s more about the book:

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

Grab your copy of The Mapmaker’s Children and join us on May 19th when we discuss Sarah’s novel.

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Don’t forget check out Sarah McCoy’s website or follow her on Twitter. She loves chatting with her readers and is super nice. Tell her we sent you!

Have you read any of Sarah McCoy’s books?

April Book Club: Spinster by Kate Bolick

Spinster by Kate Bolick

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I’m so excited to announce our first book club selection for May is Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick. I couldn’t wait to share because today is the release day for Spinster!

I know From Left to Write members will have plenty to talk about when we discuss the book on April 30. Bolick’s research about being single and her quest to dive into the lives of famous spinsters will draw you right in:

“Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless—the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Spinster by Kate BolickWhat do you think of when you hear the word “spinster”? Take a look at this video and see if your response is similar:

So grab your copy of  Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick so you can join our discussion on May 5. Crown Publishing also put together an AWESOME Spinster book club kit that includes paper dolls of the women Bolick researched and of course, plenty of cocktail recipes. Of course there’s the reading group guide and suggested reading in the kit.

Learn more about Kate Bolick on her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

April Book Club Feature: Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

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Spring break is over and my kids are back in school! (Throws confetti) Now I can focus on our first April book club, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes.

As a southerner, I’m always fascinated by others’ experiences in the south.  Those who loved Under the Tuscan Sun and will be entranced by Mayes’ evocative writing and lush descriptions in her memoir. More about the memoir:

From her years as a spirited, secretive child, through her university studies—a period of exquisite freedom that imbued her with a profound appreciation of friendship and a love of travel—to her escape to a new life in California, Mayes exuberantly recreates the intense relationships of her past, recounting the bitter and sweet stories of her complicated family: her beautiful yet fragile mother, Frankye; her unpredictable father, Garbert; Daddy Jack, whose life Garbert saved; grandmother Mother Mayes; and the family maid, Frances’s confidant Willie Bell.

Under Magnolia is a searingly honest, humorous, and moving ode to family and place, and a thoughtful meditation on the ways they define us, or cause us to define ourselves. With acute sensory language, Mayes relishes the sweetness of the South, the smells and tastes at her family table, the fragrance of her hometown trees, and writes an unforgettable story of a girl whose perspicacity and dawning self-knowledge lead her out of the South and into the rest of the world, and then to a profound return home.

Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

Join From Left to Write book club members on April 30 as we discuss Mayes’ memoir. Pick up your copy of Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir  (now in paperback!) and join us.

ALERT: If you want to reread Under the Tuscan Sun, the Kindle version is only $1.99 right now!

Follow Frances Mayes via her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Book Club Feature: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

Our first September Book Club selection is The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. I’ve already finished reading it, and I can’t wait to discuss it with our members.  You’ll definitely want to pre-order the book now because journalist Jenny Nordberg jumps right into a hidden practice of Afghanistan:

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for theNew York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. 

The Underground Girls of Kabul 
is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults. 

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg


The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg releases September 16, 2014 but pre-order it now. Seriously, it’s good. You’ll want to crack it open after reading From Left to Write members’ discussion on September 16.

Whether you’re reading the book solo or with your book club, download the Reader’s Guide to Underground Girls of Kabul.

Follow Jenny Nordberg via her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Book Club Feature: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino

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We’re ushering the last days of summer with a jazzy book club feature for August: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas (Crown) by Marie-Helene Bertino. I know you’ve been doing plenty of summer reading, but don’t the warm days pass you by without immersing yourself into streets of Philadelphia at The Cat’s Pajamas jazz club:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night.

I met author Marie-Helene Bertino during Crown Publishing’s gathering at BEA and she sang a jazz number for the crowd. Let me tell you, she’s so sweet and has a great voice! Clearly the music inspires her.

Marie-Helene Bertino singing jazz

Marie-Helene Bertino singing (sorry for blurry photo-it was dark!)

Pick up a copy of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas  and join From Left to Write members on August 28 as we discuss the novel.

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino


Want to see what books are on Marie-Helene’s nightstand? Learn more about Marie-Helene Bertino at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.


October Book Club Announcement: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner By Herman Koch

Ready for our second October book club selection? Our members have been reading international best seller The Dinner by Herman Koch.   Two brothers and their wives dine together at a formal restaurant to discuss an important, life-changing incident that has occurred within their family. What is being left unspoken over the course of their meal is even more important than their tension filled verbal exchanges.

Here’s more:

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

Intrigued? Grab a copy of the book and join us on October 29 as From Left to Write members discuss The Dinner by Herman Koch. Make sure to make this cocktail inspired by The Dinner to enjoy as you read.

Follow Herman Koch on Facebook or visit his website. (They’re written in Dutch but I think you can find some translating tools to help you out.)

You can also follow the publisher Hogarth Books on Twitter!