Carolyn Crocker

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The Topeka School

Summary: 
This semi-autobiographical novel encompasses the family stories of a psychologist couple and their son Adam, gifted debater/public speaker high school student and their circle of friends. The overheated atmosphere of senior year, being liberals in a conservative place, relationships that cross boundaries, idealistic beliefs that are inconsistently practiced, produces a combustion similar to the tornado pictured on the front cover, and a portrait of coming-of-age in the 90s. Brilliant.

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A Woman is No Man

Summary: 
Three generations of Palestinian women, two immigrants and the first generation daughter- granddaughter, wrestle with their duties as Arab women and the desire for selfhood that conflicts with the culture. In this poignant novel, tragedy haunts each of them in their struggle to survive, and they fear passing on a tortured existence to the next generation because other ways are unknown. A brilliant page-turner.

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Middle England

Summary: 
In the tradition of Trollope, this comedy of manners embraces the lives of family and friends and politics from 2010-2017. Trenchant and funny, it makes foibles and courageous stands compelling as it makes sense of the turmoil that leads to Brexit. Indelible characters-- Benjamin, Doug, Sophie and a host of others are people we are glad to know and whose dilemmas illuminate the times on this side of the pond as well.

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Rules for Visiting

Summary: 
A botanist with more feelings for plants than people sets out at age 40 to deepen her friendships and find a new way forward. Having lived in books and her head and gardening after deep grief, English major May reflects on trees, her life, and friendship eloquently with many literary echoes.A quietly enchanting and perfect novel-- and funny too.

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American Spy

Summary: 
An African American FBI agent is recruited for a vague job in Burkina Faso with many unintended consequences which reveal much about her nation’s spycraft, geopolitics and her own family, pitting her moral values against her own survival. It’s a meaty suspense story a mother tells her twin sons before she must leave them.

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The Map of Salt and Stars

Summary: 
The story of a Syrian refugee family on their flight westward is paired with the fleshed-out legend of a 12th century girl the same age as the narrator. Imagining the story of Rawiya, whose apprenticeship to a mapmaker takes her through the same regions, and her super-powers and ingenuity, is enormously comforting to the modern girl. Poetry on every page, thanks to the narrator’s synesthesia-- and her childhood in New York City. A lovely book.

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Go, Went, Gone

Summary: 
A widowed, newly-retired classics professor, an East German subsumed at the fall of the Wall into the West, a brilliant intellectual slowly climbs out of his head into an awakened heart through his gradual involvement with a band of African migrants, stranded undocumented, in Berlin. A profound and astonishing portrait of the world we live in and the lives we lead.

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A Terrible Country

Summary: 
Russian-American Andrei returns to Moscow in 2008 to escape his failing academic career and to take care of his failing grandmother, while his older brother’s Russian businesses and properties also fail. This portrait of Russian society captures the complexities that baffle the expat, and the misunderstandings that jeopardize relationships new and old. The novel is illuminating, funny, and affecting--Russian joyful sadness prevails.

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The Life List of Adrian Mandrick

Summary: 
A hopeful and funny and poignant novel about extinction: the dying of species (and a 6-page memoriam to Native American tribes), the planet, family love, the nervous system of an opiate addict. Birds are the sustaining force for Adrian Mandrick, anesthesiologist, father, husband, son-- and he has buried the origin of his passion so deep he can hardly live at all.

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The Glitch

Summary: 
Tech company glass-ceiling buster Shelley Stone is living her most efficient life, gulping the challenges of marriage, parenthood, tasteful luxury home-staff management, with the help of her wearable personal assistant, her company’s product, the Conch. This novel captures the zeitgeist wittily in its own lingo as Shelley’s life deconstructs. Wry, entertaining and too true.

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