Carolyn Crocker

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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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Goodbye, Vitamin

Summary: 
Dumped by her fiancé, depressed millennial Ruth quits her job and heads home for a year to mind her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s. His record of her early childhood matches her diary of their days together in a poignant, often funny, meditation on memory and presence.

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The Trick

Summary: 
In 1934 Prague a rabbi’s son falls in love, joins a circus, and eventually becomes the great Zabbatini, with a spell for eternal love. In the 20-aughts a boy faces his parents’ divorce along with his 11th birthday, and needs that spell. This humorous and poignant saga brings them together and tells the story of the 20th century with verve.

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American by Day

Summary: 
The events in this sequel track the aftermath of Norwegian by Night. Norwegian cop, Sigrid Ødegård, on leave after a shooting, must go to upstate NY in search of her missing brother. She is plunged into America’s racial tensions and complexities in the summer of 2008, and the book is a police-procedural page-turner meditation on the conflict of values: individualism vs. community. As with #1, Miller is compelling, compassionate, and funny; and his insights are profound. Sheriff Irving Wylie is a treasure! I wish I could read both these books again for the first time!

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