ON THE SHELF: Large-Print Fiction titles for your reading list

Published 8:00 am Sunday, January 22, 2023

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week the library is featuring fiction titles in our New Large Print collection.

Author Blitz Bazawule delivers a story steeped in the history and mythology of West Africa at the intersection of the civil rights movement in America with “The Scent of Burning Flowers.” The lives of Melvin and his fiancée Bernadette are turned upside down one dark night in a diner parking lot in Alabama. Melvin’s split-second reaction comes from his days of the war. Though the impulse keeps the two alive, they must flee with blood on their hands. They pack their passports, empty their bank accounts, and disguise themselves as a pastor and his reluctant wife. In order to shake the persistent FBI agent trailing them, the travel to Ghana to get help from Melvin’s old college friend who happens to be president. A chance encounter with a beloved musician on his way to perform for the president leads them on a journey full of suspense, lust, magic and danger. Melvin and Bernadette’s fresh start spirals out of control as quickly as their friend’s hold onto his presidency crumbles.

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“All the Broken Places” by John Boyne is a story about a woman who must confront the sins of her terrible past and learn that it’s never too late for bravery. Ninety-one-year-old Gretl Fernsby has lived in the same luxe mansion block in London for decades. Her life is quiet and comfortable despite her darkly disturbing past. She doesn’t talk about her escape from Nazi Germany at the age of 12 nor does she discuss her grim post-war years in France with her mother. And she most certainly doesn’t speak about the fact her father was the commandant of the Reich’s most notorious extermination camp. When a new family moves into an apartment below her, Gretel finds herself making friends with young Henry even though his presence brings back painful memories. One night, she witnesses a violent argument between Henry’s beautiful mother and his arrogant father. If Gretel chooses to save Henry’s life, she will have to come to terms with her past and reveal her secrets.

“Where the Wandering Ends” is by Yvette Manessis Corporon. It’s 1946 in Corfu in a poor Greek community and 10-year-old Marco is perhaps the poorest of them all. It wasn’t always that way, however. His grandmother once worked for the royal family where Marco’s mother played with Prince Philip himself. Now Greece is on the brink of civil war and Marco’s mother still hopes that the royal family will save her own. When the war becomes deadlier, Queen Frederica takes a defiant stand against the communists and announces that she will save the innocents of the country by opening children’s villages. The communists open their own camps and children are ripped from their mothers’ arms; entire villages are emptied. Young Katarina is Marco’s best friend. She steals scraps from her family’s table to give to him, but when the communists reach their village, everyone is torn apart, and loyalties are tested. Before their families flee, Katarina and Marco vow to find their way back to the village and to each other.

Shaunna J. Edwards pens “The Thread Collectors” loosely inspired by her own family’s histories. In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans in 1863, a clever young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. If the cruel man she is bound to ever found out, he would kill her. Stella must also hide her love for William, a Black soldier and brilliant musician. In New York City, a Jewish woman named Lily stitches a quilt for her beloved husband who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. When she doesn’t hear anything for months, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him. When Stella and Lily’s paths converge in New Orleans, these women will learn that the most delicate threads can protect both love and freedom even in the most brutal conditions.

C.W. Gortner fictionalizes the story of Jennie Jerome Churchill — mother of Winston — a New York-born heiress who lived life on her own terms in his book “The American Adventuress.” Jennie was the daughter of New York financier Leonard Jerome, and she was born into wealth and scandal. Upon her parents’ separation, her mother whisked Jennie and her sisters to Paris where Mrs. Jerome was determined to marry her daughters into the most elite families. The glamour of Parish was a tumultuous finishing school for the sisters until it fell to revolt. They then fled to Queen Victoria’s England where Jennie caught the eye of aristocrat Randolph Spencer-Churchill, son of the Duke of Marlborough. Theirs became an unconventional marriage driven by mutual ambition and the birth of two sons. When Jennie was widowed early, she bucked convention and brashly carried on a lifelong intimate friendship with Edward, Prince of Wales and later had two marriages to younger men. When her son Winston launched his successful political career, Jennie guided him and was his most vocal and valuable supporter. Jennie lived a scandalous, tragic, and exciting life on her own terms and enshrined a legacy as an American adventuress.

“The Attic Child” is an emotionally charged novel about family secrets, love and loss by Lola Jaye. Two children are trapped in the same attic almost a century apart and are bound by a shared secret. In the early 1900s in London, 12-year-old Celestine spends most of his time locked away in the attic of a large house by the sea. The only time he isn’t kept locked away in the small space is when he is acting as an unpaid servant to English explorer Sir Richard Babbington. As the years pass, he clings to the memories of his family back in Africa though there are times he struggles to remember his mother’s face and his real name. In 1974, Lowra is a young orphan who — born into wealth and privilege — is now trapped in the same small attic. As she searches for a small ray of light in the darkness of the space, she finds under the floorboards an old-fashioned pen, a porcelain doll, a beaded necklace and a message carved on the wall — written in an unidentified language. These meager treasures provide comfort for her when all hope is lost. Little does she know that these clues will lead her to uncover the secrets of the attic.