ON THE SHELF: Historical nonfiction titles for St. Patrick’s Day weekend

Published 4:00 am Monday, March 20, 2023

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

This week’s column features historical fiction titles in our New Large Print collection.

Sandra Byrd gives us a generational tale with her latest “Heirlooms.” Young Navy widow Helen Devries opens her home on Whidbey Island, Washington to Choi Eunhee who is in desperate need of refuge. The two women bond over their common losses and a potentially devastating secret. Their friendship last for the remainder of their lives. Cassidy Quinn has fond memories of her summers with her gran, Helen, after losing her mother in childhood. Helen encouraged and supported Cassidy’s passion that is certain to lead to a lengthy career. When Helen passes away, Cassidy learns that her grandmother’s beloved home and gardens have fallen into disrepair and there is a large tax bill that is due soon. Before she died, Helen made Cassidy promise she would seek out Choi’s granddaughter Grace Kim and that the two girls would sort through the contents of the locked hope chest in Helen’s attic. The revelations the two girls find will reshape the understanding of their grandmothers and inspire the courage for them to take risks and make changes in their own lives.

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“The Night Travelers” is by Armando Lucas Correa. It’s 1931 in Berlin and Ally Keller is a talented young poet who is alone and scared when she gives birth to her mixed-race baby, she names Lilith. She fights to keep her baby in the shadows as the Nazis rise to power and their deadly ideology of Aryan purity sweeps Germany. As Lilith grows, it is harder to keep her hidden, so Ally sets a dangerous and desperate plan to send her daughter across the ocean for safety. By 1958 in Havana, Cuba, Lilith is grown and has few memories of her mother and her childhood in Germany. She and her love Martin, a Cuban pilot with strong ties to the Batista government, are excited about their future with their newborn daughter, Nadine. But as the flames of revolution ignite, they all find themselves as a dangerous crossroads. By 1988, Nadine is a scientist in Berlin dedicated to ensuring the dignity of the remains of those murdered by the Nazis. With the encouragement of her own daughter, Luna, she will face the truth about her family’s history and the choices made by her mother and grandmother to ensure the survival of their children.

Amanda Dykes’s latest is called “All the Lost Places.” In Venice in 1807, a baby is found floating in a basket along the quiet canals. A guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. The boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with the questions of his origins, but come up with few answers. It isn’t until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers truly begin to emerge. As Sebastien tracks down the answers he seeks, he is well aware that he could not only alter his own future, but also the future of his beloved floating city. In 1904 Los Angeles, Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start as the century turns. He desperately hopes to redeem his past that is laden with regret. On an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay and a mystery wrapped in the pages of a filigree-covered volume. Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets and discoveries and the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.

Bret Easton Ellis’s new novel “The Shards” is about the end of innocence, and the perilous passage from adolescence into adulthood in a fictionalized version of Los Angeles circa 1981. A serial killer is stalking teenagers throughout the city when a mysterious new student arrives at seventeen-year-old Bret’s exclusive prep school. Robert Mallory is smart, good-looking, charismatic and keeping a secret from Bret and his friends even as they become a tightly knit social circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is only equaled with his preoccupation with the serial killer dubbed the Trawler. It seems this psycho is growing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them with grotesque threats and horrific local acts of violence. The coincidences are eerie, but they are filtered through the imagination of a teenager with a penchant for literary mastery. Bret is thwarted by the world and his own innate desires and unhealthy fixations which send him spiraling into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between the Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles savagely toward a collision.

Kate Manning draws on Colorado history and bygone tales of the American West for her latest “Gilded Mountain.” Sylvie Pelletier recalls leaving her family’s snowbound mountain cabin to work in a manor house for the Padgetts, owners of the marble-mining company that employs her father and dominates the town. She is in awe at first by the luxury around her and fascinated by her employer, the charming “Countess” Inge. She is also a bit confused by the erratic affections of Jasper Padgett, the bookish heir to the family fortune. Sylvie’s naïve ideas are shattered when she realizes the contradiction of the Padgetts’ philosophical ideals with their unfair labor practices that have made them rich. Their servants, the Grady’s, formerly enslaved people, have long known this and have plans to form a utopian settlement on the Colorado prairie. The town of Moonstone is awash with discontent as a handsome union organizer along with Mary Harris “Mother” Jones are stirring up the quarry workers. The editor of the local newspaper — a bold woman who takes Sylvie as an apprentice — is publishing unflattering accounts of the Padgett Company. Poor Sylvie is caught up amid the conflicting loyalties, but is forced to act when a harsh winter brings tragedy.