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Blog: Staff Picks

staff picks

Re Jane by Patricia Park

Re JaneSummer would not be complete without the recommendation of one "light but literary" reading pick. Re Jane, by Patricia Park, is just such a book. Set in New York at the beginning of the 21st century, Re Jane is a clever spin on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Like its Victorian counterpart, this novel features an orphan of doubtful lineage--Jane Re. The offspring of an American father and a Korean mother, she is being raised by her Korean uncle and aunt in Flushing, Queens.

All her life, Jane has worked in her Uncle Sang's grocery store grocery under his strict supervision. Just as diligently, she has sought an escape out of her insular community.

After the dot-com crash, an opportunity to work in a prestigious company is rescinded. Jane's ticket out comes via an ad for a nanny. Despite the disapproval of her family for what they consider a menial job, Jane leaps at the chance to leave home and live in Brooklyn.

Initially, her new job seems ideal. Her young charge, Devin, is a friendly Chinese girl adopted by academics, Ed Farley and Beth Mazur. Ed is younger than Beth, a man whose working class roots sharply contrast with those of his wife. He is both seductive and brooding--our latter-day Rochester. Beth is a women's studies scholar, a woman who writes obtuse articles, such as "Wanting a Piece of Fanny: Male Dominance and Violation in Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park.'" She is well-meaning but humorless, prone to extreme views on organic foods and women's issues. In short, she is a parody of a liberal academic.

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08/25/15
 

Once Upon a Time in Russia by Ben Mezrich

Once Upon a Time in RussiaAt one time Russia had a group of men who unofficially ran the country. Most, rising from humble beginnings, took advantage of the opening of the Russian state to more democratic methods. With the opportunity to take over previously state controlled industries, these men grew to be fabulously wealthy. They controlled the business, finances and most important, the government of Russia, all with out being elected or even officially appointed.

Foremost among these was a man named Boris Berezovsky. He got his start in the car sales business and taking advantage of opportunities he and his friends created, he eventually became known as the "Godfather of the Kremlin." Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, was his friend, and also beholden to him for his rise to power. Berezovsky helped others along this path, becoming their protectors or their krysha, literally, their roof.

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08/18/15
 

The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora

index 1.aspxThe Wonder Garden, by Lauren Acampora, is a collection of inter-connected stories set in an affluent suburb called Old Cranbury, complete with beautiful homes and tree-lined streets. Its inhabitants are well-educated and gainfully employed. They comprise the top one percent of the economic stratosphere.

Yet every Eden has its snake, whether it is in the form of infidelity, marital ennui, or illness. Everyone has a secret longing or regret. And even the most successful among us may feel unfulfilled.

Take, for example, the financial genius, Harold. Although he is brilliant in business, has the perfect home and a devoted family, he longs to be a doctor. When his wife is diagnosed with a non-malignant tumor, he bribes her doctor with a gift to the hospital of $200,000 (and a threat of malpractice) for the privilege of watching the surgery.

But Harold is not the only person to misuse power. The brain surgeon, Michael--revered as a god among men--has a double life. He lures unsuspecting women into his bed, all the while pretending to be single. It is his after-hours life-on-the-edge--until he lures the wrong woman...

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08/11/15
 

The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret

SevenGoodYrsIn this amazing collection of essays by short story writer Etgar Keret, life in Israel is viewed with wit and humor.

Despite Ketet's political views, The Seven Good Years is not a left-leaning treatise. It is an entertaining and touching collection that uses the birth of Keret's son in the first essay (Year One) and the death of his father (Year Seven) as beginning and end points. In between is a rich tapestry of vignettes that explore growing up as one of three children in a loving home. What makes this home unique is that both of his parents are Holocaust survivors.

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08/05/15
 

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