Book Club

The Tracy Public Library meets on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m.

January – “North of Hope,” Jon Hassler

February – “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder,” Joanne Fluke

March – “Virgil Wander,” Leif Enger

April –“Stalking Susan,” Julie Kramer

May – “Sweet Land: New and Selected Stories,” Will Weaver

June – “The Life We Bury,” Allen Eskens

July – “Chronicles of a Radical Hag,” Lorna Landvik

August – “Cold, Cold Heart,” Tami Hoag

September –“Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life,” David Treuer

October – “The Tale of Halcyon Crane,” Wendy Webb

November – “Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon,” Larry Millett

 

North of Hope, Jon Hassler–Master storyteller Jon Hassler draws us into the vividly rendered, emotionally charged world of Father Frank Healy, a priest hoping to reawaken a vocation that he fears is leaking away. Working at a mission on an Ojibway reservation in Northern Minnesota, Frank unexpectedly encounters his old high school girlfriend, Libby, and is swept up in a gripping drama of temptation, crime, and love that shows him how wounded hearts are healed. This absorbing novel, among Hassler’s finest, is a beautifully told tale of blighted spirits restored by the power of hope.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Joanne Fluke–Hannah Swenson already has her hands full trying to dodge her mother’s attempts to marry her off while running The Cookie Jar, Lake Eden, Minnesota’s most popular bakery. But once Ron LaSalle, the beloved delivery man from the Cozy Cow Dairy, is found murdered behind her bakery with Hannah’s famous Chocolate Chip Crunchies scattered around him, her life just can’t get any worse. Determined not to let her cookies get a bad reputation, she sets out to track down a killer.

Virgil Wander, Leif Enger–Midwestern movie house owner Virgil Wander is “cruising along at medium altitude” when his car flies off the road into icy Lake Superior. Virgil survives but his language and memory are altered and he emerges into a world no longer familiar to him. Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals–from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man; to Tom, a journalist and Virgil’s oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own. Into this community returns a shimmering prodigal son who may hold the key to reviving their town.

Stalking Susan, Julie Kramer–Inside the desperate world of TV news, a reporter discovers a serial killer is targeting women named Susan. Riley Spartz is recovering from a heartbreaking, headline-making catastrophe of her own when a Minneapolis police source drops two homicide files in her lap. Both cold cases involve women named Susan strangled on the same day, one year apart. Riley sees a pattern between those murders and others pulled from old death records. As the deadly anniversary approaches, she stages a bold on-air stunt to draw the killer out and uncover a motive that will leave readers breathless.

Sweet Land: New and Selected Stories, Will Weaver–In this paperback original, a stable of fresh stories by award-winning writer Will Weaver (Full Service and Barns of Minnesota) are complemented by a hand-picked selection of favorites from his original collection, A Gravestone Made of Wheat, to offer a fresh, vivid portrait of the changing midwestern landscape. New highlights include “Blaze of Glory,” an enchanting tale of an RV road trip and a senior couple’s “last time”; “The Trapper,” the story of a hard split between an old trapper and a younger female environmentalist; and “The Last Farmer,” the capstone story of this elegant collection that examines the discovery by a high-tech farmer of the history of the old houses on his land. Fourteen stories in all portray the bountiful and whimsical and cruel human spirit and the swirling transformation of America’s heartland.

The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens­­–College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder. As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he digs deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

Chronicles of a Radical Hag, Lorna Landvik–The curmudgeon who wrote the column “Ramblin’s by Walt” in the Granite Creek Gazette dismissed his successor as “puking on paper.” But when Haze Evans first appeared in the small-town newspaper, she earned fans by writing a story about her bachelor uncle who brought a Queen of the Rodeo to Thanksgiving dinner. Now, fifty years later, when the beloved columnist suffers a massive stroke and falls into a coma, publisher Susan McGrath fills the void (temporarily, she hopes) with Haze’s past columns, along with the occasional reprinted responses from readers. Most letters were favorable, although Haze did have her trolls; one Joseph Snell in particular dubbed her “liberal” ideas the “chronicles of a radical hag.” Never censoring herself, Haze chose to mollify her critics with homey recipes—recognizing, in her constantly practical approach to the world and her community, that buttery Almond Crescents will certainly “melt away any misdirected anger.” Framed by news stories of half a century and annotated with the town’s chorus of voices, Haze’s story unfolds, as do those of others touched by the Granite Creek Gazette, including Susan, struggling with her troubled marriage, and her teenage son Sam, who—much to his surprise—enjoys his summer job reading the paper archives and discovers secrets that have been locked in the files for decades, along with sad and surprising truths about Haze’s past.

Cold, Cold Heart, Tami Hoag–Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims.  Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep.  Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together.  But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects. Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school.  Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past.  Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies.  Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed…

Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life, David Treuer–Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist’s storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present. With authoritative research and reportage, Treuer illuminates misunderstood contemporary issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He traces the waves of public policy that have disenfranchised and exploited Native Americans, exposing the tension that has marked the historical relationship between the United States government and the Native American population. Through the eyes of students, teachers, government administrators, lawyers, and tribal court judges, he shows how casinos, tribal government, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have transformed the landscape of Native American life. A member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation, but was educated in mainstream America. Exploring crime and poverty, casinos and wealth, and the preservation of native language and culture, Rez Life is a strikingly original work of history and reportage, a must read for anyone interested in the Native American story.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane, Wendy Webb–A letter upends Hallie’s life. She was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire. Her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie’s father have taken her away? What happened to her family thirty years ago? Hallie travels to where her mother lived, a remote island in the middle of the Great Lakes. Islanders fix her with stares and unabashed amazement as they recognize why she looks familiar and Hallie realizes her family’s secrets are enmeshed in the history of this strange place.

Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon, Larry Millett–When a cunning villain sets out to destroy the Great Northern railway in America, Holmes comes face-to-face with all manner of frontier characters. He also becomes attentive to one woman’s (and suspect’s) charms. But charm gives way to terror when Holmes goes up against an arsonist called the Red Demon.