Book Reviews for Booklovers from The Booklover • April

This Month's Must Read:

The Overstory
Richard Powers  $37

An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits 100 years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These three  and six other strangers – each summoned in different ways by trees – are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest. Award-winning author Richard Powers creates a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of – and paean to – the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking stories that range from antebellum New York to the late 20th-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours – vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful and magnificently inventive. The Overstory is the journey of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn into its unfolding catastrophe.  If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us?

Every Note Played
Lisa Genova  $38

From the bestselling author of Still Alice, a stunning novel of finding harmony amidst the most tragic of situations. An accomplished concert pianist, Richard has already suffered many losses in his life: the acrimonious divorce from his ex-wife Karina; the estrangement of his daughter Grace; and now, a devastating diagnosis: ALS. The relentlessly progressive paralysis of ALS begins in the cruellest way possible – in his hands. As Richard becomes more and more locked inside his body and can no longer play the piano or live on his own, Karina steps in as his reluctant caregiver. Paralysed in a different way, Karina is trapped within a prison of excuses and blame, stuck in an unfulfilling life as an after-school piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman. As Richard’s muscles, voice and breath fade, the two struggle to reconcile their past before it’s too late. With a strong musical sensibility and staggering insight, Lisa Genova has created a masterful exploration of what it means to find yourself within the most shattering of circumstances.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart
Holly Ringland  $35

An enchanting and captivating story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength. After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family’s story. In her early twenties, Alice’s life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert, and in this otherworldly landscape thinks she has found solace… Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert,
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart follows Alice’s unforgettable journey, as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

Following on from the huge success and wide appeal of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, here are two compelling collections of true stories about men and women who have done extraordinary things – they are bound to educate and entertain, encourage and inspire.   

Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic New Zealand Women
Barbara Else  $45

This superb collection of true stories about 50 New Zealand women, who strove for their goals and weren’t afraid to step up or speak out – blazing a trail for others to follow, was written to show that YOU can join them! Some of the amazing women whose stories you will find are Dame Whina Cooper, Janet Frame, Farah Palmer, Lucy Lawless, Kate Sheppard, Nancy Wake, Sophie Pascoe, Margaret Mahy, Lydia Ko, Merata Mita, Lorde, Rita Angus, Te Puea Herangi, and many more. 

Stories for Boys Who Dare To Be Different
Ben Brooks  $40

Boys need to know that prince charmings and brave hunters are not the only role-models, that they don’t need to conform to a stereotypical idea of masculinity. This is a fascinating compilation of stories of men who were rule-breakers and innovators in their own way, and all went on to achieve amazing things. Including different sorts of heroes from all walks of life, such as Frank Ocean, Salvador Dali, Rimbaud, Beethoven, Barack Obama, Ai Weiwei and Jesse Owens, the book is ideal for those who need the courage to reject peer pressure and go against the grain. 

Issue 86 April 2018