Interesting Place

  1. Americanah
    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    A big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. So many different genres: coming-of-age novel, romance, comic novel of social manners, up-to-the-minute meditation on race, as well as the immigrant saga. Opening paragraph: Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of

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  2. In the Time of Butterflies
    by Julia Alvarez

    A compelling story of four sisters during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, written in the first and third person, by and about the sisters. Opening paragraphs:  She is plucking her bird of paradise of its dead branches, leaning around the plant every time she hears a car.  The woman will never find the old house behind the hedge of towering hibiscus at the bend of the dirt road.  Not a gringa dominicana in a rented car

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  3. Sixteen Pleasures
    by Robert Hellenga

    Young woman’s adventures during the 1960’s flood in Florence; mystery, feminism, and sex. Opening paragraph:  I was twenty-nine years old when the Arno flooded its banks on Friday 4 November 1966.  According to the Sunday New York Times the damage wasn’t extensive, but by Monday it was clear that Florence was a disaster.  Twenty feet of water in the cloisters of Santa Croce, the Cimabue crucifix ruined beyond hope of restoration, panels ripped from the Baptisry doors, the basement of

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  4. The Poisonwood Bible
    by Barbara Kingsolver

    An intricate family chronicle of a missionary family in the Congo—where their faith in Jesus, democracy, and civilization is severely challenged.  Alternating chapters are narrated through different daughters’ points of view. Opening paragraphs:  Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest.  I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees.  The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason.  Every space is filled with life: 

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  5. Midnight’s Children
    by Salman Rushdie

    Captures the confusions and colors of India at the time of the Partition.  Wonderfully written. Opening paragraph:  I was born in the city of Bombay …once upon a time.  No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date:  I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947.  And the time?  The time matters, too.  Well then: at night.  No, it’s important to be more … On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. 

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  6. Empire Falls
    by Richard Russo

    In a small blue-collar Maine town that has seen better days, the manager of the Empire Grill tries to make a go of it. Opening paragraph:  The Empire Grill was long and low-slung, with windows that ran its entire length, and since the building next door, a Rexall drugstore, had been condemned and razed it was now possible to sit at the lunch counter and see straight down Empire Avenue all the way to the old textile mill and its

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  7. Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away
    by Christie Watson

    Heart-wrenching and heart-warming coming-of-age story of a plucky Nigerian girl. Opening paragraph:  Father was a loud man.  His voice entered the room before he did.  From my bedroom window I could hear him, sitting in the wide gardens, or walking to the car parking area filled with Mercedes, or standing by the security guard’s office or gate in front. Quotes from critics: “Christie Watson’s debut novel, set in the troubled Niger Delta, does what fiction does best, it captures place

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