4 books, 4 struggles for October reading

By: D.G. Martin - Contributing Columnist

Could a miracle hair straightening ignite a deadly epidemic? Can a scientist persuade you that the findings of his discipline show the existence of God? Can the research and experience of a young woman struggling to have a child provide aid and comfort to others in the same struggle? Can a best selling-author of legal thrillers change genres and write a successful literary thriller?

Four books I suggest for your October reading will provide answers to these questions. When UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch opens its new season in October, it will feature all of these books.

One of the great challenges for women with curly hair who want it to be straight is finding a beauty product to do that job. If there were a miracle natural product that worked well, it would be a roaring success. In UNC-Chapel Hill’s Michele Tracy Berger’s new novel “Reenu-You,” that success comes with consequences when a virus develops in the product’s users. It spreads across the country, leaving painful illness and death in its wake. In this setting Berger brings together five infected women, who meet for the first time, and struggle to beat the epidemic and the challenges to their relationships with each other.

As discussed in earlier columns, PhD chemist and former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin’s new book, “Revelation Through Science: Evolution in the Harmony of Science and Religion,” argues that belief in God and the findings of science are not incompatible. Whether or not you agree with this conclusion, his 400-page book is a comprehensive and remarkably understandable survey of astronomy, physics, biology, evolution, geology, paleontology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genomics, including efforts to spark living organisms from inert chemicals.

In a poignant magazine essay several years ago, a young N.C. State writing teacher, Belle Boggs, explored her deepest feelings about her seeming inability to have a much-desired child. She dealt with themes of hope, loss, and identity and explored the hosts of medical diagnoses and treatments as well as the human toll those things take. Because the essay struck a chord with so many people, she expanded that essay into a book, “The Art of Waiting; On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood.”

Boggs lays out the many other aspects of fertility and infertility, including financial and legal complications that often accompany the regimen of treatments and results, both successful and unsuccessful.

When John Grisham’s “Camino Island” hit the bookshelves in June, some observers warned that its departure from his tried and true success formula of legal thrillers would doom its chances for success. Also, they noted that the new book’s June release broke his customary October pattern. And, they worried, the new book would compete with Grisham’s then latest best-seller “The Whistler.”

They should not have worried. “The Whistler” continued to sell for months, and “Camino Island” immediately jumped to No.1 on The New York Times best-seller list and has remained high on that list all summer.

How did Grisham break the mold and still produce a successful book? Although the new book is technically not a legal thriller because lawyers play only minor roles, it is still a Grisham thriller, with clever plot lines and a surprise ending. The Grisham magic is still there.

Much of the action is set around Bruce Cable, a Florida rare book dealer and bookstore owner, who is suspected of possessing the original manuscripts of “The Great Gatsby” and four other novels written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. They have been stolen from the Princeton University library. Cable is the center of a group of writers, fans, and book collectors on Camino Island, a small resort community near Jacksonville, Florida. Insurance company investigators recruit a young novelist and UNC-Chapel Hill teacher to infiltrate the literary group and try to smoke out if and where Cable has the stolen papers.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.


D.G. Martin

Contributing Columnist