Posts Tagged ‘Floods’

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The flooding Mississippi and our own experinces with a wet, wet spring had us thinking about nature, disasters, and water. So, we turned to books of course. Lisa LC immediately started some research and found a novel she’d never heard of to read and discuss.  J Lisa C reached back about 10 years and then another 30 years and found two books dealing with what happens after a water tragedy.

First – the book that was new to us — In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden by Kathleen Cambor – a New York Times notable book from 2001. Lisa believes this honor comes for good reasons.  The novel provides back story for the Johnstown Flood of 31 May 1889 (coincidence #1 – we recorded this show on 31 May).  The story line combines steel magnates – Fricks, Carnegies, Mellons, their Fishing Club in the Alleghany Mountains, local townspeople who work the Club, feats of engineering, why certain events change liability laws, poetry, an old fashioned love story and a truly large scale tragedy that left over 2,200 people dead.  And, just as Lisa LC finished the novel over Memorial Day Weekend, our state capital experienced its own flood, making this theme somehow more timely and providing coincidence #2.

Coincidence #3 – the first book from J Lisa’s past reading was inspired by another Vermont flood — Chris Bohjalian’s Buffalo Soldier.  This novel deals with what happens after a disastrous flood.  Mr. Bohjalian’s story begins years after a couple tragically lose their daughters during a flash flood.  As part of their grieving process, they take in an African American foster child who had bounced among houses before landing in their Vermont home.  The novel probes themes of belonging and difference, and truly glows when it dwells on the relationship the young boy finds with his elderly neighbors. Why the title?  Well, the retired couple comforts the boy with stories of Buffalo Soldiers – African American members of the US Army’s 10th Calvary of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Thinking about Vermont authors led us to the Newberry Award winning The Bridge to Terebithia by Vermont’s famous children’s author, and superbly nice person, Katherine Paterson.   Coincidence #4 – the tragedy in this book deals with water.  The novel will put a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes more than once as it explores themes of friendship, belonging and the aftermath of tragedy.

We usually try to end with an upbeat recomendation, but failed while recording. So, we inserted new sound features into the podcast, and then J Lisa’s husband Chris Trimble provided coincidence #5 by reading The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman. This nonfiction book separates fact and fiction in discussions about water shortages. We haven’t read it but Chris says the books outlines solutions. So there you are – a hopeful ending.

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A wondrous collection

Pakistani Podcast – click to listen now or download http://www.box.net/files/0/f/26747034/1/f_523392002.

Pakistan seems to be in the news a lot.  Any coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq always mentions Pakistan. The floods this summer brought the country renewed attention for a different reason – a tragic natural event.  We noticed that, unlike the earthquake in Haiti which stayed in the news for months, no one was talking about the floods after the first few days.

A lighter look at life in Pakistan

So we did what we tend to do, we picked up some books from our local library and bookstore about the things we were wondering about – in this case Pakistan.

Lisa LC read and LOVED In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin.  She describes it as a series of interconnected stories about Pakistanis all tied together by a rural farm and it’s owner K. K. Harouni that just “blew her away”.  Not surprising as this book was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. The format reminded her of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpha Lahiri. The writing was superb and having read the book makes her now pay closer attention to any news from Pakistan. Embarking on each chapter is truly like entering another room of wonders that offers insight into the foreign world of Pakistan. Lisa LC enjoyed thinking about the fact the author may have walked our streets in Norwich while an undergrad at nearby Dartmouth College.

J Lisa C somehow chose two extremely contrasting books. The first a political farce – A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif and the second a nonfiction account of US policy in Central Asia Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes uses the true 1988 plane crash that killed General Zia, the dictator who toppled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as a jumping off point. Hanif then creates a story riddled with real life characters such as the American ambassador to Pakistan, General Zia and even a mysterious OBL; conspiracy theories, Catch 22-like commentary about life in the military, life as a Muslim and life in Pakistan result.  Anyone looking for a more comic look at life in Pakistan should try this book.

Descent into Chaos, on the other hand, is a sobering read.  Well written and researched, the book takes a hard look at what is happening in Central Asia.

And of course talking about these books brought to mind other books from their past.

Lisa Christie recalled and recommends A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.  Lisa Cadow remembered and recommends The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad.

Happy Reading.

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