On the racks – November 2020


Across the Winding River

Author                  : Aimie K Runyan
Publisher             : Lake Union Publishing
Pages                    : 301; 967


In her father’s World War-II memory box, Beth Cohen finds the picture of her father with a pretty pregnant woman. If it wasn’t her mother, who was she?

What follows next is a recap of her father — Max, stationed in Germany in 1944, who meets a young married woman named Margarethe. He falls in love with her and after the war ended, he tried to find her, but could not.

Max who knows his time is running out, wants closure and asks Beth to find Margarethe and her baby.  But he isn’t alone in seeking closure. In a private care facility, next to him, is a dying German-born woman who meets Beth and shares a heartbreaking story.  The story takes place from 1937 to 2007 and talks about war, love, loss and sacrifice.



Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Author                  : Isabel Wilkerson
Publisher             : Random House
Pages                    : 496; 2,350


The author describes the social hierarchy in the US which is similar to the caste system in India and the racial divide in Nazi Germany, an idea she worked on while researching for her Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Warmth of Other Suns. She draws eight similarities between these three countries.

She describes the origins of the caste system in America and portrays the struggles of African Americans from the 1600s with multiple examples of cruel treatment of slaves. The book is not just about the past. It is very current and discusses the 2016 American Presidential election and some of the current administration’s policies. Isabel urges readers to think of all the talent wasted, the innovation lost to humanity by pushing people behind based on skin colour or physical features.



The Book of Lost Friends

Author                  : Lisa Wingate
Publisher             : Ballantine Booksaa
Pages                    : 388; 2,003


Louisiana 1875: Hanie Gossett stands behind a log fence where slaves are being held for auction. The young girl watches as her family is sold to different owners. She remembers the  promise she made to her mother — never to forget her family and guards safely one of the 15 tiny sacks with three blue glass beads, from her grandmother’s special neck chain.

The dual time frame novel cuts to 1987 where Benny Silva comes to teach in Augustine, Louisiana. She seeks to make an impact on her unruly students, get them to read, to learn. Benny asks her students to undertake a project to understand their legacy and ancestors. She shares with them The Book of Lost Friends, a compilation of the ads placed in the Lost Friends column in a newspaper. These ads were placed to find people who were sold in human trade.

Based on true facts and records, this story is a combination of history and humanity.

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