Author Julie Otsuka tells the story of Japanese immigrants in the first part of the 20th century in a unique way. She describes the experience of the multitude by listing through a single observation of individuals in succession. It has the effect of a survey, but the detail she has chosen in each case is so telling, the survey forms a rich human tapestry and creates a powerful impression of this historic moment. Beginning with migrant labor camps and ending with internment camps, she produces a portrait of hopes dashed after a great struggle. Haunting.
Monte Reel’s new book, Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, The Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by Storm, deals with the fact, known to few, that the first live gorilla was discovered, by a Frenchman named Paul Fu Chaillu, in 1859. There had been skeletons and many, many stories from native people, but no European had actually seen one before Chaillu. Reel is a wonderful writer, who captures the early days of the great evolutionary debate as it was heating up, and does a fine job of the egotistical explorers who wanted to find the huge ape first.
With her second novel, Ms. Penney takes us again into the heart of a mystery where the characters have such deep secrets, secrets they've carried for years, and may not ever tell. The Invisible Ones follows private detective Ray Lovell as he pursues a missing persons case -- a case that is seven years cold, a case concerning a Gypsy girl named Rose Janko. Set in 1980s England, we are taken into the world of modern-day Gypsies, a world few of us even knew existed. But how to find someone who has no paper trail, no ID, no address, no governmental records? Ray may have an edge -- he's half Gypsy himself. Ray is our narrator, a burden he shares with JJ, the 15-year-old nephew of Rose. Ms. Penney's skill as a writer sets The Invisible Ones above the ordinary -- along with an ending that is a complete surprise -- and the searing emotional journey of JJ from innocent teen to a young man struggling to find a balance between what he believed and what he now knows.