NBCC board member and Book Babes columnist Ellen Heltzel’s picks for the NBCC Good Reads Spring 2008 list, recommendations by NBCC members, awards winners and finalists:
“Homecoming,” by Bernhard Schlink: This new arrival from the author of Oprah-blessed bestseller “The Reader” may leave a few readers in its philosophical dust—Schlink’s law-prof stripes show more here than in the earlier novel—but it deals with the same theme, the questions and collective guilt that have haunted Germans since World War II. Schlink’s narrator is a young man with an obvious reason for becoming obsessed with the tradition of homecoming stories about soldiers returning from the war, because his father never did. His research and curiosity lead him to a law professor in America who could be a stand-in for all who profited by concealing their Nazi connections, including perhaps the recently outed Gunther Grass. In both personal and political terms, Schlink probes the nature of truth and justice.
“The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird,” by Bruce Barcott : Never question the resolve of a woman who holds tarantulas, shares her office with an uncaged jaguar, and wears claw marks as souvenirs from a previous life training tigers. Sharon Matola, the zookeeper of Belize, seems to fear neither beast nor man, because she also led the charge to save nesting habitat and oppose a proposed dam in that Central American country. Barcott goes on location to not only describe the fight but also explore the tensions between economic development and wilderness preservation in the Third World. Most writers dream of finding a colorful and compelling character as their entry point to a much bigger subject. Barcott actually found one.—Ellen Heltzel