Book Discussion Kits

Book Discussion Kit Home

Sno-Isle Libraries and the Sno-Isle Foundation are proud to offer book discussion kits.

Each kit includes 10 copies of a single title. Resources for book discussions may be found at publishers' websites, bound into some editions of the book, or at www.bookreporter.com or www.readinggroupguides.com (Download a printer friendly list of book kits.)

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Alexander Hamilton

Chernow, Ron

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow's biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today's America is the result of Hamilton's countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. "To repudiate his legacy," Chernow writes, "is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world." Chernow here recounts Hamilton's turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington's aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.

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Awards Bio & Memoir History Not so Grim Politics
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American War

El Akkad, Omar

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle--a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself. Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike"-- Provided by publisher.

ALA Notable Books
LibraryReads Favorites
New York Times Notable Books
Oregon Book Awards: Ken Kesey Award
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Americanah

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

...As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu--beautiful, self-assured--departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze--the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor--had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion--for their homeland and for each other--they will face the toughest decisions of their lives. Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today's globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's most powerful and astonishing novel yet.
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Association of Small Bombs, The

Mahajan, Karan

After witnessing his two friends killed by a "small" bomb that detonated in a Dehli marketplace, Mansoor Ahmed becomes involved with a charismatic young activist, whose allegiances and beliefs are more changeable than he could have imagined.

National Book Award Finalist
New York Times Notable
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Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America

Egan, Timothy

Narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire of August, 1910, and Teddy Roosevelt's pioneering conservation efforts that helped turn public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, though it changed the mission of the forest service with consequences felt in the fires of today.

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History Politics Science & Nature
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Bully Pulpit, The

Goodwin, Doris Kearns

...Doris Kearns Goodwin's highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit -a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air. The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft-a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country's history. The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources...

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China Dolls

See, Lisa

It's 1938 in San Francisco: a world's fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest with nothing but heartache, talent, and a pair of dancing shoes. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she guard her reputation like a piece of jade. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition. The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.

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Claire of the Sea Light

Danticat, Edwidge

From the best-selling author of Brother, I'm Dying and The Dew Breaker: a stunning new work of fiction that brings us deep into the intertwined lives of a small seaside town where a little girl, the daughter of a fisherman, has gone missing. Claire Limyè Lanmè--Claire of the Sea Light--is an enchanting child born into love and tragedy in Ville Rose, Haiti. Claire's mother died in childbirth, and on each of her birthdays Claire is taken by her father, Nozias, to visit her mother's grave. Nozias wonders if he should give away his young daughter to a local shopkeeper, who lost a child of her own, so that Claire can have a better life. But on the night of Claire's seventh birthday, when at last he makes the wrenching decision to do so, she disappears. As Nozias and others look for her, painful secrets, haunting memories, and startling truths are unearthed among the community of men and women whose individual stories connect to Claire, to her parents, and to the town itself.
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Cleopatra : A Life

Schiff, Stacy

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Though her life spanned fewer than 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

New York Times Notable

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Bio & Memoir Family History International Politics
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Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening

Sharif, Manal

A memoir by a Saudi Arabian woman who became the unexpected leader of a movement to support women's rights describes how fundamentalism influenced her radical religious beliefs until her education, a job, and legal contradictions changed her perspectives. Daring to Drive is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties and joys of taking the driver's seat of your own destiny. -- Inside jacket flap.
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Dark Money

Mayer, Jane

Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? An investigation reveals a network of wealthy people with extreme views that have been systematically influencing and controlling academic institutions, the courts, and the United States government. --Publisher

New York Times Notable

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Destiny of the Republic

Millard, Candice

A narrative account of the twentieth president's political career offers insight into his background as a scholar and Civil War hero, his battles against the corrupt establishment, and Alexander Graham Bell's failed attempt to save him from an assassin'sbullet.

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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Desmond, Matthew

"In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality-- and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible." - from the publisher

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

National Book Critics Circle Award

Pulitzer Prize: General Nonfiction

Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

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Fascism: A Warning

Albright, Madeleine Korbel

Madeleine Albright was a child in war-torn Europe, a lifelong diplomat, and the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. She draws upon these experiences to understand fascism – its rise, its attraction to its adherents, and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past. (Adapted from publisher description)

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In the Garden of Beasts

Larson, Erik

In this readable narrative, author Larson (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck) offers a real-life, eyewitness perspective inside the Nazi hierarchy as Hitler came to power. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered professor from Chicago, became the first US ambassador to Hitler's Germany in 1933. Dodd, his wife, their son, and their 24-year-old daughter Martha lived in Germany for about five years. Drawing on Martha's diaries and letters, much of the book centers on Martha's romantic affairs with high-ranking Nazi officials and her eventual heroism as she realized Hitler's true character. Meanwhile, her father William Dodd informed the US State Department of increasing Jewish persecution, with little response from the State Department. The book sheds light on why it took so long for the world to recognize the threat posed by Hitler. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Bio & Memoir History Politics Society & Culture WWII
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Invisible Front, The

Dreazen, Yochi

Major General Mark Graham was a decorated two-star officer whose integrity and patriotism inspired his sons, Jeff and Kevin, to pursue military careers of their own. His wife Carol was a teacher who held the family together while Mark's career took them to bases around the world. When Kevin and Jeff die within nine months of each other--Kevin commits suicide and Jeff is killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq--Mark and Carol are astonished by the drastically different responses their sons' deaths receive from the Army. While Jeff is lauded as a hero, Kevin's death is met with silence, evidence of the terrible stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness in the military. Convinced that their sons died fighting different battles, Mark and Carol commit themselves to transforming the institution that is the cornerstone of their lives. The Invisible Front is the story of how one family tries to set aside their grief and find purpose in almost unimaginable loss. The Grahams work to change how the Army treats those with PTSD and to erase the stigma that prevents suicidal troops from getting the help they need before making the darkest of choices. Their fight offers a window into the military's institutional shortcomings and its resistance to change - failures that have allowed more than 3,000 troops to take their own lives since 2001.

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Lacuna, The

Kingsolver, Barbara

In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities. Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico-from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City-Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence. Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach-the lacuna-between truth and public presumption. With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist-and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.

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Leaving Berlin

Kanon, Joseph

Berlin 1948. Almost four years after the war's end, the city is still in ruins, a physical wasteland and a political symbol about to rupture. In the West, a defiant, blockaded city is barely surviving on airlifted supplies; in the East, the heady early days of political reconstruction are being undermined by the murky compromises of the Cold War. Espionage, like the black market, is a fact of life. Even culture has become a battleground, with German intellectuals being lured back from exile to add credibility to the competing sectors. Alex Meier, a young Jewish writer, fled the Nazis for America before the war. But the politics of his youth have now put him in the crosshairs of the McCarthy witch-hunts. Faced with deportation and the loss of his family, he makes a desperate bargain with the fledgling CIA: he will earn his way back to America by acting as their agent in his native Berlin. But almost from the start things go fatally wrong. A kidnapping misfires, an East German agent is killed, and Alex finds himself a wanted man. Worse, he discovers his real assignment-to spy on the woman he left behind, the only woman he has ever loved.

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Lemon Tree, The: an Arab, a Jew, and the heart of the Middle East

Tolan, Sandy

Describes how a simple act of faith and the relationship between two families - one Israeli, one Palestinian - represents a personal microcosm of decades of Israeli-Palestinian history and symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East.
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Liar, Temptress, Soldier Spy

Abbott, Karen

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

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Awards Bio & Memoir Coming of Age History Politics
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Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project

Mayer, Jack

During World War II, Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, organized a rescue network of fellow social workers to save 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto. After the war her heroism was suppressed by communist Poland and remained virtually unknown for 60 years-- until three high school girls from an economically depressed rural school district in southeast Kansas stumbled upon a tantalizing reference to Sendler's rescues, which they fashioned into a history project.

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Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Cooper, Helene

The harrowing, but triumphant story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leader of the Liberian women's movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the first democratically elected female president in African history. Detailing the president, the women of Liberia who elected her, and the Ebola epidemic that impacted them both. A vivid portrait with the rhythm of Liberian English --NoveList & Library Journal.

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Bio & Memoir History International Politics
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Most Dangerous Branch, The

Kaplan, David A.

Journalist David Kaplan makes the case that the United States Supreme Court has grown dangerously powerful – that the nine judges are all, regardless of political orientation, guilty of arrogant political overreach. He traces the history of the chamber from a relatively quiescent one to a group that, he argues, routinely interferes with policy making better left to legislative process. The book, based on dozens of interviews with those who work with the Supreme Court, describes the court’s inner workings and behind-the-scenes operations.

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Music of the Ghosts

Ratner, Vaddey

Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as "the Old Musician" and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago. Arriving in Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of atrocity live side by side. Soon she meets a young doctor who carries his own memories of that time but also shows her a beautiful country on a fragile path of reconciliation. Meanwhile, the Old Musician anticipates the confession he must make. Together Teera and the Old Musician confront the truth of their intertwined past, weaving a melody that will leave both transformed, and freeing Teera to find a new home and a new love in the places she least expects.-- Adapted from book jacket.
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My Own Words

Ginsburg, Ruth Bader

Offers a collection of engaging, serious, and playful writings and speeches from the Supreme Court justice on topics ranging from gender equality and the workings of the Court to Judaism and the value of looking beyond U.S. shores when interpreting the Constitution.

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Bio & Memoir Politics Society & Culture
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New Jim Crow, The

Alexander, Michelle

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the presidency of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control--relegating millions to a permanent second-class status--even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."
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Next Year in Havana

Cleeton, Chanel

Told with a somber tone and intricate plotting, this is a dramatic historical romance following two women, 60 years apart, as they each experience passion and romance in the midst of oppressive political regimes.
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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

Snyder, Timothy

In previous books, Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder dissected the events and values that enabled the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the execution of their catastrophic policies. With Twenty Lessons, Snyder draws from the darkest hours of the twentieth century to provide hope for the twenty-first. As he writes, "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience."

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Orphan Master's Son, The

Johnson, Adam

The son of a singer mother whose career forcibly separated her from her family and an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il. By the author of Parasites Like Us.

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Our Lady of the Nile

Mukasonga, Scholastique

For her most recent work and first novel - Notre-Dame du Nil , originally published in March 2012 with Gallimard in French - Mukasonga immerses us in a school for young girls, called "Notre-Dame du Nil." The girls are sent to this high school perched on the ridge of the Nile in order to become the feminine elite of the country and to escape the dangers of the outside world. The book is a prelude to the Rwandan genocide and unfolds behind the closed doors of the school, in the interminable rainy season. Friendships, desires, hatred, political fights, incitation to racial violence, persecutions... The school soon becomes a fascinating existential microcosm of the true 1970s Rwanda.

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Persepolis

Satrapi, Marjane

The great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor and the daughter of ardent Marxists describes growing up in Tehran in a country plagued by political upheaval and vast contradictions between public and private life (NoveList).

Alex Award
Amelia Bloomer List
Booklist Editors' Choice
Library Journal Best Books
New York Times Notable Book
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Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution

Andreas, Peter

A true account of a deep mother-son bond and the joy and toll of growing up with a radical mother in a radical age follows Carol Andreas, a traditional 1950s Mennonite housewife-turned-Marxist rebel, as she and her young son, whom she kidnapped from his straitlaced father, travel the world, chasing the revolution together.

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Sympathizer, The

Nguyen, Viet Thanh

The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds," a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship. - From the publisher

Pulitzer Prize
International Dublin Literary Award
Andrew Carnegie Medal
Edgar Award
Asian Pacific American Award
ALA Notable
Booklist Editor's Choice
New York Times Notable

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Team of Rivals

Goodwin, Doris Kearns

An analysis of Abraham Lincoln's political talents identifies the character strengths and abilities that enabled his successful election above three accomplished candidates, in an account that also describes how he used the same abilities to rally former opponents in forming his cabinet and winning the Civil War. By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of No Ordinary Time. Reprint. 300,000 first printing.

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We Should All Be Feminists

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

In this personal, eloquently-argued essay--adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name--Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author's exploration of what it means to be a woman now--and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Amelia Bloomer List

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What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in An American City

Hanna-Attisha, Mona

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan who noticed that something was wrong with the water in her city. There was plenty of circumstantial evidence of a mounting health crisis, but there was no proof. When she announced her conclusion that city drinking water was the source, city officials challenged her data and her credibility. This 2018 book is a firsthand account of the Flint water crisis, Hanna-Attisha's research into its origins and effects, and the ongoing struggle of Flint advocates to secure clean water. In it, Hanna-Attisha personalizes the crisis by telling the stories of her patients: Flint's children and their parents.

New York Times Notable
NPR's Best Science Book

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Without You There Is No Us

Kim, Suki

Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields--except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, all under the watchful eye of the regime.

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Your Heart Is A Muscle the Size of A Fist

Yapa, Sunil

Grief-stricken after his mother's death and three years of wandering the world, Victor is longing for a family and a sense of purpose. He believes he's found both when he returns home to Seattle only to be swept up in a massive protest. With young, biracial Victor on one side of the barricades and his estranged father — the white chief of police — on the opposite, the day descends into chaos, capturing in its confusion the activists, police, bystanders, and citizens from all around the world who'd arrived that day brimming with hope. By the day's end, they have all committed acts they never thought possible.
As heartbreaking as it is pulse-pounding, Yapa's virtuosic debut asks profound questions about the power of empathy in our hyper-connected modern world, and the limits of compassion, all while exploring how far we must go for family, for justice, and for love. -From the publisher

Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
Washington Post Notable Book

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