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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Alan Turing

Hodges, Andrew

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades--all before his suicide at age forty-one. This acclaimed biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life...
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Alice Network, The

Quinn, Kate

"It's 1947 and American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a fervent belief that her missing French cousin Rose might still be alive somewhere. In 1915, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance to serve when she's recruited to work as a spy for the English. Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launching them both on a mission to find the truth ... no matter where it leads"-- Provided by publisher.

LibraryReads Favorite
GoodReads Award Nominee

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Baker's Secret, The

Kiernan, Stephen P.

Set in Occupied France during WWII, this follows the struggles and ingenuity of a village as they struggle to survive under a capricious and brutal occupation. A "beautifully written account of the emotional and moral struggles of a people gripped by fear in the depths of WWII" (Booklist). For those who love All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale.

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Becoming Clementine

Niven, Jennifer

After her B-15 Flying Fortress is shot down over Normandy, Velva Jean Hart becomes Clementine Roux and works as a spy with the Resistance, during which time she falls in love with a fellow agent and ends up in a brutal prison.

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Boat Runner, The

Murphy, Devin

Sent to a Hitler Youth Camp to secure German business for his family's Dutch company, Jacob Koopman, the privileged nephew of a fisherman, finds his world upended by the outbreak of the war, which eventually forces him to make a transformative decision about his life purpose. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale.

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Book Thief

Zusak, Markus

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel, a young German girl whose book-stealing and storytelling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
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Boys in the Boat, The

Brown, Daniel James

The dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics, Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together--a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism. An irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times--the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant.

ALA Notable Book
Indies' Choice Book Award
2015 Whidbey Reads selection

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Buddha in the Attic, The

Otsuka, Julie

Presents the stories of six Japanese mail-order brides whose new lives in early twentieth-century San Francisco are marked by backbreaking migrant work, cultural struggles, children who reject their heritage, and the prospect of wartime internment.
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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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Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of An Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

Croke, Vicki

At the onset of World War II, Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees, including on his own "Hannibal Trek." Billy Williams became a media sensation during the war, telling reporters that the elephants did more for him than he was ever able to do for them, but his story has since been forgotten. Part biography, part war story, and part wildlife adventure, Croke delivers an utterly charming narrative and an important, little-known piece of the legacy of World War II"-- Provided by publisher.

New York Time Notable
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee

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Girls of Atomic City, The

Kiernan, Denise

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in US history. At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians--many of them young women from small towns across the South--were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war--when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed. Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it--women who are now in their eighties and nineties-- The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks , The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country's history.

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Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The

Shaffer, Mary Ann

January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Ford, Jamie

In Ford's stunning debut novel, he offers an on-the-ground look at the true tolls of Japanese families' deportation to concentration camps in the 1940s, at what each family lost and left behind, and what two families--Henry's and Keiko's--stood to gain by facing their painful past.

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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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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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Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman Who Revealed the Real America

Hooper, Elise

A thought-provoking and engaging work of historical fiction exploring the life of Dorothea Lange, a fearless photographer noted for documenting American life during the Great Depression and WWII.

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Life After Life

Atkinson, Kate

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she? Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original -- this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

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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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Lilac Girls

Kelly, Martha Hall

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.

The lives of three women are set on a collision course with Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as two of the women strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. -adapted from the publisher description.

Funds for this kit were generously donated by the Edmonds Lutheran Book Club. To donate funds for book kits, please contact the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.

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Lilac Girls

Kelly, Martha Hall

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. The lives of three women are set on a collision course with Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as two of the women strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. -adapted from the publisher description.

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Lisette's List

Vreeland, Susan

From Susan Vreeland, bestselling author of such acclaimed novels as Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany, comes a richly imagined story of a woman's awakening in the south of Vichy France--to the power of art, to the beauty of provincial life, and to love in the midst of war. In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André's grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

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Lost Girls of Paris, The

Jenoff, Pam

Mysterious, romantic, and filled with strong female characters, this is a fast-paced fictionalized account of espionage in WWII.

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Madonnas of Leningrad

Dean, Debra

Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. And while the elderly Russian woman cannot hold on to fresh memories -- the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild -- her distant past is preserved: vivid images that rise unbidden of her youth in war-torn Leningrad. Seamlessly moving back and forth in time between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, The Madonnas of Leningrad is a searing portrait of war and remembrance, of the power of love, memory, and art to offer beauty, grace, and hope in the face of overwhelming despair.

Regional Author

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Manhattan Beach

Egan, Jennifer

Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan's first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America and the world. Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career with the Ziegfeld Follies, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, the reasons he might have vanished.

Andrew Carnegie Medal
Booklist Editors' Choice
LibraryReads Favorites
New York Times Notable Books
National Book Award Longlist

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Moonglow

Chabon, Michael

The deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather" is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact-- and the creative power-- of keeping secrets and telling lies. A man bears witness to his grandfather's deathbed confessions, which reveal his family's long-buried history and his involvement in a mail-order novelty company, World War II, and the space program. - From the publisher


Booklist Editors' Choice
LibraryReads Favorites
New York Times Notable Books
Sophie Brody Medal
ALA Carnegie Medal Finalist

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My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me

Teege, Jennifer

When Jennifer Teege, a German-Nigerian woman, happened to pluck a library book from the shelf, she had no idea that her life would be irrevocably altered. Recognizing photos of her mother and grandmother in the book, she discovers a horrifying fact: Her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant chillingly depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List --a man known and reviled the world over. Although raised in an orphanage and eventually adopted, Teege had some contact with her biological mother and grandmother as a child. Yet neither revealed that Teege's grandfather was the Nazi "butcher of Plaszów," executed for crimes against humanity in 1946. The more Teege reads about Amon Goeth, the more certain she becomes: If her grandfather had met her--a black woman--he would have killed her.
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Postmistress, The

Blake, Sarah

In London covering the Blitz with Edward R. Murrow, Frankie Bard meets a Cape Cod doctor in a shelter and promises that she'll deliver a letter for him when she finally returns to the United States. Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, "The Postmistress" is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women--and of two countries torn apart by war.

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Radium Girls, The

Moore, Kate

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" were considered the luckiest alive--until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America's biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights. The Radium Girls explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

ALA Notable Books
Booklist Editors' Choice
Goodreads Choice Awards7
LibraryReads Favorites
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Rose Code, The

Quinn, Kate

Joining the elite Bletchley Park codebreaking team during World War II, three women from very different walks of life uncover a spy's dangerous agenda years later against the backdrop of the royal wedding of Elizabeth and Philip.

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Storyteller, The

Picoult, Jodi

Some stories live forever . . . Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day's breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother's death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage's grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can't, and they become companions. Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret-one that nobody else in town would ever suspect-and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With her own identity suddenly challenged, and the integrity of the closest friend she's ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she's made about her life and her family.

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Suite Francaise

Nemirovsky, Irene

Published more than sixty years following the author's death at Auschwitz, a remarkable story of life under the Nazi occupation includes two parts--"A Storm in June," set amid the chaotic 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion, and "Dolce," set in a German-occupied provincial village rife with jealousy, resentment, resistance, and collaboration.

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Tattooist of Auschwitz, The

Morris, Heather

An illuminating tale of hope and courage based on interviews with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, multi-lingual tattooist Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism--but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to keep his fellow prisoners alive. One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee

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Unbroken

Hillenbrand, Laura

"On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit . Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit." --Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run

Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year

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Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II

Aleksievich, Svetlana

"Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, War's Unwomanly Face is Svetlana Alexievich's collection of stories of women's experiences in World War II, both on the front lines, on the home front, and in occupied territories. This is a new, distinct version of the war we're so familiar with. Alexievich gives voice to women whose stories are lost in the official narratives, creating a powerful alternative history from the personal and private stories of individuals. Collectively, these women's voices provide a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human side of the war." --provided by the publisher

Nobel Prize in Literature (author)

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Warlight

Ondaatje, Michael

Two siblings are abandoned by their parents, left in the care of mysterious guardians who operate in the dark and the murk. They look for answers where none are forthcoming. In the aftermath of the London Blitz, the city struggles to rebuild itself, one relationship at a time. Written with spare prose, Ondaatje’s story prompts readers to wonder the best way to protect a child when understanding may put them in greater danger.

Man Booker Prize Longlist
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee
Walter Scott Prize Longlist

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When the Emperor was Divine

Otsuka, Julie

Otsuka's commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any previously written--a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times.

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Wind Is Not A River, The

Payton, Brian

A gripping tale of survival and an epic love story in which a husband and wife - separated by the only battle of World War II to take place on American soil - fight to reunite in Alaska's starkly beautiful Aleutian Islands. While John is accompanying a crew on a bombing run, his plane is shot down. He survives only to find himself exposed to a harsh and unforgiving wilderness, known as "the Birthplace of Winds." There, John must battle the elements, starvation, and his own remorse while evading discovery by the Japanese. Alone in their home in Seattle, Helen struggles with the burden of her husband's disappearance. Forced to re-imagine who she is and what she is capable of, she plots to find John and bring him home; a quest that takes her into the farthest reaches of the war, beyond the safety of everything she knows. A powerful, richly atmospheric story of life and death, commitment and sacrifice, The Wind Is Not a River illuminates the fragility of life and the fierce power of love.

2016 Whidbey Reads Selection
LibraryReads Favorite

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Woman of No Importance, A: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII

Purnell, Sonia

Traces the story of mid-twentieth-century spy Virginia Hall, detailing her pivotal role in coordinating Resistance activities in Europe that helped change the course of World War II. Award winner: Plutarch Award for Best Biography

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Women in the Castle, The

Shattuck, Jessica

"Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold. Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined..."-- Provided by publisher.

Donated by the Edmonds Lutheran Book Club in remembrance of friend and fellow book lover, Betty Neidhardt.


Booklist Editors' Choice
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Goodreads Choice Award Nominee

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Zookeeper's Wife, The

Ackerman, Diane

The true story of how the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw--and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Z?abin?ski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Z?abin?skis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants--otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes--and keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.--From publisher description.

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