I can’t be the only librarian who fears acting like a stereotype and so downplays my zeal for literature to avoid excessive conversational references to you-know-what. I suspect others do, too. No one wants to be a cliche, and we do have other interests. Besides all that, we were raised right.
Good manners dictate that we not continually accost folks with forthcoming reviews and author updates, but be warned: enthusiasm bubbles just beneath the polite surface of the average librarian, and should you inquire whether we’ve read any good books lately, we never interpret the question as rhetorical.
Arriving early for a meeting last week, I sneaked in a chapter of Cathy Marie Buchanan’s new The Day the Falls Stood Still, only to be caught in the act of stashing it back into my huge handbag. From the seat behind me came, “Sorry, but I just have to know what you’re reading!” With seconds to spare before the presider reached the platform, I whisked the book up into face-forward position and reeled off a few hasty comments explaining (I hope) my absorption in it.
If the inquirer loves historical fiction (especially American and early 20th century), Buchanan’s book would be perfect for her, better still if the reader is concerned about environmental issues. Niagara Falls is very much a character in the story, as the debate over how to appropriately harness the rapids for hydroelectric power plays out amid one family’s reversal of fortunes, Canada’s role in World War I, and more than one young romance. Central characters Bess, with her privileged upbringing, and Tom, grandson of a heroic river man of near-mythic reputation, are a magnetic couple.
Halfway through my instant book blurb, I suddenly recalled that Lauren Belfer’s City of Light, published a few years ago, offers similar appeal: the Falls/hydroelectric power element, compelling narration, nicely integrated historical details.
This appropriate thought was quickly succeeded by a superficial one: what if I hadn’t brought a well-written, lovely volume straight from the library’s “New Fiction” display and instead had to explain to a stranger a grimy, tattered edition of mediocre prose? Doesn’t this scenario harken back to your mother’s classic admonition to wear your best underwear in case you’re in an accident? If you remember that one, it’s a sure sign that you were raised right.