Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Mini-Reviews: Earth's The Right Place For Love by Elizabeth Berg and The Best Strangers In The World: Stories From A Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro

Earth's The Right Place For Love
by Elizabeth Berg
288 pages
Published March 2023 by Random House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
Nola McCollum is the most desirable girl in Arthur's class, and he is thrilled when they become friends. But Arthur wants far more than friendship. Unfortunately, Nola has a crush on the wrong Moses--Arthur's older brother, Frank, who is busy pursuing his own love interest and avoiding the boys' father, a war veteran with a drinking problem and a penchant for starting fights. When a sudden tragedy rocks the family's world, Arthur struggles to come to terms with his grief. In the end, it is nature that helps him to understand how to go on, beyond loss, and create a life of forgiveness and empathy. But what can he do about Nola, who seems confused about what she wants in life, and only half aware of the one who loves her most? 

Full of unforgettable characters and written with Elizabeth Berg's characteristic warmth, humor, and insight into people, Earth's the Right Place for Love is about the power of kindness, character, and family, and how love can grow when you least expect it.

My Thoughts: 
When I went to pull the details about this book, I noticed that it is actually a prequel to one of Berg's previous books, The Story of Arthur Truluv. I wish I had seen that sooner. One of two things might have happened: a) I might have passed on this one entirely, not having read the other book; or, b) the ending wouldn't have been so disappointing for me. 

Arthur is an interesting young man - bright, devoted to his mother and adoring of his brother, enamored of nature almost as much as he is of Nola, and just beginning to understand the world around him.

The book deals with some difficult subject matters - depression, abuse, death and grief - and Berg addresses them with a gentle hand, in line with the pace of life in a small town. But I felt that I knew how the book was going to end from the start; with just a few dozen pages left in the book, I couldn't figure out how Berg was going to get there. And then, suddenly, within a few pages, everything works out. Had I read the first book, I would have understood that this book was about the journey because the destination was a foregone conclusion. Still, I would have liked the ending to be a bit more drawn out. 

The Best Strangers In The World: Stories From A Life Spent Listening 
by Ari Shapiro
256 pages
Published March 2023 by HarperOne
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
Praise for The Best Strangers in the World “ The Best Strangers in the World is a witty, poignant book that captures Ari Shapiro’s love for the unusual, his pursuit of the unexpected, and his delight at connection against the odds.”—Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and New York Times -bestselling author of Catch and Kill and War on Peace From the beloved host of NPR's All Things Considered, a stirring memoir-in-essays that is also a lover letter to journalism. In his first book, broadcaster Ari Shapiro takes us around the globe to reveal the stories behind narratives that are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always poignant. He details his time traveling on Air Force One with President Obama, or following the path of Syrian refugees fleeing war, or learning from those fighting for social justice both at home and abroad. As the self-reinforcing bubbles we live in become more impenetrable, Ari Shapiro keeps seeking ways to help people listen to one another; to find connection and commonality with those who may seem different; to remind us that, before religion, or nationality, or politics, we are all human. The Best Strangers in the World is a testament to one journalist’s passion for Considering All Things—and sharing what he finds with the rest of us.

My Thoughts: 
I have "known" Ari Shapiro since before he started hosting All Things Considered for NPR in 2015. Which goes to show you what a consummate professional he is. That's the only part of Ari Shapiro I knew. And while that part of Shapiro is on full display in this collection of stories, what's also on display is the personal life of Shapiro, a man who's been different since he was born, one of the few Jews in Fargo, ND. He and his brother would go from classroom to classroom teaching the other students about Hannukah. He was the first person to come out in his high school. I'm certain that part of his desire to tell stories from a human point of view stems from his inherent personality, I'm equally certain that having been a young man who was constantly trying to help other people understand him, he knew that he wasn't alone in wanting that. 

This collection has it all, from the kinds of stories you'd expect an NPR report to have at hand to truly funny stories to very personal stories. His life didn't lead him where he thought it would (theater), until he did, when he began performing with the group Pink Martini during vacations from NPR and doing a cabaret show with actor Alan Cumings. He's met world leaders, leaders in the arts, and journalistic titans but the best stories are the ones where Shapiro introduces us the the individuals at the heart of the stories. Bravo, Ari Shapiro; this is a terrific collection! 

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of the book before, so thanks for the review. I added it to my list to read this year.