Whether or not you belong to a book club, you will enjoy Kathy L. Patrick’s new book, The Pulpwood Queen’s Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. Patrick worked happily as a publisher’s sales rep, traveling to independent bookstores until 1999, when chain store depredations decimated the ranks of locally owned stores. Her position was eliminated and she was out of a job. When she emerged from her post-layoff funk, she had to find other employment. In a brilliant, if quixotic, move, she decided to combine her two passions and opened Beauty and the Book, a combination beauty salon and bookstore. Shortly afterwards, she started the Pulpwood Queens book club, which grew into a nationwide phenomenon and made Kathy Patrick a well-known champion for literacy. Her new book tells the story of how she managed to find her purpose, create her dream job and help her empower other women to do the same thing. Her book is filled with stories of her childhood, her love of books, her wonderful girlfriends, her supportive family, and it is seasoned with quotes from her favorite authors and Pulpwood Queens from all over America. Every chapter ends with a list of recommended reading, slanted heavily towards Southern authors, since Patrick lives in Texas and supports her regional authors whole-heartedly. Despite its religious overtones, this is a fun, quick read, likely to inspire both book clubs and general readers. Take a chance and move beyond Oprah books!
Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker by Stacy A. Cordery, is a terrific biography. Everyone knows about Alice’s needlepoint pillow emblazoned with “If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me” and her father, Teddy Roosevelt’s, resigned comment, “I can be President of the United States—or—I can attend to Alice, I cannot possibly do both!” These well-known stories are merely the tip of the iceberg of the fascinating life of Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Her birth in 1884 to Teddy’s much-loved first wife was followed by her mother’s and grandmother’s (TR’s mother) deaths two days later. By the time her father became president following McKinley’s assassination, Alice had a step-mother and a crew of half-siblings competing for her father’s time. When she became First Daughter and “Princess Alice” in the newspapers, she managed to get the attention she’d wanted all her life. In addition to her taboo-breaking behavior (smoking cigarettes, speeding in her little red roadster, spending extravagantly on clothes), Alice became a helpful, non-official goodwill ambassador for her father, who appreciated her political acumen. She married Nicholas Longworth, a congressman from Ohio who later became Speaker of the House, and continued to put her political abilities to good use. She and her husband entertained many prominent politicians; Alice’s salon was the place to see and be seen in Washington, DC. Cordery drew on recently unearthed letters and diaries to research this biography; the intimate details of Alice’s love affairs and the paternity of her daughter are confirmed for the first time. The political divide between the Republican Roosevelts and the Democratic Franklin Roosevelts are also explored at length; Alice backed Republican candidates all her life, although she managed to be good friends with the Kennedys despite their political differences. Cordery does an admirable job of bringing Alice to life; her writing is crisp, clear and compelling. Like Katherine Graham’s autobiography, Personal History, this is a well-written tale of a DC insider that will interest readers who are not DC insiders. Thoroughly enjoyable!
Continuing the political theme, we have Sue Miller’s newest novel, The Senator’s Wife. It really has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with marriages and how they are conducted between two people, no matter what their friends’ and family’s opinions are. Meri is a newly married woman who just moved with her husband to a town house in a staid New England village. Their new next door neighbors are Delia Naughton and her husband, the famous senator Tom Naughton. There is something odd about the marriage next door, though—Tom doesn’t appear to live there. When Delia leaves town for her annual sojourn in Paris, Meri keeps an eye on the house, does a little snooping and finds out a secret about Delia and Tom’s relationship. How that secret and her illicit knowledge of it almost breaks up both marriages is at the core of this compelling novel. Sue Miller does a great job of exploring the nuances of marriages, both old and new. This novel is likely to be a bog book club choice when it comes out in paperback.
Susan Taylor has been in the book business, in one aspect or another, since 1982. She spent 14 years in the Boston area (which included stints at the Harvard Bookstore and the Wellesley Booksmith) and now works at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. Stop by the store if you are looking for a good book—she’s read a lot more than she can talk about here!