All branches of Marin County Free Library will be closed on Monday, July 4 for Independence Day.

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This installment: disembodied spirits in a school tragedy, an intimate look at slow medicine in action, and another satisfying Scandinavian mystery…

   Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

What if severely injured people could leave their bodies in the hospital and observe life around them? That's what happens to mother and daughter, Grace and Jen, who were caught in a fire at a private school. And that life is particularly fraught, because Adam, Grace's 8 year old son, is accused of setting it. The truth will out, but with many detours and agonies along the way. And somehow the tone of the book is so grounded that I believed the phenomenon. Jen narrates, taking herself disembodied, invisible self wherever she can to find out what really happened. The identity of the perpetrator is a surprise and the ending another one. Very absorbing

     God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet

This one joins the pantheon of  brilliant, accessible books about complex social issues. Sweet's a physician, a scholar, and a fine writer. She worked at Laguna Honda in SF for many years and chronicles that journey here, a pilgrimage of sorts. The institution, a catch all for the disenfranchised, the hopeless cases, flew under the radar for years and could therefore run itself in ways that really worked even though they subverted the dominant paradigm. Then "efficiency" stepped in and undid this funky yet functional setup, substituting reams of forms for hands on care. Sweet is a marvelous storyteller and her portraits of staff and patients are deft, candid, and compassionate. One especially fascinating aspect: her scholarship on the medical theories of the extraordinary medieval nun Hildegard von Bingen. Highly recommended!

   The Stone-Cutter by Camilla Lackberg

When real life gets fraught, there's nothing like a grim Scandinavian mystery series to provide distraction and a peculiar kind of solace. I've read Lackberg on and off and don't mind if the books are out of "sequence.” (Many feature the same cast of characters and setting.) Here one detective is a new father and things are pretty hectic and dysfunctional at home. His wife's friend's young daughter is found drowned and there's a lot to unravel. We go back and forth from the early '20s with a mysterious seemingly unrelated story but of course at the end it comes together brilliantly. There's religious fanaticism, a child with serious behavioral problems, oppression of women, a really dense detective--what's not to like?

Back next Monday

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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