Places in the Heart

In May, I noted that the Chatham library sponsors and hosts a book discussion group on the second Thursday of the month at 4 pm. Currently, the group is doing a series around the theme Places in the Heart—how place shapes us as people.
The first book in the series was Empire Falls, set in New England in a town that is dying after the loss of its major textile industries. Does that sound familiar? The second was A River Runs through It, surely one of the most lyrically written pieces of fiction of the twentieth century. It is set in the West, the place most associated with the ethic of rugged individualism in our country’s narrative of self.
This week’s book is Brothers and Keepers. This work of nonfiction is by John Edgar Wideman and centers on the life of his brother Robert, a drug dealer who is jailed for murder. Much of the book is written in Robby’s voice as he tells the story of how he ended up in his predicament.
Wideman was born in Pittsburgh and most of his work centers in the neighborhood of Homewood, where he was raised. He went from there to the University of Pennsylvania, was an all-Ivy League basketball player there, and a Rhodes Scholar. Currently a professor at Brown University, he has won many literary awards.
The work sets before us the question of how it is that people raised in the same home and the same place can vary so widely in the paths their lives take. Though the setting of the work may be unfamiliar to many of us, the issues it raises have resonance for all.
The final two books in the series are Plainsong by Kent Haruf, and Gilead by Marilynn Robinson. Both are readily available in the library and at bookstores. You will be warmly welcomed if you decide to come and join the conversation.

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