Monthly Archives: February 2020

The Confession Club : #3 Mason

Confession Club started accidentally. It used to be Third Sunday Supper Club . . . after a while, they decided to meet [weekly]. At each meeting someone confessed to something she’d done . . . And just like in church, it made people feel better . . .

My book club, the Blue Ridge Readers, just finished discussing Elizabeth Berg’s #2 book in the Mason, Missouri series – Night of Miracles. Someone says,”Did you know there is a new Elizabeth Berg book set in Mason?” The group votes unanimously, “Put it on the list for next season!”

You don’t need to read The Story of Arthur Truluv and the Night of Miracles to enjoy The Confession Club – but I recommend you do so. In any case, I want to give a thumbnail of each book in the series to entice you to read the entire series.

We had all fallen in love with Arthur Moses in Book #1 –The Story of Arthur Truluv. We were enchanted with the characters and felt like we should move to Mason, Missouri in these turbulent times. Sometimes you need to go a place where everyone knows your business and your neighbors accept you with all your warts, quirks and flaws. That kind of book that makes you feel good inside and out without being sappy or cookie-cutter cute.

Arthur  gave a homeless pregnant teenager (Maddy), abandoned by the child’s father, a place to live. We meet Arthur’s next-door-neighbor, Lucille and we fell in love with her eccentricities and hugged her when she needed it. In time, Lucille moves into Arthur’s house joining Maddy, her daughter, Nola, named after Arthur’s wife, and Arthur; together they form a loving family. When Arthur passes on to reunite with his beloved wife, we know he is in a better place.

Arthur’s home becomes the central setting for book #2 – the Night of Miracles. The house now belongs to Maddy. When Maddy completes college, she marries her college professor. The newlyweds move away leaving Lucille, alone, living in Maddy’s house. Lucille’s baking classes have become a booming success and she hires an assistant, Iris Winters; an unlikely choice as she doesn’t know the first thing about baking, to help her handle the financial and business aspects. Arthur’s loving presence is always there.

Book #3, The Confession Club, is once again is set in Mason, Missouri. Our beloved Lucille has passed on (not without giving the angel of death a run for his money). Iris Winters now lives in “Arthur’s” house and is carrying on Lucille’s baking classes. Maddy and Nola have inexplicably returned to Mason and moved back into the house with Iris.

The newest book opens with a cluster of  town women in a weekly meeting of the Confession Club commiserating with each other over mistakes and “naughty” moments in their past that they regret. The confidences are not exactly earth shaking but the fellowship with friends is the point of the whole exercise. In time, Iris and Maddy stumble on the group and soon become members.

The central stories involve Iris and Maddy.  Iris develops a relationship with an unlikely new love interest – a homeless man squatting in a remote abandoned house. As we learn more about the man, I am not sure that it is a healthy relationship but -hey – I’ll suspend my suspicion until the fourth book. Hint hint Elizabeth Berg. Meanwhile, Maddy and Nola’s sudden return to Mason, Missouri bewilders Iris along with the faithful fans of the first two books.

I will be honest. The Story of Arthur Truluv is my favorite. The next two books feel comfortable and easy. Reminds me of coming home to Grandma’s house and finding out what is new in town since my last trip to my old hometown.

Recommended women’s fiction.

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THE MOTHER CODE: a sci-fi novel

 

 

Carole Stivers
Berkley Press
2020
Science Fiction
ARC from Netgalley

★★★★☆

Excerpt from Amazon Book Synopsis 

What it means to be human –and a mother– is put to the test in Carole Stivers’ debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

It’s 2049, and the survival of the human race is at risk. Earth’s inhabitants must turn to their last resort: a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order—an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.

The Apocalypse Begins

December 20, 2049.
The US military, beleaguered in the long war against terrorism and following secret orders, deployed an air drop of deadly nano bots, NANS, in a remote area of Afghanistan. The intended target – the lungs of Afghan terrorists residing in a desolate area. Due to the remote location, the deployment was deemed a low risk for inhalation by persons outside the kill zone. The NANs that were not inhaled were programmed to fall to the ground and become inert.  U.S. military scouts found the bodies; the mission deemed a success.

The high fives were short lived as a rapid-onset virus began spreading through the country. The U.S. powers-that-be turned to the scientists that created the NANs for help. Their nano-tech scientists, having reported that the NANs had not been fully vetted for use, had been kept in the dark about the deployment. Suddenly it was a deadly race to determine if the NANs could be stopped before it turned into a pandemic. But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

In their search for answers, the scientists found the only way to survive the NANs would be to alter the human genetic code. It was possible to create embryos with altered DNA but it was impossible to use human surrogate mothers to birth and raise the children. There wasn’t time.

A small doomsday project set aside long ago was dusted off and put into production. “Mother” robots would be used to perform all the functions of a human mother from carrying the embryo through fetal stages to birth. Socializing, educating, and protecting the children would continue until they had reached self-sufficiency. Reminded me of that early Superman movie where the baby Kal-El is given all the knowledge of his ancestors and information about his new home -Earth.

The story is well told traveling back and forth in time until reaching an equilibrium – the vestiges of mankind receding but the memories and knowledge of the past alive in the Mother Code and her human offspring. The characters are interesting and believable. It was simply told in a manner that seemed more like a Young Adult book but nonetheless engaging.  Inherent in the story are questions of morality and spirituality that challenge the reader to question things.

Reviewer’s Thoughts

As I neared the end of the book, the news of the corona virus broke out in the real world. It knocked me back on my heels. Are there plans in the works now that we don’t know about to sustain human life beyond a pandemic?

Consider the scenario where we would relinquish care and raising of children to robots. I realized it was very possible. Think about it. We don’t even have to parallel park our cars any more. SIRI provides answers to questions that used to require humans to think for themselves. How many people do you know that rely solely on their phones for everything.

Finally, it wasn’t scary but maintained a positive and uplifting message. Those characters facing their own mortal end find the strength to put the future ahead of their own demise. Hurrah! And there’s a secret in the story that I won’t reveal. Find it for yourself!

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