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Books about the past


Books about the past

The Secrets We Kept

Lara Prescott

Prescott’s highly publicized debut novel focuses on the CIA’s 1950s use of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, which Soviet leaders tried to suppress. The agency uses two former typists, now spies, to get its hands on the book, since women could go where men couldn’t. Meanwhile in Russia, Pasternak labors away, sacrificing to get his novel published, and his mistress sacrifices even more: She goes to the Gulag to protect his secrets. The story, improbable but based on historical fact, weaves back and forth between Russia and the United States and includes a nongraphic lesbian relationship between the two typists.

Sold on a Monday

Kristina McMorris

Ellis Reed, a Depression-era reporter, sees two young children on a porch with a sign reading “2 children for sale.” He snaps a photo. But later, when the photo and negative become damaged, he stages another photo with different kids. That ethical shortcut leads to a series of tragic events, which Reed tries to undo. Spurring him on—and working with him—is Lily, the publisher’s secretary and an aspiring columnist. In this historical novel, McMorris portrays desperate parents and those willing to take advantage of their desperation. Lily’s backstory, which includes an unwed pregnancy, shows respect for unborn life.

The Poppy Wife

Caroline Scott

Set in 1921, this novel follows Edie and her brother-in-law, Harry, as they pick up the pieces after the Great War. Harry lost two brothers in the fighting—one died and one is missing. Edie’s husband, Francis, is the missing one, and she believes he might be alive. Harry searches as he takes photos of gravesites for families back in Britain. Edie looks for the setting of her last photo of Francis. Though slow in parts, Scott’s novel, which releases Nov. 5, makes vivid the physical devastation caused by the war and the shattered lives left behind.

One Day

Gene Weingarten

Here’s the idea behind the book: “Select an ordinary day at random, report it deeply, then tell it like it happened—from midnight to midnight.” The day turns out to be Dec. 28, 1986. Journalist Weingarten does a deep dive into events of the day: The research and writing took six years and more than 500 interviews. The result is a series of compelling stories that show human beings at their best and worst. It includes a groundbreaking surgery, fire, murder, and ordinary moments in sad and tragic lives.



Debra Moerke (Handout)


Debra Moerke’s Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace (Tyndale Momentum, 2019) tells how the Moerkes fostered a newborn who had cocaine in her system at birth. Before long the family was caring for the baby’s four siblings from two different fathers. When the authorities unexpectedly returned the children to their mother, one child died, though it took 10 months for the truth to come out. This book tells an awful story of parental cruelty, forgiveness, and God’s grace displayed through the Moerkes.

In If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now (Harper, 2019), Washington Post data journalist Christopher Ingraham tells how he uprooted his family—his government employee wife and 2-year-old twins—from Baltimore to Red Lake County, Minn., a place he had written about as “the worst place to live in America.” At times funny in a fish-out-of-water way, the book is also about the humbling of an East Coast elitist who comes to appreciate elements of small-town life. —S.O.


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  • BB
    Posted: Sat, 11/09/2019 10:01 pm

    I would really appreciate warnings about profanity.   The Poppy Wife disappointed with sudden,  harsh profanity.  Since you're reviewing for Christians,  this seams important to include in reviews.   There are so many excellent secular novels without the profanity.