TAPESTRY OF FORTUNES
By Elizabeth Berg (Random House, 219 pages, $26)
When guys go on road trips, they raise havoc, ride motorcycles, get into fistfights. When women go on road trips — at least, in Elizabeth Berg’s world — they eat. Comfort food, mostly: homemade pie, big truck-stop breakfasts, Dairy Queen sundaes and onion rings. One of the themes of this sweet novel is indulgence: The women have suffered and lost and spent their lives making sacrifices, and now it is time to look out for themselves and reclaim their lives. Set in St. Paul, the story centers on Cecelia Ross, who dramatically downsizes her life after the death of a close friend, selling her big possession-filled house and moving into one cozy room in a shared house near Como Park. Cecelia, who has never married, is about to reunite with the love of her life, a photographer who has been living in Tahiti for the past 20 years. Her housemates are at similar crossroads: One wants to find the daughter she gave up for adoption; one wants to change careers; one wants to reconcile with her ex-husband. On this road trip, they find answers to all of their questions — answers, and a whole lot of delicious food.
A White Wind Blew
By James Markert (Sourcebooks Landmark, 400 pages, $25.99)
Dr. Wolfgang Pike is stuck between two worlds: In one, he is a physician trying to cope with the flood of tuberculosis patients coming to the Waverly Hills Sanitorium. In the other, he is studying to become a priest to heal the souls of his patients. One of two doctors working at the overcrowded hospital in Louisville in 1910, Pike has only rest and fresh air to offer as medicine. Every hour someone dies. Music is his solace, and he strongly believes in its healing powers. The instruments in his medical bag are musical ones — harmonica, flute and violin — and he stays late at the hospital playing for the dying. When former concert pianist Tad McVain shows up for treatment, Pike knows that he must somehow encourage him to play again. That sets in motion changes that will alter life for everyone at the sanitorium. Set in the time of Prohibition and segregation, this novel brings to life the desperation of the plague that as yet had no cure. Waverly Hills, closed in 1961, still stands. The wonderful thing about historical fiction is that you learn facts while enjoying a story. A nonfiction book about TB? No, thanks. But I couldn’t put down this story of a doctor’s struggle with faith, hope and healing. In the end, I not only learned about that time in history, but it vividly came alive.
Judy Romanowich Smith