The Front Porch prints book reviews, rotating to a different library or bookstore each month. June reviews are by volunteers from the Park Hill Community Bookstore, 4620 E. 23rd. People interested in writing book reviews, e-mail Madeline Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twenty-seven Square Miles: Landscape and History at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
by John Hoffecker (reviewed by Jack Farrar)
In the not-too-distant past, it was difficult to imagine that Rocky Flats or the Rocky Mountain Arsenal would become wildlife habitats. The former was the site of nuclear weapon warhead construction, the latter for production and storage of deadly nerve gas and other horrific chemical weapons. The conversion of Rocky Flats to a refuge is still a work in progress (and still controversial), but much of the Arsenal rehabilitation program has been completed.
University of Colorado professor John Hoffecker’s Twenty-Seven Square Miles is an informative, brief (91 pages) natural and political history of the Arsenal. You’ll learn about the evolution of the landscape, Native Americans, hunters and trappers who lived on the site, homesteaders and farmers, the Arsenal’s significant role in the Cold War, and how a massive cleanup job once thought impossible was achieved. Fascinating stuff.
Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War
by Helen Thorpe
(reviewed by Jack Farrar)
Denver writer Helen Thorpe’s two books are noteworthy not only for the enormous amount of meticulous research and interviewing involved, but because they shed light on very politically charged subjects without being judgmental.
Thorpe’s most recent effort, Soldier Girls, reflects the same painstaking attention to detail and the integrity of her subjects—three women who take very different paths to/lessons from deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s an important book that combines the characteristics of a novel and a newspaper series. It makes us think about war, sexism, poverty and patriotism, while avoiding the bromides and myths.
by William Boyd
(reviewed by John Krause)
Ordinary Thunderstorms is anything but ordinary. It is an outstanding “no good deed goes unpunished” story. Adam Kindred is the do-gooder who decides to reunite a folder with its owner, a gentleman who inadvertently left it behind in a bistro where he and Kindred had briefly chatted minutes before. In William Boyd’s crafty rendering, a few pages later Kindred finds himself running frantically from both the police and a menacing stranger who assaulted him. Before Adam can stop running, he needs to learn what has happened and why: and, as he does, the reader is treated to a deftly drawn, Dickensian cast of characters from London’s slums, rescue missions, hospitals and corporate boardrooms. A great read.
by Mathias Enard
(reviewed by Jack Farrar)
This novel by French writer Mathias Enard is strangely appealing. It is essentially a 500-page sentence (interspersed with some paragraph-style passages). There is no real plot. The central character is on a train, traveling from Milan to Rome. He is to present a report to the pope about war atrocities. Expect lots of violence and some surprising moments of humor. Don’t let the quirkiness of the one-sentence novel throw you; the book is actually quite readable.