Review: Gateway to the Moon

Mary Morris’ latest novel, Gateway to the Moon, combines a coming of age story with historical fiction to explore ideas of identity and how history echoes across time.  The remote New Mexico community of Entrada de la Luna is rooted in the history of the Spanish inquisition and converesos, or crypto-Jews, who fled from persecution. But the residents have lost touch with their past and don’t remember why they maintain certain rituals, such as shunning pork and lighting candles on Friday.

Gateway to the Moon (Doubleday Books, digital galley) primarily follows Miguel, a poor high school student who discovers some unexpected similarities between his own life and that of the transplanted Jewish family for whom he babysits. The novel alternates between Miguel and his forebearers, who made their way to Entrada along with Spanish explorers.

This unique novel works hard to wed the contemporary with the historical and for the most part succeeds. But the story of Miguel and his relationship with those around him is most captivating. The interludes into the past are brief, fill in the backstory and tie in nicely with a personal discovery Miguel makes at the end of the book.


Friday morning coffee reads

A selection of stories to enjoy this Friday morning as you roll into the weekend.

  1. Inside the worst U.S. maritime disaster in decades. A recording salvaged from three miles deep tells the story of the doomed “El Faro,” a cargo ship engulfed by a hurricane.
  2. There’s a lot that goes into a riot. Here’s a closer look.
  3. Photographs of Andy Warhol’s apartment, just after he died.
  4. Inside the secret workshop of the Louvre.
  5. The 100 best one-star Amazon reviews of The Great Gatsby.
  6. How the Wes Anderson aesthetic took over the world.
  7. The dizzying story of the largest cruise ship ever built.
  8. The Twitter accounts of famous, dead authors.

What photography is doing to our memories

I joined Kenny Smith on The Best Story I’ve Heard Today podcast to discuss the Vox story “What smartphone photography is doing to our memories.”

We discuss research that shows the taking and sharing of smartphone photos is changing the way we remember experiences. Because of that, what we remember may not be an accurate version of events.

But the good news — in what may seem like a paradox — is that if used mindfully, cameras can actually enhance memories of certain experiences. The key is to understand what’s happening when you start taking pictures.

You can go directly to the podcast or listen below. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the interesting stories discussed on each episode.

Review: The Sun Does Shine

In 1985 Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with the death of two men in Birmingham, Alabama. Hinton was certain that because of his rock-solid alibi, everything would be cleared up and he would soon be released. But due to an ineffective and unmotivated defense attorney and a criminal justice system indifferent to the plight of a poor, black man, Hinton was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 30 years behind bars.

Written by Hinton with the help of Lara Love Hardin, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to power of rising above hate and enduring hardship with dignity. Hinton stoically served as a source of hope to those around him on death row, even befriending and changing the beliefs of Henry Hays, a KKK member on death row for lynching a black man in Mobile.

As we read of Hinton’s ordeal we are left infuriated with a system that consistently turned a deaf ear to his appeals. But with the help of a relentless civil rights attorney, Hinton was eventually freed in 2015.

The are usually two or three books each year that I would recommend as must reads. And this inspiring memoir will certainly be among them. The Sun Does Shine (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley) is a powerful story that will serve as inspiration to anyone looking to live a life filled with grace and love.

Related coverage:

Friday morning coffee reads

An assortment of articles to while away the hours this Friday morning.

  1. Smartphone photography may subtly change what — and how — we remember.
  2. If you want a reservation at this Maine restaurant, you need to mail a letter. “You’re free to mail a handwritten request between April 1 and April 10. They’ll gather them all up and draw names in a lottery on April 11 to fill tables.”
  3. If a Banksy appears on a building overnight. Who gets to cash in?
  4. Elderly Japanese women are shoplifting in search of the community and stability of jail.
  5. Live Nation rules music ticketing, some say with threats.
  6. How Instagram became art’s new playground.
  7. Paucity of phosphorus hints at precarious path for extraterrestrial life.
  8. If everyone’s a “curator,” does the word loose its meaning?

Very short reviews of books

A roundup of very short reviews of books I read in March. The Sun Does Shine is one of the books you must read this year. Everything else I read in March was also solid and worth your attention.

The Sun Does Shine: The are usually two or three books each year that I would recommend as must reads. This is first I’ve come across in 2018. In 1985 Anthony Ray Hinton is sent to Alabama’s death row for two murders he didn’t commit. This is his story. But it’s not a blow-by-blow account of the injustices done to him, it’s an extraordinary story of rising above hate and stoically serving as a source of light to those around him on death row. (5/5 stars.) Read my full review.

Feast Days: This eloquent novel by Ian MacKenzie offers a look at the social layers of Brazil and expatriate life. It’s a subtle examination of what constitutes a crisis versus what is simply the normal state of affairs. (5/5 stars.) Read my full review.

The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond: Physicist and futurist Michio Kaku explores the possible paths forward for humanity. Kaku explains the nearterm options for traveling to Mars and exploring our own solar system to what might be possible thousands of years from now when our ancestors may be masters of the universe. Especially interesting is the discussion of other intelligent beings in our solar system. (4/5 stars.)

Munich: A conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler unfolds as the leaders of Britain and Germany descent on Munich in 1938 to sign an agreement over Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Robert Harris’ extensively researched historical-thriller follows two ancillary figures drawn into the dramatic events. (4/5 stars.)

The Nightingale: There seems to be an endless stream of WWII fiction. This sweeping novel is the story of two sisters trying to survive, and win their own personal wars, in occupied France. (4/5 stars.)

Sometimes I Lie: In Alice Feeney’s debut thriller, Amber Reynolds lies unresponsive in a hospital bed, seemingly in a coma. But Amber can hear everything around her as she tries to remember the circumstances that put her in the hospital. As the story unfolds the reliability of those around her, and of Amber’s own narrative, come into question. (4/5 stars.) Read my full review.