"The Whistling Season, a Novel", by Ivan Doig. Harcourt, 2006.

This was another in the list of adult titles of interest to teens. It starts slowly, as a reminiscence, but gradually the reader is drawn in to a year in the Minnesota dry land farm life of the early 20th century.

There's something mysterious about Rose, who comes to be the housekeeper after the death of the narrator's mother, and her brother Morrie, who fills in as teacher in the one-room schoolhouse when the incumbent marries and moved away. There's drama when Toby's foot is crushed by a workhorse, and when the Inspector comes to evaluate the school; there's a bit of history woven into lessons with the advent of Halley's Comet; there's the foreshadowing of the future as the narrator steps in with musings from his present as Superintendent of Schools, charged with abolishing rural one-room schoolhouses. And there's a heart-sinking, gut-wrenching revelation at the end, as Rose and the narrator's father prepare for marriage.

Without apparent effort, the author creates such a real world, it's hard not to treat it as a biography. I was sad to see it end.


"The Reluctant Fundamentalist", by Mohsin Hamid. Harcourt, 2007
Although the only voice we hear is the narrator's, a device maintained meticulously throughout the novel, we are treated to the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of both the evening street scene in Lahore and the vivid memories of the narrator's education and work in America. Even the responses of his listener are implied, as the story winds up to its increasingly tight, unexpected and scary end. This book would make an excellent classroom or book club discussion title.