Niles-Maine District Library


Judge’s Results: Round 1, Part 1


Interested in reading reviews/comments about the books chosen for the Tournament of Books? Our Adult Services Librarians (Tournament Judges) will blog about their choice here on the Buzz Blog. In Round 1, Part 1, Ruth S. and Barb P. comment on their picks below.


Judge: Ruth S.

Five Days at Memorial by Shari Fink


Wool by Hugh Howey

Five Days at Memorial by Shari Fink is a gripping recount of what happened in New Orleans Memorial Hospital when residents, staff and patients sheltered there during the storm and its aftermath. The author does a fantastic job of weaving massive detail and complex circumstances from interviews she and others conducted along with photos, videos, e-mails, internet postings, and diaries into a book that is hard to put down.

For most of us it is hard to imagine caring for the critically ill in the best of circumstances. As Fink relates their story we see how lost and abandoned these healthcare providers felt. At Memorial during and after the storm medical staff worked without power in exhaustive heat with little or no communication from outside which seriously limited the care they could provide. Healthcare rationing is a current political topic, but at Memorial it became a terrifying reality. Fink’s book takes us into that reality.

Wool by Hugh Howey is a dystopic tale worth the read. The story takes place in future that is all too plausible. The atmosphere outside is toxic and the society within is totally repressed. Unlike other current dystopian stories, the main characters here are adults. The society is one where its people are protected and safe, but are treated unfairly and breaking the rules means death. Like all science fiction stories this one also is philosophical. It presents to us the concept of legacy that is more than just past experience. It proposes that the past is what got us where we are and we cannot change what has already happened. Legacy is impact that we can have on what happens in the future.

Ruling: I choose Five Days at Memorial as the winner of this round of the book tournament. Both books are good, but it’s not possible for me to choose a work of fiction over a non-fiction book that reads as though I’m watching an award winning documentary film.


Judge: Barb P.

Longbourn by Jo Baker


The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Longbourn: a look at the world of “Pride and Prejudice” from another point of view— the servant’s hall. The Longbourn estate, as you will remember, is destined to leave the family as Mr. Bennett has no male heir apparent. The servants are worried. The heir, Mr. Collins, wants to bring in his own staff and turn out the present group.

A lot of “Upstairs Downstairs” type mayhem ensues, which includes secrets between employers and employees, seduction between employers and employees and yet, I was thoroughly bored.  I will say it held my interest far longer than did “Pride and Prejudice” (Yes, I said that). The author does a very good job of describing the sobering underside or practical side of a staff that worked an 18-hour day to provide really the minimum comforts to the family.

Oh, and yes, there is an orphan. There is always an orphan. Her name is little Polly who metaphorically represents the frightened child in all of us. Yep, that storyline again. I never liked historical novels. You may be waiting for me to say, “But, this one was different!” Well…not gonna say it.

The Burgess Boys is a story of three siblings – two brothers and a sister who is the twin of the younger brother. Both brothers are attorneys in New York. The older brother lives and works for a high-end firm in Manhattan while the younger is a die-hard liberal working for the legal aid society. The sister continues to live in their hometown in Maine. The story takes place in Shirley Falls, Maine, a depressed mill town with a large influx of Somali refugees segregating the town with clear racial conflicts.This is the same setting that Strout used in her book, Amy and Isabelle.

The sister’s son, a shy, friendless and often terrified 19-year old has been arrested for throwing a pig’s head into a mosque during Ramadan.The sister has called in the two brothers to assist in defending her son. The siblings are constantly at each other’s throats – bickering, name-calling and reliving the traumas of their childhood years together in Shirley Falls with one particular incident involving their father standing out in their collective memories. Conflicts extend into geographic rivalries between the Mainers and the New Yorkers.

Ruling: I enjoyed Strout’s storytelling ability as it was intelligent, engaging and full of low-key humor. She is also very astute in “hearing” the way people speak at and speak to their loved ones.



The first two titles to move on after Round One of the Tournament of Books are one from Judge Ruth S. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink and one from Judge Barb P. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. Relegated to the zombie pool after round one are Wool by Hugh Howey and Longbourn by Jo Baker. More Round One results to come. Voting in Round Two will end on Sunday, March 17.


Click here for Round 1, Part 2!

Click here for the official Tournament of Books webpage!

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