Book Review

On July 24, 2013, the very day he fell off his lobster boat into the shark-infested waters off Montauk, John Aldridge had read his horoscope in his old hometown newspaper on Long Island. It said – “You are strong and you are resilient…you will have the strength to survive the current circumstances.” He did survive the current…of the swirling Atlantic Ocean, an ordeal that lasted 12 agonizing hours in the dead of night, with only his boots and a three-inch knife by his side. He wore no life vest – none of the fishermen did.

Though set in the late 1990s in Zaire, the former Belgian Congo, now known as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Frederic Hunter’s new novel, The Uttermost Parts of the Earth, is impressively, disturbingly, contemporary. If ever fiction can inform as effectively as journalism or history, this compelling and politically charged love story, is It. You may want to get out an atlas, though, to follow the horror, as the tribal violence evolves into the Rwandan genocide and bleeds into the equatorial province of Congo.  

Every now and then when it seems the world can’t get any greedier or immoral, a book comes along to remind us that the world’s always seemed spiritually bankrupt to the generations who lived through their own mad, bad times. That’s the implied premise of Southampton writer and historian Mary Cummings’ fascinating narrative about New York’s Gilded Age, which she revisits by way of one of the most bizarre murders in American history and its judicial aftermath, often called “the trial of the century.” At least before O.J.

“More than any other food, cheese has personality,” writes Liz Thorpe in her gorgeous, yummy, almost overwhelming treatise, The Book of Cheese: The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You’ll Love. “Punk cheeses, boring cheeses, comfort cheeses” and her own favorites, based on flavor, texture, scent and surprise, but Thorpe urges everyone to follow his or her own nose and taste buds. Her theme is: take a chance, discover something new.

There’s an old proverb popularized by Mel Brooks that sums up “Fractured Continent,” William Drozdiak’s fine, eminently readable analysis of European politics that made The New York Times Most Notable 100 Books list for 2017.

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