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Reading Challenge about to wrap up

By Deirdre Parker Smith
dp1@salisburypost.com
The Summer Reading Callenge culminates Tuesday with a panel discussion of the “Stories of Courage.”
As a community, we read John Hart’s latest thriller, “The Last Child,” “The River of Doubt,” about Theodore Roosevelt’s deadly trip down a tributary of the Amazon; “In the Hot Zone,” reporter and producer Kevin Sites’ account of the harrowing year he spent in the world’s many war zones; and “What is the What,” a fictionalized account of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
What a range. Hart’s fast-paced book about a 13-year-old boy searching for his missing twin took readers to deep, dark places in the heart and mind, and was full of troubled characters trying to find their way.
“The Last Child” was reviewed in the Post on May 3. The unforgettable child Hart writes of has the courage of a 13-year-old, and little fear. His beleaguered mother has lost all hope and self-respect, and the people young Johnny should trust have let him down in his quest for the truth.
Hart himself will appear on the panel to discuss this, his third novel.
“The River of Doubt,” by Candice Millard, follows Theodore Roosevelt in an adventure turned disaster. Roosevelt, having lost his latest bid for president, decides to embark on a challenging physical and mental task to ease his disappointment.
Ambitious plans turn into a dangerous journey, filled with hostile natives, disease, churning water and death.
Was Roosevelt courageous? Certainly his companions, who got him and the others through the rainforest, were. Was the former president foolhardy? This is a side of the famous man few know. The book was reviewed Sept. 20.
Catawba College’s Dr. Gary Freeze will discuss the Roosevelt book. Freeze, a professor of history and an expert in Civil War and North Carolina history, is also an author.
Salisbury Post Publisher Greg Anderson will discuss “In the Hot Zone.” Anderson came to Salisbury from Boulder, Colo., and earned his journalism degree from the University of Florida. The Post is a major sponsor of the challenge.
The book was reviewed in the Salisbury Post on Oct. 4.
Sites, a freelance TV reporter and producer, catches a controversial moment of the Iraq war with his camera ó a Marine shooting a wounded insurgent. It brings on a storm of controversy, perhaps his most challenging moment as a journalist.
But then Sites goes to work for Yahoo! and sets out on a year spent in the battle zones of the planet, from the Congo to Israel, from Sudan to Sri Lanka. His goal is to tell the world what’s really going on, outside of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the endless, and oddly repetitive violence can dull the reader, and Sites has overwhelmed us, even with truncated information. Still, his point is valid ó conflict is continuous and global.
“What is the What” was a love-it or hate-it book. Using a stream of consciousness to tell the present, the narrator dips back into his past as he lies bound on his apartment floor in Atlanta, having been robbed of what little he owned.
The horror of that episode cannot match the endless march through the deserts of Sudan as the war moves relentlessly and senselessly through the tiny, nearly stone-age villages of the innocent.
The narrator sees many people killed, and then watches as the boys he walks with die of hunger, disease or madness. Even when he reaches a refugee camp he is not safe, and his move to America comes with challenges he never imagined.
The journey becomes almost hypnotic as the boys walk and suffer.
The What is that thing over the horizon ó the other choice. For these boys, choices were few.
“What is the What” was reviewed in the Post June 14. Livingstone College’s Vivian Mathewson will discuss the book. She is assistant professor of English at Livingstone and has been in education for 40 years.
Moderating the discussion will be John Whitfield, an avid reader and occasional book reviewer who worked in mental health and social work here for many years. He has also taught at Catawba College and Pfeiffer University.
As Libretto Book Club’s Barbara Setzer says, “Whether you’ve read all of the books, some of the books or none of the books, come to the discussion.”
For the past five years, Setzer and her book club have organized the event.
If past discussions are any indication, interesting new issues and interpretations of the books will come up as panel members talk about the books.
The reception, at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, begins at 6 p.m., with food by Trinity Oaks Retirement Community.
The discussion will follow in the F&M Trolley Barn. If you plan to attend the reception, please call Waterworks at 704-636-1882. Reservations are not required, but a count of those attending would be helpful.
Presenting sponsors for the event are Waterworks Visual Arts Center, the Salisbury Post, F&M Bank, Trinity Oaks Retirement Community, Catawba College, Friends of Rowan Public Library, Livingstone College, Literary Bookpost, Miller Davis Agency, Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, with additional support from Marathon Business Center-Xerox, Godley’s Garden Center & Nursery.

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