Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Pulitzer winner is focus of reading program

Key West library officials want local readers to be "on the same page" -- or at least reading the same book -- throughout the month of March, when the Monroe County Public Library's Key West branch embarks on its second One Island One Book community reading program.

This year's novel, "The Last Resort," takes place in Key West, and its author, Alison Lurie, is a winter resident of Seminary Street.

The novel, published in 1998, follows a woman who plans a Key West retreat for herself and her much older husband when he becomes quiet, withdrawn and, unbeknownst to her, suicidal. The two become immersed in island life and its cast of characters.

"Lurie is as acute as ever in her observation of human nature," reviewer Ann Skea wrote of the book. "We recognize her characters as particular 'sorts' of people whose behavior we think we can predict. They are almost, but never quite, stereotypes, and half the pleasure of Lurie's novels is in being allowed to play amateur psychologist, share her characters' thoughts, and see how illogical people can be."

Lurie, now 84, enjoys hearing other people's opinions about the characters she creates. She has written 10 novels, including the 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Foreign Affairs." Lurie also has edited a collection of children's stories and written nonfiction pieces.

"It's always interesting to find out what people think of the characters or their decisions," Lurie said Monday from the deck of her Seminary Street home. "People will tell me things like, 'She never should have married him,' or 'She shouldn't have taken him back.' They speak of them as if they're real people."

The One Island One Book program is designed to get a community talking about the same book, and the library will host a series of discussions about the novel.

Cynthia Crossen, a Wall Street Journal book columnist, will host a discussion at 6 p.m. March 9. The Book Bites group will discuss the novel at 4:30 p.m. March 10, at 2 p.m. March 12 and at 5 p.m. March 16.

Lurie will host a discussion and answer questions about the book at the Cafe Con Libros program at 10 a.m. March 17. All the events will be at the Key West branch library at 700 Fleming St.

"The program encourages everyone to read the novel and participate in discussions at the library -- or anywhere else," said circulation librarian Kris Neihouse. "The goal is to have as many people as possible reading and discussing the same work."

Lurie is a frequent visitor to the local library and was happy to learn Monday that all the copies of "The Last Resort" were checked out.

"It's a wonderful library and they'll get anything for you if they don't have it on the shelves," she said. "Key West has a tradition of favoring art, music and literature, and I think that shows through its library."

mmiles@keysnews.com

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