A sweet co-worker gifted me a Lemuria credit for Christmas, and I ran right out and bought two books. Ive finished reading both of them now, and I thought I'd weigh in.
Oyster by John Biguenet came highly recommended, and I absolutely loved it. The plot moved along at a nearly lightning pace, and characters were amazing. (Primarily Therese, who drives the action of the entire book. Dude, when two men are dead by page 50, you know you've got a page-turner.)
Here's the quick version: Set in Louisiana in the late 50s, Oyster tells the tale of two rival families: the Petitjeans and the Bruneaus. Both families harvest oysters for a living, and ecological changes are putting full-time oystermen out of business. Therese Petitjean, a young girl, is offered in marriage to Horse Bruneau, more than 30 years her senior. The match will unite the two largest surviving oyster families, ensuring continued success, as well as lift the Petitjeans out of mounting debt. When Horse turns up dead, well before the wedding, his three sons are sure that a Petitjean is to blame. One murder later, the real killer is still on the loose.
I thought Biguenet did a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere of Louisiana and the region's love of food. As well, Therese is one of the strongest female characters I've read in a long time.
I also just finished reading The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer. The book begins a few years before the onset of World War II, following Andras Levi, a Hungarian Jew with dreams of becoming an architect, and his family. As a young man, Andras moves to Paris to attend design school. He is flourishing there, winning design awards for his academic work, meeting a woman and falling in love, and generally making a life for himself.
Of course, all that stops as Europe is plunged into war. Andras and his brothers are forced to work in labor battalions to support the Hungarian army, and before the end of the book, many of my favorite characters had suffered terribly.
I purchased this book because one of the clerks at the bookstore recommended it. The book is very well-written, but it can be difficult to read at times because of the heavy subject material. Not a quick or an easy read, but one worth delving into if you have an interest in history and a yen for a well-told tale.