OutreachNC’s 2019 Book Club – Beneath a Scarlet Sky

We end our year-long book club with an epic, soaring novel: Mark Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky. We weren’t sure what to expect, but with over 27,000 reviews on Amazon and a solid 4.5 star rating, we were eager to dig in. This novel did not disappoint, and we were surprised by how quickly we got caught up in the story of Pino Lella, an Italian teenage boy who loves what most boys love: girls, friends and his family. This novel marries two of the things we love most in literature – history and suspense. Add in a dash of love, and it’s a full-blown saga. With that in mind, here are 5 Thoughts on Beneath a Scarlet Sky and a few thoughts on the books we’ve read this year and our official pick as our favorite! 

One of our favorite parts of Sullivan’s book is actually before the novel starts, when Sullivan describes his own state of mind and life circumstances before he began writing his story. We appreciate an author who can be so honest.  

Sullivan is a Returned Peace Corps volunteer (Niger), which has nothing at all to do with his novel but which makes him good people, obviously. 

This novel is based on a true story, on real people, and the author does a great job of marrying fiction and non-fiction. That’s not always the case when non-fiction writers attempt to write fiction and vice versa. It’s not a seamless example of either one, of course, but it’s solid and readable. 

For anyone interested in WWII history, seeing it from the Italian perspective is one of the highlights of this novel. The suffering of Italians under Mussolini and Hitler is explored here, which is often overlooked. 

Jeeves gave this novel 4 stars. He said the writing was, he admits, a bit simplistic, but the story won him over. Jeeves is, after all, a romantic at heart. He also suggests The Nightingale, All the Light We Cannot See and The Alice Network if you enjoy Beneath a Scarlet Sky

We have loved sharing books with our readers this year. It has been a ride of ups and downs. We have adored some books and abhorred others. Yes, abhorred. We have debated style and substance, rallied behind our favorite characters, discovered new authors, revisited our own relationships and regretted spending $15 of hard-earned money on what would be relegated to a donation pile, even if we understand what is one woman’s trash is another’s treasure. Such is the life of a book-lover. There are hits and misses, but we learn, grow and move forward, grateful to engage and travel to the world through the eyes and experiences of new characters. 

Here is our short-list of favorites from the year, based entirely on emotion and personal opinion. 

Amy, Editor in Chief – Our Souls at Night

Beautifully written and relatable, Haruf’s last novel is an homage to the power of connection and the fact that we all need to be touched and heard and to simply lay in the presence of another human being, even in the dark of night – especially in the dark of night. 

Jeeves, Feline in Chief – Who is Vera Kelly? 

A smart, quirky heroine with depth and a story with twists and turns? Jeeves is a fan. Toss in CIA antics and questions about self, and he can’t deny he loved this pick. 

Finally, from all of the emails, comments, social media posts and letters, we’ve determined which book struck a cord with you all…. our fabulous readers. 

Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World received the most feedback from readers, and all of it was positive and appreciative. You loved Alexander’s writing and her message, and her book made you think about your own marriages, relationships and lives. This is, we think, the sign of fine writing, indeed. 

One of our readers, Ann, wrote this:

I read The Light of the World that you suggested in your monthly book club. I loved it. The writing was beautiful and the descriptions haunting. It was touching, and so sad in many places that I had to stop reading, and went back to it later. It made me think of my marriage of 49 years. 

Thank you, Ann, for such a thoughtful and touching letter to the editor. We feel much the same way, even if we haven’t yet celebrated 49 years. 

Thank you to everyone who reached out, read along and let us know your thoughts on the books we delved into this year. As 2019 closes out and we look forward to a new year, we are grateful to ride along on this journey together and excited for what 2020 will bring us in the way of characters, plot lines and character struggle!