Despite the temporary closure at the Walla Walla Public Library, there are many online digital services, such as eBooks and Audiobooks, online access to newspapers and research databases. See this week’s Washington Anytime Library selection at


"The Secrets of Mary Bowser: A Novel," by Lois Leveen

Leveen's rich debut is a fictional retelling of the life of Mary El, the tenacious Virginian slave turned spy. Mary was born into bondage, but when her master dies, his daughter Bet, a fierce abolitionist, frees Mary and her family and sends the young woman to school in Philadelphia. There, Mary discovers the pervasiveness of prejudice even in the North and begins shuttling slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, work that tests Mary's courage and ability to function in dangerous situations. But when her mother dies, Mary must return to Virginia to care for her ailing father. As the Civil War approaches, Mary courts and weds Wilson Bowser, and with the help of Bet, poses as an illiterate slave in the house of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, using her photographic memory to relay crucial information to Union forces. Deftly integrating historical research into this gripping tale of adventure, love, and national conflict, Leveen brings Mary to life and evenhandedly reveals the humanity on both sides of America's deadliest war.

— Publishers Weekly

"Black River," by S.M. Hulse

This top-of-the-line modern American Western debut explores the themes of violence, revenge, and forgiveness with a sure hand. Security guard Wes Carver, age 60, lives in Spokane, Wash., with his wife, Claire. When she dies after a lengthy battle with leukemia, he fulfills her request to transport her ashes to their first home of Black River in the Montana outback. His 34-year-old stepson, Dennis Boxer, a successful farrier, puts up Wes at the old homestead despite the history of acrimony between the two men. Black River is a “prison town” where the majority of its residents are employed by the Montana State Prison operating there. Two decades before, when Wes lived in Black River and worked as a correctional officer, a prison riot erupted, led by sadistic thug Bobby Williams, and Williams tortured the captive Wes for 39 hours before rescuers arrived. Williams, who has been a born-again Christian and model inmate since the riot, is coming up for parole, and Wes intends to speak in opposition to it. Meantime, Wes, also a man of faith, has a moral struggle over accepting the sincerity of his former tormentor’s religious conversion. Events take a darker, more tragic turn before any hope for a resolution can arise. From the bluegrass theme to the Western rural setting, Hulse handles his story like a pro.

— Publishers Weekly


"Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout," by Philip Connors

For almost a decade, former “Wall Street Journal” reporter Connors has spent half a year keeping vigil over 20,000 square miles of desert, forest, and mountain chains from atop a tower 10,000 feet above sea level. One of a handful of seasoned, seasonal fire-watchers in New Mexico's Gila National Forest, Connors introduces us to his wilderness in this ruminative, lyrical, occasionally suspenseful account that bristles with the narrative energy and descriptive precision of Annie Dillard and dovetails between elegiac introspection and a history of his curious and lonely occupation. Poet Gary Snyder, environmental advocate Edward Abbey, and beat novelist Jack Kerouac once stood watch over the woods, but today, 90% of American lookout towers have been decommissioned, with only a few hundred remaining. The world at large intrudes in Connors's account of contented isolation only in a discussion of evolving forest fire–fighting policies, in which advocates of ruthlessly suppressing fires are pitted against a new generation of Forest Service professionals who choose, when it's safe, to let forest fires burn themselves out.

— Publishers Weekly

“Bottom of the 33rd: Hope and Redemption in Baseball's Longest Game," by Dan Barry

“New York Times” columnist Barry provides a charming, meditative portrait of a minor league baseball game that seemed to last forever. Because of a rule-book glitch, the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings played for 33 innings on a chilly Saturday night into the Easter morning of 1981. Using the game as a focal point, Barry examines the lives and future careers of many of the players, including the then unknown Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken. Barry also profiles the Red Sox team owner, the fans and workers, and even the stadium and the depressed industrial town of Pawtucket, R.I. The game gives Barry ample opportunity to explore the world that surrounds it. Not every Triple-A player becomes a Cal Ripken, and Barry gives generous attention to those who didn't make it—the powerful outfielder who can't hit a curve, the eccentric Dutch relief pitcher with the unlikely name of Win Remmerswaal, the 26-year-old who feels like an old man among younger prospects. The three decades that have passed since the game allow Barry to track the arc of entire lives, adding emotional resonance. Barry is equally adept at describing the allure of a ballpark and the boost it can give to a struggling town like Pawtucket.

— Publishers Weekly


"Girl in Translation," by Jean Kwok (fiction)

"The Bridge of San Luis Rey," by Thornton Wilder (fiction)

"I'll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair," by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck (nonfiction)

"Blind: A Memoir," by Belo Miguel Cipriani (nonfiction)