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Books That Bind

Building Bonds through books and conversation.  Our club reads a wide range of authors and

genres.  Books that Bind is the official Book Club of the Interchurch Center located in the

Morningside/ Harlem area of New York City, NY.


The club was established in 2011 to build bonds and friendship through a shared love of books

among the various tenants of the building and neighbored.  Due to the Pandemic the Club is currently meeting on Zoom until further notice. New members are always welcome.

The Berry Pickers: A Novel

July 1962. A Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family’s youngest child, vanishes. She is last seen by her six-year-old brother, Joe, sitting on a favorite rock at the edge of a berry field. Joe will remain distraught by his sister’s disappearance for years to come. 

In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent family. Her father is emotionally distant, her mother frustratingly overprotective. Norma is often troubled by recurring dreams and visions that seem more like memories than imagination. As she grows older, Norma slowly comes to realize there is something her parents aren’t telling her. Unwilling to abandon her intuition, she will spend decades trying to uncover this family secret. 

For readers of The Vanishing Half and Woman of Light, this showstopping debut by a vibrant new voice in fiction is a riveting novel about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time.

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320 pages

Average rating: 7.5

323 RATINGS

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8 REVIEWS

Community Reviews

Anonymous
Jul 05, 2024
10/10 stars
Beautiful story

I did not want to put this book down! It grabbed me right from the start and wouldn't let go.
A little girl goes missing and it changes her family forever. Told from the point of view of two siblings, in alternating chapters, and how their lives unfold.
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jB lharrisbooks
Jul 03, 2024
8/10 stars
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the subject, I liked the pacing, I liked the plot and I liked the ending although, I suspect some will feel it tied up to neatly in a bow. I read this on two plane rides so in total in under two days. That said, I would have liked things to come to a head earlier in the book. I feel like some of the characters were let off the hook too easily. There was also great potential for more conflict if things did come to a head earlier forcing Norma to make some hard choices. There were some great opportunities for story missed here. As a fellow debut novelist, this book inspired me. I’d like to learn more about the Native North Americans and find a way to incorporate some of that knowledge in one of my future books.
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Mrs Mooskin
Jun 02, 2024
9/10 stars
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Cheyenne Shepherd
May 20, 2024
8/10 stars
Great easy read there just wasn’t any surprise towards the end at all but overall I enjoyed reading it
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Bestees
May 13, 2024
8/10 stars
Amanda Peters’ debut novel “The Berry Pickers” is told in dual narration through alternating chapters spanning fifty years. The date is July 1962, and the Mi’kmaq family, part of an indigenous tribe from Novia Scotia, arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Just like every year prior, the family and other workers pick blueberries, but this year Ruthie goes missing and proceeds to haunt the family for decades. Joe, age six, is the last to see Ruthie (who was sitting on her favorite rock at the edge of the field eating a sandwich) before she goes missing, and he blames himself for her disappearance. “It’s funny what you remember when something goes wrong. Something that would never stick in your memory on an ordinary day gets stuck there permanent.” In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up with a helicopter mother and an emotionally distant father. Norma has reoccurring dreams of a past life with a different mother and siblings, despite being an only child. Norma begins to question her parents as she grows older, from the difference in skin pigment to her detached ear lobes, and quizzing her family on relatives. She will spend the next several decades trying to uncover the hidden secret her family keeps. The alternating chapters between Joe’s and Norma/Ruthie’s point of view shows the contrast between the two trajectories of their lives and showcases how one significant event impacts their relationships, careers, and their personal and familial wellbeing. Joe’s self-reproach haunts him for the rest of his life. After Ruthie goes missing, Joe’s brother Charlie is beaten to death. Joe wears the blame for this incident, despite his innocence, and further deteriorates in his self-loathing. His impulsive decision after a dinner with his family, in which one of his siblings states they saw Ruthie, causes a lifetime of pain, substance abuse, and alcoholism for Joe. This novel reminded me of Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, though it lacked the same emotional impact. Joe and Demon both share destructive personality traits. Similar themes of loss, abandonment, neglect, and drug/alcohol abuse are present in both novels. Both novels are told with flashbacks, navigating from past to present, but I felt that the non-linear transitions in “Berry Pickers” made this novel harder to navigate and caused timeline confusion at times, which detracted from the conflict and heartbreak in the novel. Throughout the novel I kept wanting more than what Peters was giving. Alice and Aunt June’s relationship wasn’t explored enough as the queer relationship it was. Norma/Ruthie’s childhood as a person of darker complexion was never addressed by her peers, community members, or teachers. She even learns about genetics in school and never discusses her pigmentation and ear lobes with her teachers or friends. Communities talk and it seemed so obvious that she was adopted that someone would have said something to her and she would have challenged her parents to a stronger degree than what she did. The discrimination and racism in the novel was sparse and surface level at best. It is evident when the police officer refuses to put out an APB on the missing child and again when Norma/Ruthie visits Novia Scotia and is asked for her Indian Card. When George is severely beaten the family doesn’t take him to the hospital, yet they take Joe to the hospital after his accident. It is unclear why the family refused to help George. I believe Peters wanted to showcase how the perpetrators wouldn’t be charged since Joe’s family was indigenous and not citizens, but she doesn’t explain the refusal for medical help. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was a fantastic topic addressed in this novel along with the losses of culture and language, but I wish Peters had gone further into their dramatic upbringing and showcased more of the hardships each endured. For those who liked Brit Bennet’s “The Vanishing Half,” I would say this novel will be received in great fashion. However, if readers are wanting an emotionally charged novel similar to “Demon Copperhead,” they will be slightly disappointed.
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