Off the Shelves – August 4

The following items are available at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road. For more information on the library’s collection or to reserve a title, visit

Adult Fiction

“Queen of the Night” by Alexander Chee

Lilliet Berne is the sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except a career-boosting original role.

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When one is finally offered to her, she realizes that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her and one she doesn’t want to think about.

As she searches her memories, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, and then from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation and political intrigue. Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, “The Queen of the Night” follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation — or destroy her.

Adult NonFiction

“The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth,” by Karen Branan

In Harris County, Georgia, 1912, the white nephew of the county sheriff is shot dead on the porch of a black woman.

Days later, the sheriff sanctions the lynching of a black woman and three black men, all of them innocent.

For Karen Branan, the great-granddaughter of that sheriff, this isn’t just history, this is family history.

Branan spent nearly two decades combing through diaries and letters in libraries and archives and interviewing community elders to piece together events and motives that led a group of people to murder four of their fellow citizens in such a public display. Her research revealed surprising new insights into the day-to-day reality of race relations in the Jim Crow–era South, but what she ultimately discovered was far more personal.

As she dug into the past, Branan learned a shocking truth: she is related not only to the sheriff, but also to one of the four who were murdered.


“Learning to Drive”

Isabel Coixet directed this slice-of-life comedy/drama starring Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a middle-aged book critic who is shattered when her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her.

In order to visit her daughter (Grace Gummer) who lives upstate, Wendy begins taking driving lessons from Darwan (Ben Kingsley), an American citizen and cab driver originally from India, who makes a living teaching driving lessons.

The two strike up a friendship that helps Wendy learn to take control of her life, and Darwan adjust to his new life after an arranged marriage.