Decoda’s Summer Reading: Maureen Kehler

Join us every Friday in July and August and learn about the Decoda staff’s summer reading picks. Today Maureen Kehler, a Decoda Program Manager, is sharing her summer reading picks.

A Trail of Books

It was time to pack for my three-week vacation and I hadn’t finished The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. It’s a 656-page hardcover and I was 2/3 of the way through. The three female code breakers at Bletchley Park hadn’t rooted out the spy yet. I had been pulled into the lives and loves of these women and I didn’t want to leave them behind. So even though it wasn’t a practical choice, I took the very heavy book with me.

I knew I would finish The Rose Code on the long flight to Barcelona, or shortly after, and would need at least one more book to get me to the end of my vacation. A dilemma – my luggage was already too heavy, but I wasn’t certain I would find a book written in English in Spain. What was I to do but go book shopping? As it turned out, I had hours to kill because my flight was delayed. There were lots to choose from at the airport and mostly paperbacks. I picked Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

As predicted, I finished The Rose Code shortly after arriving in Spain. I carried it around with me for about a week, traveling by train, bus, and by foot. One morning, as I was packing to go to the next town, I decided to leave it on the bedside table in my room in a seaside town called Mataro. You might wonder why I didn’t do that sooner. Um… because it was a library book.

I finished Lessons in Chemistry in three days. You’ll want to read it to get to know Elizabeth Zott who teaches chemistry through her TV cooking show in the 1960s. I loved this book! It is about feminism and equality and human rights with laugh out loud moments. There are so many quirky characters and so many good quotes to use in the future.

I was wandering the narrow streets of Badalona and came upon a second-hand bookstore. It had three short shelves of books in English. I went back the next day, handing over Lessons in Chemistry (reluctantly because it might be one of the few books that I would go back to) in exchange for The Magician’s Wife by Brian Moore. It starts in mid 1800s in Paris and then takes you to Algeria when France is trying to take over northern Africa. Colonial views of the time are examined, then censured by the female protagonist. It took me awhile to get into because I was on an adventure of my own that took me through ancient history, cultural and religious differences, food delights, human connection, and the sound and feel of the Mediterranean Sea.

I finished The Magician’s Wife in the last hour before landing back in Vancouver. It will be left at the thrift store in Yale.

The day after I got back, I looked at the stack of books by my bed, picked up Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez and read it in two sittings. So many tears reading this one. Catherine H. had me at the dedication page:


I was fifteen. You were four.

I taught you drama in a Scarborough community centre.

You were surviving neglect.

Wherever you are, I hope you are safe

And know I loved you enough to write you this book.


I’m leaving this one with my daughter in Prince George.

I hope your summer is full of adventure and reflection and a trail of books!

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