By Anne Michaels
The background: This book was given to me by one of my dearest girlfriends, which is how a lot of my favorite books come to me. It's about a little boy who survives World War II—how he's rescued and how he grows up and gets past the tragedy of what he's been through. It contains unlikely kindnesses of people toward one another, like an older man who hides the mud-covered boy inside his coat and spirits him away, after the child's family is killed by the Nazis—that really got to me.
Why she chose it: There are beautiful scenes of the boy's coming of age and, later, his falling in love after his divorce. I'm thinking of one when he's on a date at a very fancy restaurant and he's so nervous, he accidentally knocks silverware off the table. He's mortified. But then the woman, to make him feel better, sweeps all her cutlery off the table. Because this character has been through so much, you are aching for him to be adored like that — and then comes this wonderful line: "I fell in love amid the clattering of spoons." Michaels's writing is so poetic. I've turned down pages all through the book.