Read, Drink, Listen: July 2017

Exit West

An incredibly timely novel, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid follows the story of Nadia and Saeed, two young people from an unnamed country who find themselves falling in love while their country is falling apart. This is a beautifully written story that gives us a glimpse of what it might be like to weigh the cost of staying in your increasingly dangerous homeland or trying to escape to a new place. Hamid packs a lot into this relatively short book and manages to present the reality of a refugee experience without over-sensationalizing. The relationship between Nadia and Saeed is intriguing, as we see how the stress of life-and-death situations—as well as the recovery from them—can impact the natural development and progression of a relationship. Readers will find much to relate to as they navigate what they truly want in the midst of their upended world.

- Raela Schoenherr is an editor at a Minnesota publishing company. She loves to talk books and writing on Twitter at @raelaschoenherr.

Chenin Blanc

This month, I’ve chosen a most refreshing and crisp white wine, complete with a stelvin (screw-cap) enclosure for your patio convenience.  This is such a great value. Man Family Wines of South Africa makes many varietals, but their chenin blanc, known in South Africa as “steen,” is their forte. Chenin blanc can vary in style from very sweet dessert wines to an off-dry Vouvray, or be very crisp, lively, and sometimes quite ageable. This selection is unoaked with lively tropical fruit, and a fresh, crisp acidity.  It’s perfect for summer. The Man Family 2015 Chenin Blanc received 91 out of 100 points from Robert Parker, a leading U.S. wine critic. $9.99.

- Kevin Castellano CSW, CSS General Manager Wayzata Wine & Spirits

Under Stalin’s Shadow

Dmitri Shostakovich was a Russian-born composer active throughout the nation’s Communist era. Influenced by Stravinsky and Mahler, Shostakovich’s work was denounced by Soviet critics as anti-proletariat, leading him to fear for his life. Performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and directed by Andris Nelsons (who was also born under Soviet rule and trained in Russia), the live album Under Stalin’s Shadow won a Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance and highlights the composer’s middle years. Shostakovich wrote Symphony No. 5 in response to previous criticism of his work; the piece was a success and even received a half-hour ovation at its premiere. Symphony No. 8 examines the Soviet experience during World War II. In Symphony No. 9, the composer celebrates post-war Russia with neoclassical satire. The album is available online and at local book and music stores.

- Sean Schultz is a lifelong musician who enjoys consuming popular culture. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two dogs.