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CHARLESTON -- The Charleston Reading Circle will meet on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Charleston Carnegie Public Library, according to a press release.

At the meeting, Donna Karbassioon will review "Colette’s France: Her Lives, Her Loves" by Jane Gilmour, and Lois Hockman will review "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan.

At the last meeting Joyce Harwood reviewed "Too Politically Sensitive" by Michael Callahan. Callahan is a native of Terre Haute, Ind., who became an investigator for the Illinois State Police and was assigned to review the cold case murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in Paris. The issue had been brought to national attention by the Innocence Project and an expose on CBS’s 48 Hours which caused concern among his superiors. His Investigation was hampered by corruption at the highest levels in the state, but it eventually led to the exoneration and release of the two innocent men who had been wrongly convicted of the crime. The case has never been solved.

Janice Kahl reviewed "A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness – and a Trove of Letters – Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression" by Ted Gup. Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Great Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a newspaper ad offered $10 to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. In actuality, he was Sam Stone, the author's grandfather, who ended up giving $5 to 150 families because of the number of requests.

Ted Gup discovered the letters in a suitcase 75 years later and was so moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope that he set out to unveil the lives behind them. The author also unearthed deeply buried details about his grandfather's life from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to his felonious efforts to hide his immigrant status from U.S. officials. Those details explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need.

For additional information, contact Carolyn Stephens at 217-273-5143 or carolynjstephens @yahoo.com or Judy James at 217-345-4855 or jmcj777@yahoo.com.

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