Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tuesday, October 24 The Oceans at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

We will meet at Park Grove Library at 6:30 pm for this book club discussion.  You are welcomed to join us.
Just a special note to book club members.  Would love to hear  your thoughts & opinions on the book club if you were at the  discussion, and if you weren't, share what you thought about the book.  There is a spot under the post for comments, you can do a few different log-in programs or do it anonymously but feel free to write your name!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan Stradel

We were up for a lively discussion at of this month's selection -- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan Stradel.  We had 14 members present and most thought it was a great book.  The member who chose this book said she had read it years ago and her adult daughter walked by and said she went to school with the author. She and another member had both suggested it, so glad we had a chance to read it.  Ryan Stradel is originally from Hastings and has an interesting journey including a senior story producer for "Deadliest Catch" and "Ice Road Truckers."  Kitchens of the Great Midwest received awards, including ones from the Midwest and California Independent Booksellers Associations and was a New York Times Hardcover Best Sellers list.  Members said the book was "delightful and a fun read," "loved the character development," and the best comment description, "You had me at Hello! -- you had me at Lutefisk."

We enjoyed the part of the story being in our area, the advantage of having a writer living in Hastings!  One member said, "Love that it was set in a place that I know!"  Another "loved that it was set in River Falls and Prescott, and that they went to the Steamboat Inn" and asked how many had eaten at the Steamboat Inn and many raised their hand!  She also said, "loved they went to Mille Lacs although I don't think they would have done well with a canoe on the lake!"  Another member said that she connected with the book as there is a reference to "Hyde Park, New York -- I grew up there."  Many resonated with the Farmer's Market theme, having gone to the St. Paul Farmers Market for years.  Some loved the County Fair part of the book, could relate to that and asking for the recipes.

The book was a great reference to food, one member stated "I appreciated how he wrote into the story the 'snobby' aspect of the food world."  One of the questions asked about Eva's obsession with food and cooking.  We agreed that her father had a part in that, even though he had passed away.  The Farmer's Market was a great influence, we also thought.  The group said Eva had a "golden palate" -- meaning that she could distinguish subtle differences in a dish or pick out ingredients in a dish.

Each chapter could stand alone, a separate story, each different, one person said.  Another said "liked the characters, and wished Eva could have met her Dad" and "there was a cosmic force involved. One member said they felt the author reminded her of Lorna Landvik's book, Patty Jane's House of Curl.   Each chapter was a different character but they were all about Eva, told her story and Eva never told her own story.   One member shared that she listened to a podcast about the author and this book.  He stated he wanted to have our attention at the end of every chapter, so he left it open ended.  He accomplished that!  He had our attention.  We wondered what happened several times with the characters, at the end of every chapter.  Every chapter name, with the exception of lutefisk, had been on the menu for the final dinner, we talked about it being her history.  The first chapter was about her dad, his history, titled, lutefisk, it was his story.

We discussed Pat, the character that first had a part in the book when Eva was dating Will, and Pat was dating Will's Dad.  She later had her own chapter and was now married to Will's dad, but Will didn't have much connection with them. She was well-known as one of the best bar makers and the story line covered the County Fair competition.  She also entered her bars in a contest and Eva was at that contest and eventually connected to Pat.  We aren't told how they figured out they had Will as a connection, just that he was invited to participate in the final dinner in the novel.  He was surprise at the dinner, he shouted and had a look of distress when he saw his step-mom's name on the menu list for dessert!  Some said that was redemption.  He was trying to stay away from her and ended up paying $5,000 to taste those bars, someone mentioned!

A member questioned the story of the mother deer that was shot and the baby deer that was left behind.  Why was that put into the story?  We talked about the many characters that had lost their mother in this book, it was a theme in the book. But those were also survivors.  We talked about Eva's ability to keep going through adversity, she had a great work ethic and through all her success, she didn't get a "big head."  We felt that Eva had a big heart, she had empathy, and wasn't pretentious.  Her life experiences gave her openings in her life.

Some of us were sad at the ending, wonder if there is going to be a sequel to see if she gets together with her mom.    A member noted that at the final dinner, "Eva expressed she wouldn't be a good mother."  Did she mean that to connect with her mom?  A few people felt that the mother didn't deserve to connect with Eva, she had left her and didn't make the effort to see her all these years.

We talked about the connection with food has in our lives.  We felt that it brings memories, it brings thoughts of our families, our past.  Most of us had parents or grand parents that would always have food out, huge tables with food.  It brings us comfort.  Each chapter in this book had something to do with food, and it was, someone said, a recipe for a human being.  In this book it was Eva.

Please note:  We have changed the schedule of the books, here is our updated list.

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman

We began by meeting two guests who joined us tonight because we were discussing “Ove.”  Everyone who was there enjoyed the book very much.  One of our members described herself as a grumpy old guy.  She said she identified with Ove.  One member especially loved the “cat annoyance” in the book.  Our discussion leader provided Swedish cookies and chocolates for the group.

Our leader shared the background of the book.  Fredrik Bachman got several rejections before the book was published.  He was thirty-one when the book was published.  The author pronounces Ove this way – oova.

The group agreed that Ove’s computer purchase in the first chapter shows his battle with the modern world.  He wanted to learn about the technology, but he did not want to be patronized.  We agreed that each person has a breaking point when asking for help.

Ove discovers he can be useful when he finds out his neighbors need him.  One member commented how much he liked the little girl drawing him in color.  We discussed the skills he had, like opening a jammed window, fixing a bike, and others.

One member mentioned she especially enjoyed the story of how Ove courted his wife.  Many in the group agreed.  The chances seemed slim he could actually find a wife the way he did.  But Sonja was intrigued by him.

A question we discussed was, “Why do you think the author revealed Ove’s past the way he did?”  One member felt it slowly helps the reader unravel the depths of his character.  We compared it to friendships, where people get to know each other by sharing their stories a bit at a time.

The group thought Ove appeared cranky because of his inner need to have things in order.  One of his core values is, “It’s what you do, not what you say.”  This and the ever present concern of “What would Sonja say?” pushed him to get out there and help.  Ove seemed more open to people if he had not previously disagreed with them.  The “white shirts” or rule makers, always made him feel helpless.

One member described Parveneh as persistent, genuine women who wants a grandfather for her children.  The realization that Ove was suicidal made her determined to help.  A member noted that Ove listens to her.

Ove tries to live his life like his father, but we noticed that he differs from his father in an important way.  He tries new things and meets new people.

Several members believed Ove has OCD.  He finds comfort in routine.  Lack of structure causes anxiety.  One member mentioned that routine can give you freedom.  Ove had a routine with Sonja even when they were both at work.  Routine gave Ove a purpose.

A member commented that by observing Ove’s behavior in the neighborhood, we saw the father he would have been.  Jimmy cares for Ove so much that he warms the cat, even though Jimmy has a severe cat allergy.

One of our members said she identified with Parveneh’s 3 year old.  Another commented about Ove’s identification of people by description, rather than name.  “The lanky one” is an example.

Ove’s sense of right and wrong eventually leads him to punching his nemesis, Tom.  Our members believed Tom deserved the punch.

The “cat annoyance” gives Ove someone to talk to.  He always felt the cat agreed with him.  Our group felt that Ove belonged to the cat.  In some ways, the cat took Sonja’s place and improved Ove’s mental health.

One member commented that Ove’s true personality is revealed when he can help other people.  Ove and Sonja had a true love story. She is his color.  After she passed away, he was often guided by the question, “What would Sonja expect him to do?”

We ended the discussion with some of our favorite Ove quotes.
                If anyone had asked him how he lived without someone, he didn’t.
                It wasn’t as if Ove died when Sonja did, he just stopped living.

                Something inside a man goes to pieces when he has to bury the only person who ever understood him.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Sixteen members attending the July, 2017 discussion of "Where'd You Go Bernadette?"  Most of the members loved the book, thought it was a great read for summer as it was quirky, "Quirky times a million" someone said, and it was a different format to read, almost like a play!  One person said they liked the teen perspective and parts of the book were humorous another said.

We were asked by our leader what we thought about the book, something about the book that you appreciated and why.   Here is a list of some of the members interesting parts:

**Audrey got exactly what she wanted when the blackberry bushes were removed and she received the mudslide!
**When Elgin fell down the basement stairs.
**They were celebrating Bee's birthday in the restaurant and Bernadette wrote: "It's a child's birthday.  What the  hell is wrong with you people?"
**When Audrey confronts Bernadette and throws out:  "No one really likes you anyway."  So junior high funny!  But then at the end, Audrey and Bernadette become friends!
**Loved the school!  There were parts where Audrey would report what happened, and that would get sent home to everyone.
**Audrey moves into Soo-Linn Lee-Segal's house!
**Loved the house that was recycled from everything within a certain distance, one that Audrey received a prestigious award.
**Audrey was on elevator with the kids and one had a teddy bear back pack with a tampon hanging on to the end, and Audrey lost it and attacked the back pack.
**Loved the quirky weather guy, who actually made weather forecasts fun!

We talked about the main characters in the book, Audrey, Soo-Linn, Bernadette, Elgin, Bee and even Seattle!  One of our members is from Seattle and we discussed Seattle!  We discussed the homes in the area, that they were noted as being many "Craftsman homes" and that Bernadette & Elgin's home, being a former "residential home" was very different.  We discussed whether she was unable to recognize how bad it was, or whether she was paralyzed by fear of failure and couldn't start the remodeling project?  We talked about the atmosphere of Seattle, which we felt was a character in the book, it's Microsoft culture, traffic problems, homelessness.  We talked about the school, Galer Street, which when they were looking for new kindergarten students, was seeking "Mercedes vs. Subaru parents."

Bernadette was the topic of discussion.  Was Bernadette eccentric or mentally ill some questioned?  Most of the group liked Bernadette.  Some were put off by her judgement of fellow parents at Bee's school.  Some of the teachers and former teachers in the group talked about over-involved parents and the culture of "catty parents" at school.  We talked about Bernadette's prior career in Los Angeles and her house.  One reader felt she was "architect of her own career failure" by picking a fight with her neighbor, and that his buying and tearing down her house devastated her.  We talked about the epiphany Bernadette had when she saw Bee working with the music group, seeing her daughter help create art. Some thought this had spurred Bernadette into action, preparing to travel, to be more involved and active mother.  Others thought that wasn't clearly happening until after their return from Antarctica, where she was able to regain her sense of purpose.

In regards to Elgin, some people thought he'd checked out of the marriage and into his important job as a way of not dealing with marriage, their disaster of a house or even parenting.  Someone said he was clueless about his marriage, his house, his wife's health until he saw her sleeping in the drug store.  THEN, he wanted an immediate fix that didn't require any more than absolutely what was necessary of his time and attention.  There was discussion on what we felt of the couple as parents, and one member said she really felt that Elgin was not a good dad.  That he was completely checked out of Bee's life.  She stated that his first real interaction with Bee was when they went looking for her mom.  Another said he was insensitive, how he was forcing Bee outside on the ship to Antartica, forcing her to admit that there was no way that her mom could have survived, that it was cruel of him to try to deny Bee any hope.   We talked about Soo-Linn and Elgin's relationship -- she was so in denial of what was truly happening!  She even said, Oh, Elgin loves presidents' names, he will love my son, Lincoln.  Some were quite upset with his affair, while others thought he was less to blame than Soo-Linn.

Audrey was a big part of the book also, was she realistic?  Did we "buy" her role in Bernadette's escape from intervention?  Some people thought she was over the top, others enjoyed her denial of her drug peddling son, and others cheered for her rescue of Bernadette, thinking that Audrey thought "that could be me getting committed!"

For most of us, it was a great summer read and a great book to discuss!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Thirteen members were a part of the June, 2017 discussion of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.  Most loved the book, some said it started out slow, another wondered if it was about this woman and her affair.  Many had read the book before and one person said it was different the second time, one liking the definition of people, and a few had read other books she has written, and of those, said they loved Poisonwood Bible the best.  One member said:  "Reading a book is like looking in a mirror, you see your reflection.  Reading it a second time, the glass stays the same, but the perspective changes." Someone said they would love to have a sequel to find out what happened to Dellarobia.  Another said they would love to put Dellarobia in front of a classroom.

We agreed we liked the descriptions and the writing style of the author and someone mentioned the humor she used. We also noted that the theme used was science vs religion conflict and this had carried from other books some had said.

One member loved the writing when Dellarobia and Dovey took Preston and Cordie to the Thrift Store.  In chapter 11 titled, Community Dynamics,  Barbara Kingsolver writes "An elderly woman pawed through sheets while the little boy at her side yanked down slick bedspreads from a pile, inciting waterfalls of polyester.  The woman crooned in a steady voice without even looking up:  "You're a stinker, Mammaw is going to give you to the froggies.  Mammaw is going to throw you in the garbage can."  Dellarobia pushed Cordie out of earshot, not that she was above such thoughts, but still.  They should be the accent pieces of a parenting style, not wall to wall carpet." 

We felt the title fit both the monarchs and Dellarobia's life -- Flight Behavior. We even discussed, after learning about Hester's secret, that this title would also fit Hester's life.  Dellarobia, wanted a whole different set of circumstances for her life.  She knew she wanted change.  Monarchs have Super generations, the third generation, and Dellarobia was like this.  She changed and for her age, she had to carry on.   Before she was married Dovey and her had some life experiences that showed they wanted some other things.  We knew Dellarobia wanted to leave.

We talked about Hester and Dellarobbia's relationships and talks.  One time Hester even went to Dellarobbia to see if she could get Cubby to help change Bear's idea on the logging.  We also didn't expect that Hester had a secret and that the child she gave up for adoption was Bobby.  We felt all the clues led to that, but we didn't see it!  We wondered whether she enjoyed seeing him all the time or regretted it, but Bobby did come out to the house for dinner to meet with them on the logging issue.  We talked about Dellarobbia's infatuation with men and Ovid, we credited that to getting married in high school.  We liked how Orv comes out of his shell and was on the youtube video!  Dellarobbia had a good effect on him.

Several interesting components were written into the novel.  We read in the back of the novel that the names for the book were family names, starting with Ovid.  The Dellarobia name was interesting.  The artist, Luca Della Robbia made art more accessible to people; the art was enjoyed by more people this way, common people.  In this way, Dellarobia's name fit as she brought the butterflies to the people in her area.    We talked about the names of Burly's, Bear & Cub and how each was a good fit for the characters.  Cut was a good loyal husband.  Hester, greek word for star is "aster", Hester -- fitting as she had a family secret that could destroy her family.  Someone said, when we were discussing this, "that tragic side of the story, we just don't know what other people are dealing with."  Cordelia -- strong willed; defiant.  Preston - scholarly child.  Ovid -- Latin, famous Roman poet, metamorphis.  Ovid was a true scientist.

We loved that Dovey texted signs from churches to Dellarobia "Get Right or Get Left" and Honk if you love Jesus, text while driving if you want to meet up."  Here is a place where you can read some of the interesting quotes from the book form Goodreads, click here.

One person shared this thought, will other readers pick up on the connections in this book years from now?  Will this be understood?  Will there be monarchs around?  We really enjoyed discussing this book and many of us had a passion for monarchs.

The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee

May 23, 2017 the Park Grove Library discussed The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee.  Thank you to another member for writing this discussion.

We had thirteen book club members in attendance, including a new member, and everyone liked The Legend of Sheba by Tusca Lee.  Some of our member's thoughts were that the writing transported one reader back to 900 BC, along with reminding multiple people of the The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  Many others compared the account of Solomon and Sheba from the Bible books in First Kings and Song of  Solomon.  One member shared the account of these historical figures from the Quran.  Several readers said it took them 4-5 chapters to get into the story, while others were captivated from the very start.  One member brought a copy of a book, King Solomon's Table, that had recipes and some history.  Another brought a study Bible version of the account of  Sheba's journey to Solomon's court.

We discussed the geography in the travel of the book, liked the maps in the book itself and marveled at the long journey by camel with their entire entourage.  We also talked about the political aspects behind Sheba and Solomon's relationship, the fact that there wasn't even a port in Ethiopia at the time, and the strategy behind Soloman's many marriages.  One member was very amused by the accounts of Solomon juggling to appease his many wives due to their political affiliations  Members expressed a desire to read other books by this author and someone had read Iscariot.

One of the group leader's questions was about our perception of Sheba before and after reading the book.  Most readers thought that she was much more complex after reading and many were not expecting her to have had to fight her step-mom for her own crown.  We did discuss that these accounts are fictional as there is no real historical record regarding her path to the throne.  Our perceptions of Solomon afterwards were less changed, as people were expecting  him to be wise, but also, arrogant and even greedy.  We discussed that greed was Solomon's fatal flaw.  Others were surprised at how mercenary his many marriages were, and not romantic as he was when he wrote as a poet.

We asked in what ways could we identify with Sheba.  People answered that relationships are complicated and there is a question as to whether they are worth the risk.  Members related that she was essentially lonely, had no one to advise her as she was growing up, and no one she could really trust.  One member identified with her sense of freedom when she was "on the road" and had left her castle, traveling to Israel.  Another liked the humanity expressed when Sheba and Solomon snuck out into the city incognito.  One person also liked the scene where Sheba removed her shoes to walk through the pond to approach Solomon.  She thought that Solomon had set this up as a test for her.

We talked about our identity and who we are when names and titles are stripped away.  members talked about fresh starts that they have made in their lives and their spiritual retreats.  Several talked about joining book club as a positive step in developing their own identities, particularly in the wake of a divorce or relationship discord.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Quiet by Sandra Cain

Thank you to a fellow book club member who summarized the discussion for this post.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Of the 13 members in attendance, 10 really liked the book, 2 disliked it, and 1 was ambivalent. Members self-identified as follows: 7 Introverts, 5 Ambiverts, and 1 Extrovert.
A few folks found the book too academic to read pleasurably, others found it “interesting, inspiring, and gratifying.”

General consensus was that great benefit would stem from both ends of the spectrum (introverts and extroverts) being more aware of, more accepting of, and more skilled at recognizing and leveraging the advantages of those different from themselves. We acknowledged introversion/extroversion as another dimension of diversity.
We talked about role models for introverts and introvert/extrovert pairs (such as Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR).

Some of the most interesting discussion of the evening involved the use of social media, especially FaceBook, by introverts. Some introverts in the group wanted nothing to do with it, while others found it a wonderful lifeline in certain circumstances.

A few members called out the problems with extrovert-oriented workplace environments; open office plans are counterproductive (sometimes extremely so) for introverted employees.
Similarly, school settings that have open classroom arrangements and desk group arrangements also can be problematic for introverted students. Targeted assistance also may be needed from teachers to help introverted students succeed in group projects. One member pointed out that author Susan Cain has subsequently written another book dealing specifically with introverted children (Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids).
Introverts need time to prepare and clear expectations in order to feel ready for events.
There was a sense that aging smooths out the edges of introversion as introverts learn to live with and accept themselves as who they are.

For more information on this topic, one member recommended the book The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, which focuses more on the why and how of introversion.