Wednesday, December 27, 2017

January 23, 2018 The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

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, whether you were at the discussion or not!  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!

Monday, December 11, 2017

December Book Club Holiday Meeting, Tues, Dec 19 6 pm

Park Grove Library Book Club will meet for our Annual Holiday Gathering, Tuesday, Dec 19 at 6 pm.  If you are interested in joining us, you may RSVP to the email address listed to get more information.  We will have a potluck meal and a book exchange, great conversation and fun!
 Please see the invite for more information.  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Ledger by Lloyd Holm

We will meet at Park Grove Library at 6:30 pm for this book club discussion.  You are welcomed to join us.

One of our book club members has a connection to this author! We will look forward to having that revealed at our next meeting.  I did hear some of the book club members say you can download this book for a reasonable price.

We do meet at the Park Grove Library, but in December we will be meeting off site and that location will be announced at this next book club.

Just a special note to book club members.  Would love to hear your thoughts & opinions on the book club, whether you were at the discussion or not!  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!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Oceans at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

We had a full house to discuss this interesting book, that one person very well described as 'magic realism.'  Most of the members, 18 of whom were in attendance, liked/loved the book, but there were a few that did not enjoy the book, of which one person said, " I was anxious to see what others liked about the book."  Another said she "didn't like it at first, but then couldn't put it down," but she said, "if I never read it, I wouldn't have felt bad.  "I liked it and didn't like it" another said.  One more person said in regard to her not liking it as well "Reading the book went quickly, but I didn't enjoy it.  It was well-written and I would call it magic realism, and to write in that style is incredible.  Getting that type of writing to flow so easy, as this author did, is hard.  I respect that."

Of those that liked it said, "It was a fantasy book that wouldn't fit in a box."  "The fantasy and reality were very close," one member said, "weaving modern day reality into fantasy.  He pulled me into the story."  Another said "The way it was written, I couldn't quit!"  "Loved the fantasy part of the book, very creative, reminded me of fantasy like Alice in Wonderland."  Several members listened to the audio version of the book.  One person said he had a wonderful voice, and another added "I would listen to the author read a phone book."  She had also read his other books and enjoyed them.  Someone said they were reminded of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  Another said she thought The Shack reminded  her of these three women.  "It was pro imagination, pro library" someone said.

One person said "I like that when I'm not reading the book, I am thinking about it.  Kids have a different reality than we do, with perspective and sorting through reality."  Another said she enjoyed the part where he put on the old night gown and it reminded her of Wee Willie Winkie -- it was a like a museum in there.

We read from the book, in chapter 10,  page 112  "Oh, monsters are scared," said Lettie.  "that's why they're monsters. And as for grown-ups...."She stopped talking, rubbed her freckled nose with a finger. Then, "I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either.  Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing.  Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age.  The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups.  Not one, in the whole wide world."  She thought for a moment. Then she smiled.  "Except for Granny, of course."    Summarizing, the leader said, "We try to have ourselves be adults, but we all have a child within us."

We talked about the parents of the narrator (no name was ever given in the book).  We questioned why did his parents not know that no one would show up for the birthday party?  Were they a dysfunctional family?  They weren't connecting with their kids?  Someone said, maybe the kids that were invited knew the family was different and didn't want their kids to go to the party.  "The books were the star of the party" for our narrator, someone said.  He loved that no one showed up and that he could escape to read his new books.  Parents had no empathy when his cat was killed.  The Dad, in the first part of the book made toast that was burnt and gave it to the narrator, burnt.  Later we read that Dad didn't like his toast burnt.  We questioned this and wondered what else were we lied to, what else was going on?

After the accident and death of the families renter, the narrator went with Lettie and the women.  We talked about the "hold my hand" that Lettie told the narrator.  He dropped her hand once and the monster got in his foot.  We talked about 'holding my hand.'  We tell that to those we care for, to cross the street, to be safe; we are safe when we are holding hands.  When he wasn't holding her hand, evil happened.  It was like a fall from grace - evil enters his body, evil, mystery and horror.  He brought evil back to his family, Ursula  But Ursula Monkton didn't see herself as a villain, she gave people what they wanted.

We talked about the coin in the narrator's mouth.  Ursala was already there before he even met her.  She had thrown money to his sister and their friends.  She was giving out the coins. She had come back through the hole in his foot.  Someone mentioned was that part real -- maybe he had stepped on a nail, like some of us had, or knew someone who had.  Was it infected?  What part was real?

We talked about the women at the end of the Lane.  Lettie, some felt, was like a maiden, enchanted, the new beginnings, the promise;  Mother was ripeness, fulfillment, stability (she was always making sure they had good food) and the Grandmother was the Crone, full of wisdom, repose and endings.  We found ourselves liking the women at the end of the lane.  Some felt they were like the Mythical Demeter, Persephone & Hecate.  The Crone meets our narrator at the end of the book.

We talked about the Hunger birds -- the mystical bird.  In reality, they were the critics, the judgement, the haters.  They were the cleaners, taking something out that doesn't belong, scavengers that are for balance in the world.

We questioned in our group, how much of the story was real, how much was fantasy, how much was myth, his imagination?  Was his family his struggle?  Did he go to get away and go to a decent home, a safe haven with three women?  It was at the time of the suicide victim and he was traumatized by it. Or was it his imaginary friends?  He did go back though, to visit, we read, once when his divorce, and then at this death, while he experienced trauma in his life.  We thought he was introverted, he was isolated as an adult, he didn't want to be around others at the funeral.

Was his memory altered, were things fabricated?  Every time you retell a story, from memory, it changes.  If we walked out of the library and was asked a question, we would have 18 different answers.  Memory is your lens of childhood.  The story may be told, someday in a movie, as Tom Hanks, is said to have bought the rights to the story, through Focus Features.

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!