Monday, March 12, 2018

March 27 House Rules by Jodi Picoult

 April  28 --  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
   May 22 --  The Bohemian Flats by Mary Relendes Ellis
  June 26 --  The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

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!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Nine book club members joined in on the discussion of The Garden of Evening Mist by Tan Twan Eng.  We were treated to special tea for the evening by our book club leader!

The book was well-liked and created a lot of dialogue over many aspects that we were not previously aware of.  A few of us mentioned that the book was tough to get through, especially at first.  Seemed like there was a lot of jumping around in the book, one member said it would have been nice to have had years noted in the beginning of the chapters.  There were many words written in a foreign language so was a little hard.  There were little pieces that were thrown out to us at the beginning of the book and we didn't know how that fit in until the last third of the book.  One member said "he left little clues, while developing the characters"  The character development was good for the ancillary characters, their stories were woven together in one way or another.  "There was a lot of mystery around the characters, and not until the end of the novel was it revealed, piece by piece" one of our members said.  There was a lot of description in his writing someone shared:   "It might have been a little too ambitious, he put everything into the book, it might have been too much."

We talked about the depth of character development, including about Yun Ling's glove, that covered the abuse she sustained while  in camp with her captors.  The character development went so far to include the music that Emily & Magnus listened to at the end of the evening.  There were so many aspects to building the many characters in the book.

A member stated:  "It makes me humble what little I know of people in the world.  I learned a lot from this book."  I think that all of us agreed in that statement.  One member, who was a 2nd grade teacher said they studied about Japan and loved it.  We learned about Japanese gardening.  We didn't know that Japan attacked this area before Pearl Harbor.  We learned about Malay (Malaysia) and that Yun Ling was Straights Chinese.  We learned about the Boer War, about tea, about conflicts in Malaysia.  It was good to read about historical fiction in the book.

We talked about memory, survival guilt and forbidden love in this novel.  Yun Ling shared her story with us, her journey.  A member said "I felt a tremendous sense of sadness from what she suffered, made me like her more than what I did."  We learned she did things to survive, even as a snitch in the concentration camp, which was frustrating for us to read about.  She became successful in her life, becoming a judge, which she especially used to become a tribunal war judge so she could find her camp.  A member said:  "Yun Ling wanted to keep her secrets to herself, it was a constant battle for me to crack her open."

Memory was such a big part of the book.  Magnus' garden contained two statues, the Goddess of Remembering and the Goddess of Forgetting.  One member said, that her memories were so painful, she couldn't process it enough and what was taking her life, was taking her memories.  She didn't have control over her own destiny, she was always surviving, even when she lived with Aritomo, having been taken by the CT.  She felt survivor's remorse because of her sister, and the only one who survived the camp.

We discussed Aritomo's horimono on Yun Ling.  She has scars on her back, but they were changed when he did the horimono.  We wondered, did that heal her.  It was interesting to find out it was a map that Aritomo mastered, a clue to the question, maybe, about where the treasure was hidden.  One member said they wish they had more information at the end, many unanswered questions.

We thought the author did a great job, and was interested to learn he was an attorney.   A few members had read his first book A Gift of Rain, and liked it better than this book!  Many were interested to read that book. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

A dozen members checked in at Park Grove Library to discuss The Last Runaway by Tracy  Chevalier.  As a book club, the first thing we do is go around the room, say our name and whether we liked the book or not and why.  Many said they liked it, enjoyed it and it was a light read.  Some thought the quilting part was interesting to read and some thought the religious aspects were intriguing and we discussed both further later on in discussion.  One member liked that the Underground Railroad was a part of the book, and many agreed they liked that.    One member said she was reminded of the book, "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd.  "It was an immigration story" one member said.

One member said it was a clash of worlds between the Quakers and the Americans.  The world was influx, their beliefs and viewpoints came up against each other.  Another stated that they didn't know much about Quakers so liked that was brought out in the book.  We talked about the language, the "Thee" and "Thou."  Was it because these were biblical words that they continued to talk like this?  Quakers are born into the faith -- it is a dying breed because of that.  We talked about the Amish, how their communities are thriving and we talked about the Shakers.  Where did the Quakers originate?  They go back to England but how did it start and when?  We discussed that it was their Quiet Time that was intriguing at their meeting.  They didn't have a minister, one thing we noted.  They sat in silence for hours, a couple of hours at least, unless someone was moved to speak.  Honor knew Quakers didn't believe in slavery, but there were conflicts within the group.  Blacks were at the meetings but they sat on different pews.

We talked about Honor.  Honor came over from Bridport, England to Faithwell, Ohio with her sister, Grace, who dies while on their journey to Ohio and Honor continues to find the man that Grace was to marry, and other Quakers in that community.  We talked about how she couldn't go back, she was so sick on the boat ride over and it wasn't for the faint of heart to come to America.  Did she think she would marry her sister's fiance, Adam?  She gets there to find out that isn't going to work to even live there, as Adam's brother also had just died and now he was helping to take care of his brother's wife, Abigail.   We felt that in England, she didn't have to make decisions like this.  She lived with her parents who helped make decisions, her religion was what it was, you believed and that helped you to make decisions.  Now she was here and what was she going to do?  One member said "I felt sorry for her and then at the end I didn't have as much respect as she questioned her beliefs."

We loved the letters, at the end of the chapter.  How many immigrants never saw their family again?  We were astonished at the time delay in the letters -- at least 3 weeks.

Honor had to believe others would be good to her, had herself in a position to trust others.  She had to take a leap of faith.  Not a lot of choices in her circumstances and she had financial constraints.  We talked about Belle, Honor seemed happiest when she was with Belle.  Belle was unusual, she wasn't a Quaker, she was a drinker and a strong woman.  She had her own business, with out a husband.  Some of us felt that Honor had a lot of conflict with her faith.  There weren't many choices in regards to love, either.

She did have an attraction to Jake and did marry him.  We weren't sure if we could believe the corn field fling!  We wondered if she would have married Donovan.  He did say he would change, work for the railroad.  She said she could see the light in him.  She had that spark with Donovan.  We felt that she seemed bolder when she was with Donovan, felt more liberated.  She didn't talk to Jack and the other Quakers like she did with Donovan.  We talked about how Donovan changed once Honor had her baby.  It was a tragic end with Belle and Donovan.

We liked the Underground Railroad woven into the story.  We like the part at the end where Mrs. Reed said -- you can't save them all.  "You jues one small link in a big chain" Mrs Reed had said.  Both Mrs. Reed and Belle encouraged Honor to go back to Jack.  Belle tried to dissuade her from acting upon Donovan.  Mrs. Reed also told Honor, loss is a part of life and it brings change.  Keep going, do what you have to do.

There was a lot of loss. Honor, her sister, her homeland; Belle, her husband (Donovan ran him off); Mrs. Reed, her husband, leaving others behind; Jack, his Dad, their farm and community.  Honor learned about resilience from Belle -- you go on and find a way to live.  Honor and Jack along with Comfort did that at the end, found their own way away from Faithwell.

The book is titled "The Last Runaway" -- we discussed who was the last runaway?  It was Honor we thought but, too, there is always going to be another runaway, maybe in reference to Mrs. Reed's comment or in reference to Virginie.

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.