Sunday, November 23, 2014

William Kent Krueger visits Park Grove Library, December 1, 2014

Park Grove Library, Cottage Grove offered a special night "Book Club Special Edition with William Kent Krueger."  What a wonderful evening it was.  The staff at Park Grove estimated there were around 80 people attending.  It really was a packed house!  The Book Club Members, along with our library liaison, helped to set a feast of treats along with coffee, tea and water.  It really was a grand evening, and if you missed it, watch for another author visit in 2015.

We introduced our Book Club as this was "Book Club Special Edition" series, and hope that others will consider joining our group.  Anyone is welcomed to participate with us.

William Kent Krueger, said "Call me Kent" and set off on a journey of storytelling that left us fascinated and intrigued.  He first shared the story of a young high school student who asked him how old he was.  First off, he shared, High Schoolers are at times, difficult to talk to, but here he was in southwest MN and a student asked a question, so he answered.  He said "64."  She was a writer herself and wanted to know how long will it be before something might "happen."  He told her to be patient, time will come to you.  He shared that it is a journey to be a writer and he was on a spiritual journey while writing his books, including Ordinary Grace.

He shared one incredible poem he wrote when in the 5th Grade, "The Lone Wolf." If I had been his teacher at that time I think I would have asked for an autographed copy.  Time showed that this man was destined for some stories that would leave  quite an impression on the heart of his readers.

Kent Krueger shared a bit of how he came to write "Ordinary Grace."  He shared that he vividly remembers being 13 years old and what it was like the summer of '61.  It was a start of a spiritual journey and also about story telling.

He read a part of the funeral of the "itinerant" in chapter 7.  "In the early afternoon  my father got himself ready for the burial" he started and read to the end of the burial where Jake's father asked "Gus, would you like a hand?"  "No, Captain," Gus said.  "I've got all day and I intend to take my time."  Kent stated:  I believe there is a great spirit that runs all creation.  We are born, simply come out of that great loving heart and when we die we go back to that great loving heart."

It was absolutely delightful to hear this author read from his book.  It was such a treasure to hear his expression, his voice lift the words off the page as he read to us.  He answered several questions the audience had and then shared one more piece of information:  a new book.  He is writing a companion piece that he hopes to release in the spring of 2016.  "This Tender Land."

Thank you to all who came out to listen to Kent Krueger share in his talent and his gift of word.  We are forever blessed by this event.  Thank you to the Park Grove Library, our liaison and Washington County Library for allowing the funding for this event. 
updated 1.4.15

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Thanks to G.B. for notes for this months topic -- There was a lively and compelling discussion among fourteen members of the Park Grove Library Book Club on Tuesday, November 18 around M. L. Stedman’s debut novel, The Light Between Oceans.  We welcomed a new member, Wendy.  She belongs to a book club in Edina, and as a Cottage Grove resident, decided to check us out.  We benefited from some of her keen insights, are happy she decided to join us, and hope she will continue as part of our group.

Our leader led the discussion, and as we introduced ourselves, we were asked to state the person in the book with whom we felt the most empathy.  The answers were all over the place!  A couple of members mentioned Tom, and a couple mentioned Isabel, and a couple mentioned Lucy Grace.  But Frank, Septimus, Bluey, and even Isabel’s parents received votes.  This is something we felt was important to note – Stedman created so many rich characters, and the moral ambiguity inherent in the book was so over-arching, that it was hard to figure out who we should feel the sorriest for.  There was unanimous agreement that the book was excellent and extremely well written, though one member, a new mother, was so emotionally impacted by the story that she could not finish it.

It was noted that the lighthouse has been a source of myth-making in literature – standing for sanctuary, and the edge of knowledge and reason.  And that Janus Rock was named for Janus, the Roman God of doorways, “always looking both ways, torn between two ways of seeing things.”  The image of sanctuary and the notion of opposites (looking in two ways) were interesting to talk about as was the dichotomy of light and dark, war and peace, truth and lies, safety and danger, and how those things framed the choices that Tom and Isabel made.   We also spent time talking about isolation and morality – more specifically:  Is it easier to make a choice when you don’t see the effect of your choice on someone else?  In this story, isolation allowed Isabel to deny the consequences of her actions, but Tom felt less ambiguous and had a stronger moral compass even though he lived on a daily basis in the same isolation as Isobel.  This may have been due to the clear and unchanging structure around his job responsibilities (the many regulations, the logbook, specifics around the light, etc.) 

Unfulfilled duty haunted Tom.  He was scarred by what he witnessed in the war and felt he had let others down.  He was determined to be better as a light keeper.  So he could not forget the blank he left in the logbook which should have been filled with documentation of Frank and the baby’s beached boat.  But as the story progressed, his own moral dilemma grew to include not only the decision to tell a lie and to keep Lucy knowing the impact that would have on Hannah, but also his obligation to Isabel, who he deeply loved, as her husband.  His job in life was to keep the light burning – nothing more.  And he determined to do this for Isabel, knowing that to tell the truth and to return Lucy could snuff her light out forever.  As he sought to make the best of things, and to assure Hannah that Lucy was alive and well, he was willing to put his own life in jeopardy so that each of them were hurt as little as possible in the process.  Sadly, the circumstances were such that no one could win.    

Someone pointed out that Lucy means light and Grace means God is with us.  She rightly noted that so much depended on this child to bring happiness to so many people.

An interesting interview with the author can be found at here

Monday, November 3, 2014

William Kent Krueger visits Park Grove Library, Monday November 10 at 6:30 pm

Park Grove Library, Cottage Grove is offering a special night "Book Club Special Edition with William Kent Krueger."  We are looking forward to discuss his book Ordinary Grace, which the Park Grove Library Book Club just finished reading and discussing.  We are so excited that the Washington County Library and Park Grove Library has allowed this event to happen and they have stated that the funding for this event is possible due to money from Minnesota's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

We would love to have the community share this evening with us and cherish that we have this time with William Kent Krueger.  Join us for some refreshment and a treat!

ALSO OUR MONTHLY BOOK CLUB WILL MEET Tuesday, November 18 we will discuss Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. We would love to have anyone join us for this discussion!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Tuesday, October 28 Park Grove Branch Library Book Club discussed Ordinary  Grace by William Kent Krueger.  Fourteen members were present and all agreed this was a wonderful book.

One member said the book was "so descriptive."  She liked how he used the train tracks in the story, about going somewhere and about Frank becoming a man.  "Really touched my heart" another member commented and she enjoyed the scene at the end of the book where Frank and Jake were at the cemetery with their dad.  "I appreciated how the book promoted forgiveness."  We have a crisis, we are given grace, God is there to keep us moving and we have to get our strength from God someone said. One member said she liked "the iron in his father's voice" and the part written "smoke hung around his mother like she was on fire."  Another shared that she could "envision the places and the boys.  Also touched by the role of religion in helping cope with challenges."  "I felt exactly what I could see, hear and smell while walking down the train tracks" a comment from a member.  Many read the book a few times, even within the month!

We talked of two graces that were in the book, Awful Grace which Nathan Drum talks about "My father used to quote Greek Playwright Aeschylus. 'He who learns must suffer.  And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our own will comes wisdom through the awful Grace of God." The other Ordinary Grace, the grace that came in not big powerful ways.  So simple even as Gus digging the graves so carefully and with concern for those who have passed.  Nathan Drum visiting the families, even Warren Redstone's family when they were "talked about" in the community.  Frank letting Warren Redstone walk away when the law enforcement were looking for him was one example and another was Jake's stuttering stopped.  Ruth Drum's asking for just an ordinary grace after Ariel's funeral, given by Jake.

We talked about the roles played by the various characters, the red herrings, someone to dislike, questioning and prejudices.  Was the setting New Ulm?  Two members had their list ready to show evidence of why they thought it was New Ulm and many loved that part.  Another member went to college there and was reading the book while in a COFFEE SHOP IN NEW ULM!

Many members loved this part in the book:  "Loss, once it's become a certainty, is like a rock you hold in your hand. It has weight and dimension and texture. It's solid and can be asessed and dealt with. You can use it to beat yourself or you can throw it away."

We could put ourselves into this story and feel the connection.  We felt the grief and the people coming together to help each other.  A few of us thought this reminded us so much of To Kill a Mockingbird.  This too, we felt, was a classic book.  A book that reaches deep into your soul.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Tuesday, October 28 at Park Grove library we will be discussing William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace.

Published in 2013, this stand alone novel (verses his many fans favorite Cork O’Connor series) will have us in discussion BEFORE WE GET TO LISTEN TO WILLIAM KENT KRUEGER SHARE SOME DETAILS OF THIS BOOK!  Monday, November 10 we will be able to hear from the author at Park Grove Library.

YES -- William Kent Krueger will be a visiting author open to the public at Park Grove Library in Cottage Grove, Monday, November 10.

Here is an excerpt from his web page about Ordinary Grace.

"That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word."

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank's perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

A few of the book club members had said they too have journaled in years past if not currently.  Many said they had done this in their youth with the diary that has a lock and key.  Many journal for therapeutic reasons which we felt Maya needed.  In the beginning of the story, Maya writes "She handed me a hundred-page notebook so I could keep a diary, as I did from the age of eight until I was fifteen, when my life went off the rails.  'You're going to have time to get bored, Maya.  Take advantage of it to write down the monumental stupidities you're committed, see if you can come to grips with them' she said {her grandmother Nini said}.  Several of my diaries are still in existence, sealed with industrial-strength adhesive tape.  My grandfather kept them under lock and key in his desk for years, and now my Nini has them in a shoebox under her bed.  This will be notebook number nine.  My Nini believes they'll be of use to me when I get psychoanalyzed, because they contain the keys to untie the knots of my personality; but if she'd read them, she'd know they contain a huge pile of tales tall enough to outfox Freud himself."

Maya's story has some tall tales but in this novel they are intriguing and at times, may be what some people really do go through with their life story.  She is a survivor and the journey she took through this notebook, her notebook, proves that she is able to grow by telling her story.

Eleven people attended the discussion of the book and two shared they were not big fans of the book.  "Half way through it was too dark and frustrating" one said, but others said it was interesting to learn about Chile, it's country and the people.  They enjoyed how the author, Isabel Allende,"brings in so much politics, magic realist, religion, current events and so many other facets."  "Flashbacks in the story were easy to follow, it was natural to hear story."

One person who wasn't sold on the book said that she abandoned reading it as it didn't feel authentic.  It didn't sound like a voice of a teenager, felt older.  This person, did apprediate "Popo" as a redeeming character.

Reading a book from Berkley area was what one person liked as she grew up in Hayward, close by.  She said she knew of a house like Nini's and Popo's.  She said the book had that "curiosity and able to dive back into the book; it was a good read for me."  Someone found it curious and learned a lot of the politics from those years.  Humorous at the end they said.  It was a coming of the age book, dealing with loss and "who do I belong to, friends or family."

There were interesting characters in the book, including Brandon Leman, who she met in Vegas.  "He used her, but protected her."  Freddie "helped look out for her, like a brother.  She cared about him and he cared for her."  Daniel "Didn't like him, used her." another person wondered if they are going to get back together?  Will there be a sequel?

It was a mystery of how Manuel fit into the situation with Nini in her earlier years.  Some of us thought there might be some previous connection.  It was also a mystery about Officer Arana.  There were twists and turns in the story that kept you intrigued and wanting to find out how it ended.

From a 19 year old who struggles to survive we see emergence as she tries to find her way in the world.  Along the journey Allende brings characters that help her, each with their own story and path.  From the Chiloe, secluded island, to Chile to California, our journey in this book takes us to a place where we see healing and empowerment.

One member of our Book Club shared a video of Isabel Allende speaking at Ted Talks.  Click here for that message.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26 Potluck Gathering and Book Selection

At our household, we squeeze so much into the last few days of summer, trips to the MN State Fair, The Minnesota Renaissance Festival and Prescott Muddy Waters to hear the Scottie Miller Band, including a Tuesday night with the Park Grove Book Club selecting books for the upcoming 2 YEARS!  After helping our two college bound daughters settle into their apartments we now will look forward to reading some books, my hubby on his kindle and me the ones selected by book club!

Our Book Club Selection for September and August have been changed.

Tuesday, Sept 23  Maya's Notebook by Isabelle Allende
Tuesday, Oct 28   Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce's novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was liked by all 12 members attending our July, 2014 meeting.

The people Harold Fry met on his journey were "ordinary people, doing ordinary things" someone commented and another "the journey is the point of the book."  Another stated it was a "slow start but enjoyed it and the many facets of his walk.  I am a walker and I'm like that, the part of the places it takes you in your mind."

One person said they kept re-thinking parts.  "Harold had a purpose to redeem himself, the book was slow going, but people who he met seemed to have it together and weren't perfect" another member mentioned.  "Cried at the end" another said.

Being from Ireland, one member commented she could easily visualize all these details, "so enjoyed every moment."

Harold Fry wasn't on a religious quest.  He traveled 87 days, 627 miles.  Someone mentioned he was empty inside, he needed to go to his "well."  We discussed would we do what Harold Fry did -- go just like that on a snap decision?  We are ordinary, someone mentioned, but yet are all extra-ordinary.  Aspects of our character maybe extra-ordinary at one point, at one time in our life.  He met people that shared that quality.

Not all of us, but most of us liked Maureen and her story.   She finally saw that Harold wasn't the only one that made mistakes in their family.  Felt as a young child David was very disrespectful and rude.  We have a level of respect demanded by us and Harold/Maureen didn't demand it.  Maureen allowed David to be nasty to Harold.  We also liked that absence makes the heart grow fonder, which it did for both Harold and Maureen.  When we read later in the book, that David had died by suicide we were shocked.  Another "I literally cried when I read his son died of suicide, it explains so much."  Only one person had that part of the storyline figured out.

In the end of the book, through Harold's long journey some were a little "let-down" and sad with the ending.  Someone mentioned, though, that Queenie couldn't comment, yet we know that the pink quartz that Harold brought her, gave her "happiness."  We were frustrated by the lack of story behind Queenie, but excited to hear there is a book coming out in October by Rachel Joyce "The Love Song of Miss  Queenie Hennessy.  Click here to go to the author's web page and the information of this story.

One member shared this favorite part of the book:  "Harold passed office workers, dog walkers, shoppers, children going to school, mothers and buggies, and hikers like himself, as well as several tourist parties.  He met a tax inspector who was a Druid and had not worn a pair of shoes for ten years.  He talked with a young woman on the trail of her real father, a priest who confessed to  tweeting during mass, as well as several people in training for a marathon, and an Italian man with a singing parrot.  He spent an afternoon with a white witch from Glastonbury, four bikers looking for the M5, and a mother of six who confided she had no idea life could be so solitary.  Harold walked with these strangers and listened.  He judged no one, although as the days wore on, and time and places began to melt, he couldn't remember if the tax inspector wore no shoes or had a parrot on his shoulder.  It no longer mattered.  He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.  The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simple because the person living it had been so doing so for a long time.  Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowleding the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."  Quoted from Chapter 15 Harold and the New Beginning

August 26
Book Selection for following year
September 23
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger
October 28
Maya’s Notebook by Isabelle Allende
November (to be determined)
Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Of the thirteen members at Book Club in June, twelve liked the book.  One person said they didn't like it, but they felt they knew more about Afghanistan and its people from the book.

We talked about the title of the book and it's meaning.  Most agreed that the book portrays what a family is and there were many examples of family {consider non-related as family as well} and the echo is that it affects the whole family.  What one person may do has consequences down the line and affect us for generations.  The moral complexity of each person affects a whole family.  Another thought on the title was that it was calling out and seeing it reflected in various things.

The book has so many characters; each chapter was a new story with new characters, "I liked that." someone stated.  Someone wished there had been more of Abdullah's storyline through-out to the very end, including how he met his wife or how he came to America.  That part was "so central to the beginning" of the story someone commented.  One person said "excellent storytelling" and another said it was "disjointed and frustrating, figuring out who was talking."  Another agreed and said it was hard to also figure out what their relationship to others was.

One person said they "Didn't find it an emotional book, it was good book, but I wasn't immersed in it."  Another person said they "felt emotion" and related to what was happening to the women and children and what is going to happen. "Felt a lot of empathy" was one comment.  One person stated they were crying in different parts of the book.

We felt there was a lot of caregiving going on:  Abdullah/Pari; Parwana/Masooma; Nabi/Mr. Wahdati; Pari/her mother Nila and several more.  We felt so bad at the end that Pari didn't get to say what she really wanted to say to Abdullah.  He did hum a song that she knew but it was still sad that he didn't know her because of his condition.  He did keep the feathers, although she didn't remember them, she knew that HE remembered HER all those years and saved them for her.

We like the story with Pari, Abdullah's daughter and that finally she connected with other family, her aunt and cousins.

We also noted that in this book and the past few books, we have read about Rumi.  Who, according to Wikipedia was born in 1207 and died in 127.  He was a 13-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic.

Most people stated they liked the book, but liked his other books better.  We agreed he is a very talented writer!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting To Be Heard, A Memoir by Amanda Knox

Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox was an interesting book for our May, 2014 meeting.  I had a troubled time getting through the book, and struggled the next month to catch up on that book, in fact was not finished by the time the next book club came around.  But I had to finish the book!  Even though I struggled, I wanted to know the details that she had gone through.  Thirteen of us were at book club and all of us agreed we liked the book.  "Fascinated -- really liked it," was one comment.  "It was a true crime book, I was looking to find the pieces and she did a nice job of weaving and justifying all the things she had thrown against her.  Thought she was a brave thing to learn to defend herself," came from one who likes to read crime stories. "Liked the book, but wouldn't recommend it" said another.

Some of us were frustrated with Amanda's attitude and were reminded that in Seattle, smoking marijuana was legal and probably a part of how she was raised, even the fact she had such independence!  Some felt her parents could have been a little more supportive on her trip over to Italy, who just lets their daughter go without plans?   Some said as she progressed towards the court case she appeared "unlikable, very quirky."  We were glad for the support of the friends she had in prison (when she left, they cheered for her) and the priest who probably saved her life.

She definitely tried to take responsibility for the situation, which we felt hurt her in the end.  We felt she should have gotten help sooner, but the Italian courts and US courts were so different.  She wanted this book to be her story, for us to see why she did what she did.  In the authors notes in the book she wrote: "I been out of prison for over a year.  I had to relive everything, in soul-wrenching detail.  I read court documents and the transcripts of hearings, translated them, and quoted them throughout.  Aided by my own diaries and letters, all the conversations were rendered according to my memory."

Everyone one of us voted and we felt she was 100% NOT GUILTY.  Our leader shared some books that were also written about this story.  Someone who is from Europe, said many Europeans feel she is guilty.  As Amanda Knox stated in her book, much that was the publicity released by the prosecutor.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Fourteen members attending the discussion of this months book.  Spring, after winter, sends us searching for the first sign of spring, any sign of life on branches or in the ground.  The Language of Flowers was good to read at this time because it opened our eyes to the awe of flowers and message it brings.  It was a hard book to read, however, because of the heartbreaking life that Victoria had through her years as a child and then as a young mother.

Nine people liked the book, one did not enjoy it at all, one person didn't read it yet and there were three people that were in the middle, not really liking, not really disliking it.  One person said, "it didn't go in the way I thought it would."  "Didn't flow for me" another comment.  One person said " I tried tried to understand what Victoria had gone through, but my life is so different from hers."  One person shared that their heart went out to the girl, she felt sorry for her and was glad she had the flowers in her life, something she could do.

"I think a book is good when it makes me think when I am done with it."  The discussion we had did just that.  Many of us didn't know about the use of flowers used to convey a message.  During the Victorian age emotions and feelings weren't "spoken," often.  Flowers would be used to communicate what you wanted to say.

The novel was written with two story lines, one of Victoria at current time, another during her earlier years.  Consensus of the group was that we liked that part, not having it too much at one time.  The "bits" of information that were tossed out from her earlier up-bringing were then compared with the current life.  The story line was so heavy, that having it shorter was easier to "take in."

Victoria, through Elizabeth, learned about flowers and that continued to help her with life and a job.  We liked that her business name was "Message."  The "Iris," in this book under the Victorian Language is message, and that is what Victoria gave out to help spread her business information.  As in the book with Grant, we found there are different meanings for flowers.  The "Iris" also means, faith, hope and wisdom.  While reading this book, I think we found that there was hope for Victoria, others had faith in her (Elizabeth, Renata, Grant) and she had wisdom (although she thought she might not have any).  "She could love and be loved" someone said.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

 We read and discussed the Washington County Library One County, One Book for 2014 -- "The  World's Strongest Librarian:  A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family."  Every year for several years, Washington County has chosen a book for a "County Wide Read."  One of our members asked what is the criteria for selection.  Our library liaison shared with us that they have three key county library employees look over books, which uses the Legacy Fund monies to support the purchases and program.  This year they selected a book that had faith, disability, sport, and reading entertainment in an inspiring way.

As flexible as we (Park Grove Library Book Club members) are, we were able to slide this one in this month, and with 10 of us attending the book club, we had a very lively discussion.  It was a well-liked book by most (one person said it wasn't her favorite, but she pointed out some very good characteristics about the book that she liked).  Having 9 out of 10 people enjoying the book was good.  It was about a LIBRARIAN.  My own personal opinion when I first looked at it was that it was going to be slow and BORING.  I loved it and would recommend it for anyone to read, far from boring!  It had me engaged immediately in the book, the introduction shared stories that a librarian would share.  Josh shared:  "The purpose of libraries -- to organize and provide information -- hasn't changed.  They're billed as the Poor Man's University."  "Libraries have shaped and linked all the disparate threads of my life.  The books.  The weights.  The tics.  The harm I've caused myself and others.  Even the very fact that I'm alive.  How I handle my Tourette's.  Everything I know about my identity can be traced back to the boy whose parents took him to a library in New Mexico even before he was born." It was personal stories of Josh's Librarian experiences that helped make this entertaining!

Our first discussion question  was "Do you remember your first trip to the library?  Do you read more or less now than you did as a child?  Why?"  Oh the memories we dragged up.  Many members shared memories of their first trips to the libraries, some influenced by their parents' love of reading.  Many talked about a "Book Mobile" with books lined on both sides.  Personally, I can remember the smell of that small town library my mother took me to when I was first able to read and have my very own library card.  Our leader asked "Was there a book or character in a book that infatuated you as much as Charlotte's Web and Fern did Josh?"  Many comments about favorite books, and we also wondered about our own children.  Will they continue to love going to the library and reading books as we had?  One member has had a list of the books she has read for many, many years, and she reads a lot of books!  We were envious of her ability to have had the endurance to start young and keep track.

When we first shared whether we liked the book or not, people mentioned they liked the different threads that came together in the book, his life experiences were unique and individual.  He shares about his Morman Faith, his Tourette's disease, his commitment to exercise with weights and then his own family, both the one he was born into and the one he created.  Someone said "it sounded so authentic with the emotions" and "enjoyed his sense of humor."

Someone commented: "What struck with me was his strength of character.  I admired how accepting his parents and the Morman community were for just the way he was."  We also admired him as an author and his story.  It gave us a perspective of how Tourette's affects him, how hard it is to work in a library (someone said they had great pity for librarians) and about the Morman faith. We commented on the end of the book when he is doing the Highland Games, an ancient Scottish event, and he catches himself talking out loud.  He pauses and recognizes that he was saying "oh please, oh please, help me, help me, help me."  A prayer to a higher power.  We felt that wrapped up a large part of the book.  Strength, Faith and the Power of Family, a Memoir of Tourette's by the World's Strongest Librarian Josh Hanagarne, a well-loved book.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

What a perfect book for February!  We all agreed that we thought this was a great book and one that left us wanting to learn more about Islam, Rumi and Shams. One of the members wasn't able to attend and she shared her thoughts:  "This was a tough book to read for me. The cultural differences made me aware of how little background I had to understand and enjoy the book. Names, titles, practices, religion all created barriers for comprehending the novel within a novel. I recall a line from the book I will paraphrase. Religions are like rivers in that they all run to the same place. We are are all more alike than different."  I think that some of us felt that the Forty Rules of Love could very well have been directed with Christians in mind.

Some mentioned that the book was hard to get into with the characters until they looked back and re-read parts of the book and figured out who each chapter was about. Another concern was the book going from modern day to 13th century time period.  Some questioned why the author had the modern day storyline, would have just liked the medieval time period story alone.  We shared that combining helped to compare the two story lines.  Someone said they would have rather had the Ella part out of the book; another  person stated "Loved the Ella part, read every Ella page first."  A few people had stated they would have never picked up this book but was so glad it was a part of our book club.  {Noted:  a good reason for our book club, we read books we would have never picked up.  We would have missed out on a great read.}

It was noted that each chapter begins with the letter B.  Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, which I believe means, "In the name of Allah, the Benevolent and Merciful" is mentioned in the beginning of the book.  There are a lot of chapters and if I counted right I saw it came to 94.  I wondered if there were 99 chapters because there are 99 names of God in Islam. 

One of the fourty rules of love which I thought connected well with the story in this novel "Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things may seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful!  It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given, but also for what he has been denied." 

It was a wonderful evening of discussion and the local cable channel was there to record some of our thoughts. We will keep you posted on their tv show.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

When I first was reading this story, I couldn't believe how big of a novel it was.  When I was about a third of the way through I understood why.  It is one of those stories that needs the expanded time to explain, that needs the artistic creation to exemplify what Verghese wanted to share.  For me, it was a classic novel.

Before we even discussed the book one member emailed her thoughts:  "Verghese is such a superb writer, it is hard to imagine that this is his second career. Set in Ethiopia made it fascinating to me with Italian colonization, Mussalini, then civil war as a background to the story of the twins Marion and Shiva life. With Marion as a narrator he tells the story of their lives. I fell in love with these characters and the challenges they faced. The ending seemed a little too neatly tied up. It seemed implausible that Thomas Stone operated on his long lost twins and saved their lives. But I did get caught up in the story and it made me feel good that all strings came together in the end of the novel. This was one of the best books we have read for a while."  And another one emailed:  "I read the book in 2012, and loved it just as much this second time around. I think Verghese is just brilliant."

There were seven of us at the Book Club, many out of town traveling these next few months, but we had a lively discussion about the book.  EVERYONE LOVED IT.  Someone said "Epic" in their description of the book, another said "characters are well-developed, you can get into their heads and I'm in awe in the writing style and his own experiences."  Three people in the book club had mentioned that they have read this before, and all said they enjoyed reading it the second time around, one stating she had her "horizons stretched twice."

We talked about the characters of the book, the medical part, the historical information written into it, and how it brought to us, the real meaning of a family.  A few times in the book we noted that real family wasn't just biological, both in Ethiopia and in New York, family included those who you worked with and were a team with.

We liked several of the messages through out the book, and I hope members comment below, as one has already.

One of my favorite quotes of the book:  "You are an instrument of God. Don't leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play! Leave no part of your instrument unexplored. Why settle for 'Three Blind Mice' when you can can play the 'Gloria'? No, not Bach's 'Gloria.' Yours! Your 'Gloria' lives within you. The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible in you.”

I think Abraham Verghese followed his advice in this book -- He completed his own movement, his own piece of what God has made possible in him.