Thursday, October 26, 2017

November 28, 2017 The Ledger by Lloyd Holm -- AUTHOR TO BE AT OUR BOOK CLUB!

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!

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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

It was a quieter book club night, 10 members attended but others were sharing their thoughts about the book via email!  If someone saw those few emails that were circulated before book club they would have a pretty good idea, so far, of what other members were going to say about this book.  One member wrote "Loved this book....another great read / learning experience of Alaskan frontier in 1920s. Beautifully written mystery in nature that will stay with me a long time..especially during snowfalls."  Those emails of "liked the book", "LOVED the book" were good indicators of how well received this book was!

When we start our book club, we share our name and if we liked the book or not.  I enjoy sharing this part with you as I enjoy each and every persons own opinion as to whether they liked it or not!  Here are a few of their comments:  "really enjoyed it; kept me wondering to the very end" and "I really enjoyed the book.  I traveled to Alaska for three summers and could imagine the outposts that they were at."  One member said she enjoyed her writing, but the scene felt dreary, adding that the Bensons brought a lot to the story.  Another said she enjoyed the mystery part of the story, seemed like she was real but then there were times when it was a figment of imagination.

One member said she really liked the connection to the Snow Child story, it was a fairy tale to the story.  She related to different things in the story.  Loved Esther and Mabel and what they had to go through to survive.  What would have happened if Jack was hurt?  Loved every page, she said.

To be nominated to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is quite an honor and in 2013 Snow Child was one of three nominated in the fiction category.  In 2012 Good Reads nominated it in the category of Historical Fiction and was voted one of the top 20 and votes place  Snow Child in 4th place.  The question came up with the discussion, is it historical fiction, a folk tale or does it have some characteristics of fairy tale?

The person who selected this book for discussion said she really enjoyed the great depth and imagination that came with this book.   There were many themes of love through it, marital, parental, friendship and love of nature.  Someone else said:  "Loved when Esther came to visit, bringing her jars, you never leave empty handed, either.  That was so much of Esther's love."  We discussed the difference and change that came with the relationship with Mabel and Esther.  Esther in the overalls, the way she took over the turkey meal, killing the bird, bringing it in the house to clean, feathers flying all over.  Someone said, that many times, opposite attract!  Mabel was very careful, very clean and precise.

We talked about Mabel and Jack's move to the frontier, how they weren't connecting, her suicide attempt and then the change came, along with the snow and the Snow Child.  We talked about how they changed when the child came, later how Mabel changed when Jack got hurt.  She felt she had a purpose now, she loved to help with the garden, to feel the soil on her hands, the connection with nature, how she loved the otter.  One member shared that the description seemed pretty bleak at first and then there was the yellow flower, the colors that the  the Snow Child had.

We talked also about the mystical, the legend, the fairy tale, the folk tale or was it real?  The night they "made" the Snow Child, with it's distinct features that Jack helped to make, they had so much fun together.  Did they really make a child?  Faina showed Jack her father and grieved him.  Had said her mother died in a hospital.  Was that mystical?  Faina showed that she could bring snow around them and cold, she had powers.  Mabel was worried that she might melt, that there was something special and magical.

Although we liked the part of Garrett, we also acknowledged that Garrett's love of Faina also brought about her death.    We liked how the author brought in the swan feathers, a reminder of the first time Garrett saw Faina, added to the wedding dress.  It was also the first time Garrett saw the true Faina wilderness, her ability to be strong, killing it with her bare hands.  We talked about how Faina was like perma frost, can't get too warm, can't be cooped up, and needs her space.  She knows how to survive, going with the caribou high in the mountain in the summer to survive the different seasons.

We talked how Faina would bring things to Jack and Mabel, she loved them.  She brought Jack to the moose, a kill bigger than even Garrett, the big hunter had ever seen.  This way Jack wouldn't have to work in the mines and leave Mabel.  She loved them and they loved her.  What was Faina?  A real child?  A mystical being?  In the epilogue in the book, we are given a glimpse of Faina, a picture of her as a baby being held by her mother.  We have a clue that there was something human about her, too.  When she died, though, she left no body, her clothes and shoes were left behind, she was gone and was never found.  She did leave her child behind, loved by Mabel, Jack and Garrett.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Club Slection Titles

In August, 2016, many members of the Park Grove Library Book Club gathered and scheduled the reading material until we meet again, in August, 2018. This list is subject to change as we may read a book that the Washington County Library suggests, or we may read a book with an author who comes to visit with Book Club Special Edition.


Home Fires by Julie Summers

Home Fires by Julie Summers was a non-fiction book that was read by the book club this month.  Unfortunately, I was unable to go and have a summary from the meeting from a couple of members. This is part of one members summary of the meeting. Eight out of the Ten members that were at the meeting liked the book.  It was felt that the book was dry and harder to read but it brought information to us about war, specifically World War II and the efforts of the women in Great Britain.

Members shared their memories of what they heard from their grandparents or parents during that time and how they would have similar groups here.  One member brought a quilt cover that was made in 1934 by her Grandma's Happy Circle in western Minnesota.  Another member brought her own ration book from when she was little, showing how you had to have a stamp to have food.  It made us appreciate what we have now, someone said.  Here is a link to wikipedia about rationing in the US during WW II.


This book club leader found this pin on Ebay and purchased it for $5.  She shared she wanted something of the Women's Institute overall U.K. rather than a county or chapter pin.

Another member summarized the meeting with these thoughts.  We discussed how the Women's Institute evolved and how, even now, it continues.  WI now focuses on helping refugees, victims of abuse and sex trafficking, mental illness and single moms.  We talked about why similar rural Women's clubs in the US have NOT continued nor found a new puprose after WW II.  The great upheaval of life during the war in Great Britain was discussed.  The Post Office registered 38 million change of address during the war, mostly due to the evacuations.  Women collected many items during that time, including salvaging bones, collecting plants for medicinal use and collecting spools of thread that was used by soldiers to hide maps when they went behind enemy lines.  Local markets were started. Raising rabbits and getting permits to butcher livestock were a part of the change.

After the discussion, many members are excited to watch the series on PBS.

Here is some more information taken directly from the Women's Institute web page which you can find here.

"The first Women's Institute in the world started on February 19 1897 at Stoney Creek, Ontario Canada.  The first WI was formed in Britain in 1915, at the suggestion of Canadian woman Madge Watt. The pattern of the Canadian movement was followed and the name adopted."

"The Women's Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.  Since then the organisation's aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK.  The WI celebrated its centenary in 2015 and currently has almost 220,000 members in approximately 6,300 WIs."









Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Eight people attended the January book club for Lucky Us by Amy Bloom.  One person is quoted as saying she is "wishy/washy" on how she really liked it and wondered why the author picked the title as "Lucky Us."  She said she even wondered why the zebra was on the lion on the book cover.  She summarized it as Eva had managed their life together and, at the end, we are a family and lucky to have each other.  One member thought the title might be written sarcastically "lucky us," we got out of this.  Many commented that they didn't like it, didn't hate it, probably wouldn't recommend it.  One person read another of Amy Bloom books and liked it. Read reviews and thought she would be 'blown away' by this book and she wasn't.  She felt the "writer knew how to tell a story" but she didn't like the characters.  Another said, "I thought it was interesting, but took awhile to get into it, not a big fan of the lifestyle or some of the characters." 

It was good to see how Eva handled the situation.  Someone in the group said they thought Eva was a heroine, with everything she went through.  

We discussed the family life of Eva and Iris.  We were shocked by her mother, surprised by Dad and the other characters that made up the family.  We felt Eva was the stable one in the family, "she couldn't tell anything bad" and "made it believable and possible."  We talked about the sisters relationship. Iris was older, she wasn't a mother to Eva, though. "A sister's responsibility isn't the same as a mother" someone said.  "Eva was concerned with others, Iris was concerned with herself" another shared.   We did like the ending when all those who were close to Eva were together.

Still Life by Louise Penny, December 2016

Fourteen members attended this month's book club with some good eats to share, meeting somewhere other than Park Grove Library.  The group had a good discussion on Still Life.

We introduce ourselves and shared what we thought about the book.  I was only there for this first part of the discussion so will share what people thought.  Several members said they will be reading her other books or already have.  It was a great choice many agreed.

Most liked it or loved it.  It was a good mystery, and one person said, I usually don't care for mysteries, but found this fascinating.  Most liked Inspector Armand Gamache.  A few people mentioned they liked the humor in the book, the little tidbits of life.  There was good character development.  One person said they image of Jane's house.

Three Pines, near Montreal was the setting and many loved that scene, the placement for the book.  One person said she would love to visit it, although it is fictional.  Another member said she lived in that area and it is as described.

Another member touched about the conflict in that area with franco or english language, not realizing it is such a division.  Someone who had lived in the area shared that the French were considered the lower class, the English above.  

I liked in the book, the character Myrna, who had been a psychologist in Montreal before getting to Three Pines.  She had a book shop and I liked when she shared her thought about change. She was talking about a book titled "Loss, by Brother Albert.  This is from page 139 in the paperback:  "Most of us are great with change, as long as it was our idea.  But change imposed from the outside can send some people into a tailspin.  I think Brother Albert hit it on the head.  Life is loss.  But out of that, as the book stresses, comes freedom.  If we can accept that nothing is permanent, and change is inevitable, if we can adapt, then we're going to be happier people."  

I also liked that Ruth Zardo (fictitious character) was a poet quoted in the book, often  
"Who hurt you, once,
so far beyond repair
that you would greet each overtune
with curling lip?

When were these seeds of anger sown,
and on what ground 
that they should flourish so,
watered by tears of rage, or grief?

It was not always so."

Another poet was quoted, W. H. Auden, Herman Melville  This one was quoted in the book and helped to solve the mystery of who did kill Jane.  
Towards the end he sailed into an extraordinary mildness,
And anchored in his home and reached his wife
And rode within the harbour of her hand,
And went across each morning to an office
As though his occupation were another island.
Goodness existed: that was the new knowledge
His terror had to blow itself quite out

 Evil is unspectacular and always human,
and shares our bed and eats at our own table.