Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal - Book Cover
Source: Goodreads

Far Far Away

Tom McNeal

 
Pages: 384 | Audiobook: 10 hrs 58 min
Published June 11th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 2013)
 
A National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Award Finalist
Audie Award Finalist
A California Book Award Gold Medal Winner

A dark, contemporary fairy tale in the tradition of Neil Gaiman.

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.

Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings...

Veteran writer Tom McNeal has crafted a young adult novel at once grim(m) and hopeful, full of twists, and perfect for fans of contemporary fairy tales like Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Holly Black's Doll Bones.

Sources: Goodreads and Amazon

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★

This is not my standard genre but I must say, I was thoroughly captivated this book. Like a good Grimm's tale, there are children. Children at play. And a ghost. And a Baker. It is delightful. And then it isn't. It turns grim, of course! It is scary but not too scary. That's coming from me, an absolute lightweight when it comes to scary and dark.

I listened to the Audible version narrated by W. Morgan Sheppard, who delivers a fantastic performance. His voice is grandfatherly. It's light and fun then perfectly cautious, creating suspense yet, at the same time, a sense of safety.

I was completely taken aback by how entertaining I found this tale to be and was reminded that sometimes a good old, Grimm-type fairytale is just what's needed.

About the Author

Tom McNeal Author image
Source: Goodreads

Tom McNeal

Tom was born in Santa Ana, California. His father was a native Californian who raised oranges, and his mother grew up on a farm in northwest Nebraska, where Tom spent his childhood summers. After earning a BA and a teaching credential from UC Berkeley, Tom moved to Hay Springs, Nebraska, taught high school English, drove a school bus, substituted briefly in a one-room schoolhouse, and began work on the novel Goodnight, Nebraska. Tom holds an MA in creative writing from UC Irvine and was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.

His short stories have been widely anthologized, and "What Happened to Tully" was made into a film. He is the author, with his wife, Laura, of four critically-acclaimed young adult novels published by Knopf—Crooked, Crushed, The Decoding of Lana Morris, and Zipped, and the solo author of FAR FAR AWAY (a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature). His adult titles include Goodbye, Nebraska, winner of the California Book Award, and To Be Sung Underwater, published by Little Brown in 2012 and named one of the best books of the year by the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

He lives with his wife and two sons in Southern California.

Sources: Amazon and Nationalbook.org    

 

Book Trailer, Inspiration, Secret Passageways, and More

Book Trailer

Random House Kids | Published on Apr 17, 2013

Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling--and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.

Secret Passages

Q & A with Tom McNeal
By Kate Pavao | May 29, 2013

In an article in the New York Times, you (Tom McNeal) talked about having secret doors in your house – which seems a bit like a fairy tale. Do you think this has any influence on your work or your creative process?

That inclination for the secret passages must align in some way. I don’t exactly know why. I know the history of it. The house in which I was raised had walk-in closets with incomplete walls – the walls went up like 6 or 7 feet, but didn’t go to the ceiling. My brother, sister and I would climb over those walls all the time to get into the next room.

I always knew I wanted to build a house and I always knew when I built a house I wanted a secret passage in it. When Laura and I married we finally did that. I think it all goes back to the fun of not leaving your room to go into the hallway, but sneaking into your brother or sister’s room.

We’re building a house right now and the boys are finally going to get their own rooms – and just like the other house, this will have a not-so-secret passage. They will have bookshelves that roll away or swing out. That will lead to a ladder that leads to a trap door to the attic. They are very keen on this, of course. So now they are going to get the bug too.

Source: Publisher's Weekly

 

More Q & A with Tom McNeal

Source: Kidsreads.com

In FAR FAR AWAY, a boy named Jeremy Johnson Johnson finds himself to be the outcast in a small town. Not only does he have double the same last name, he also claims to hear voices. But he can hear a voice --- the voice of Jacob Grimm, one half of the famous Brothers Grimm. With his help, Jeremy tries to save the family bookshop, survive an unsavory adventure and find his place in the world.

In this interview, Tom McNeal shares his inspiration for this unique ghost story, what he likes most about fairy tales and what he's working on next!

1. What inspired you to write FAR FAR AWAY?

I’d fallen into reading about the Grimm Brothers, and the circumstances of their story was fascinating to me --- Jacob and Wilhelm united throughout their lives, working together, Jacob living with Wilhelm even after Wilhelm became a husband and father, the awful death of Jacob’s young nephew (and namesake). Jacob outlived his younger brother and was the more somber and rigid of the two. The more I read about him, the more curmudgeonly yet sympathetic he seemed, and I began to think of him as the right conduit for the story. And so, before very long, Jacob Grimm became my ghost, and FAR FAR AWAY became his story.

2. What kind of research did you do on fairy tales, since you bring so much of Jacob Grimm's life into the story?

I read a lot of biographical and critical material about the Grimm Brothers and their tales. I took notes, marked up the tales and could’ve kept at it even longer, but, you know, sooner or later you have to start writing. The most famous Grimm scholars are Jack Zipes and Maria Tatar. She’s a professor of Germanic Languages at Harvard and her ANNOTATED BROTHERS GRIMM provides all sorts of really interesting context and biographical references in the margins of each of the tales.  Tatar's writing is also beautifully lucid and engaging.  I'd think that anyone at all interested in the Grimms would have a lot of fun with that book.

3. What is your favorite aspect of fairy tales?

I like the way fairy tales let you peer into your darkest fears (dark forests, wicked stepmothers) or fondest dreams (complete a quest, win the princess). In FAR FAR AWAY, there are twin quests.  Jacob is trying to figure out The Thing Undone and Jeremy is trying to find his place in the real world.  Though their aims are different, as the book evolves, their paths converge. What allows Jacob finally to escape the Zwischenraum --- his mentorship and affection for Jeremy --- is also what allows Jeremy to move forward in the world with a fuller idea of who he is.

4. Which fairy tale story is your favorite? Do you have a favorite fairy tale storyteller?

I think I answer this differently every time I’m asked. This time I’ll say, “Rapunzel,” because it’s not only strange and romantic and evocative, but also because the first Grimm version was basically R-rated, and then the brothers cleaned it up. This funny evolution comes up in the book, by the way.

I was attracted more to the Grimms’ collection because of the darkness in so many of their tales.  And, too, because of their rough justice. In the end of a Grimm tale, goodness and generosity is generously rewarded and cruelty is cruelly punished. Very satisfying.

5. In FAR FAR AWAY, fairy tales and reality seem to blur for Jeremy Johnson Johnson: he does hear Jacob Grimm's voice, but it's not certain if there is magic in the prince cakes. Do you believe there's a certain amount of blur in real life, too?

Oh, sure. I think one reason I've always liked a good ghost story is because I don't find it completely impossible that spirits can linger. And this is probably because my own mother told me some stories about telepathic visits from the dead that she didn't believe were fictional. So you can see how it could begin to take root.

6. Jacob Grimm tries to pull Jeremy towards his studies and Ginger tries to pull him toward fun throughout the story. Which direction would you try to pull Jeremy? Which way do you usually turn towards in your life?

Toward the end of the book, Jeremy promises that he will study hard in Jacob’s absence. Jacob responds, Study, yes, but also enjoy. Of course the complement of this is, Enjoy, yes, but also study. Even for me as an adult, I find the balance between the two a difficult thing

7. What you like readers to take away after reading this book?

In the last years of their lives, Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm undertook the compilation of an authoritative German dictionary, a massive project that they could not complete. The last word that Jacob worked on before his death was frucht, or fruit, which, as Jacob points out in the book, derives from the Latin fructus: to enjoy.

8. What should readers expect to see from you next? Are you working on anything right now?

At the moment I’m working on an adult book told from the p.o.v. of a caretaker of an avocado grove.  With any luck, it will be less boring than that sounds. As for another YA book, I’d love to do something more with a ghost, and have a couple of things in mind.

Book Club Chat with the Author

VLCPhotoProductions
Streamed live on May 20, 2013Published on Apr 26, 2009

In this fun conversation with Tom McNeal, he jovially answers question from book club members and gives a glimpse into his personal and writing lives. The sound quality is a bit lacking but the interview is well worth the listen.

Discussion Questions

Source: Novel Gobblers Book Club

  1. Have you read other books by this author?
  2. Did this book remind you of any other books you've read?
  3. What do you think of the book cover? Does it represent the book well?
  4. Was the story what you expected it to be? Were you pleased or disappointed?
  5. If you listened to the audiobook, did you enjoy the narrator? Why or why not?
  6. Was the plot predictable? What were some of your predictions and were they correct?
  7. What did you find unique about this story?
  8. Were the characters believable and lovable?
  9. Were there any moments in the book surprised you? Did you feel suspense? Did the story hold your attention?
  10. Who were your favorite secondary characters?
  11. What did you like or dislike about this book?
  12. Is there a moral to this story?
  13. What do you imagine Prince Cakes taste like?
  14.  Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
  15. Will you look to read other books by this author?

Happy Reading!

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

 

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs cover

You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas

Augusten Burroughs

 
Hardcover, 206 pages | Audio: 5 hrs 59 min
Published October 27th 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published October 1st 2009)
 
You’ve eaten too much candy at Christmas…but have you ever eaten the face off a six-foot stuffed Santa? You’ve seen gingerbread houses…but have you ever made your own gingerbread tenement? You’ve woken up with a hangover…but have you ever woken up next to Kris Kringle himself?

Augusten Burroughs has, and in this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection he recounts Christmases past and present—as only he could. With gimleteyed wit and illuminated prose, Augusten shows how the holidays bring out the worst in us and sometimes, just sometimes, the very, very best.

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★

My book club chose this for our November read, getting us into the holiday spirit early. I mean, how festive is that cover? And the opening line: "It's not that I was an outright nitwit of a child." Nitwit? No. Bizarre? Definitely. I'm glad his frontal lobe took so long to develop or we may have missed out on these zany stories surrounding Christmas, the author's FAVORITE holiday and yet, a day that always turned out horribly for him. 

Aside from a disturbing chapter involving a French Santa, I enjoyed most of his stories. Burroughs writes beautifully; his descriptions paint vivid images and I often felt as though I was sitting with him as he recounted these stories directly to me. I found myself responding, "Why on earth would you do that???" and "Good grief! Turn the water off already!".

There are some great lines in this book, many that made me laugh and many that were heartfelt and insightful. For example, "Therapists, I felt, were like poodles; there were simply too many of them for all to be good." And this one: "There were people who had so much strength that you could borrow some, just being in the same room with them." 

It reads quickly, too. Had I focused myself I could have easily finished this book in one or two sittings even being the slow reader that I am. Overall, I thought it was an okay book but not something I'd rave about. Even so, I'm glad I read it and if you enjoy short stories about a non-nitwit kid making comical mixups between Santa and Jesus, along with stories of love, sacrifice, and loss, you might give this one a try.

 

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Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff
The City of Thieves David Benioff Cover
Source: Goodreads

City of Thieves

David Benioff 

 
Pages: 258 / Audio: 8 Hrs 34 mins
Published May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
 
From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

"Calm yourself, my morbid little Israelite. I won't let the bad men get you."

There was nothing about this book that I couldn't love; the main characters, the plot, the pace, the writing -- it was all fantastic. I was hooked from the first sentence. I think what stands out most to me is the writing. The words flow effortlessly. They are smooth and descriptive. I was not reading so much as I was mentally seeing the story play out like a movie. I could see, hear, and feel the emotions, events, environment, and the characters. David Benioff is an amazing writer and storyteller. This is a book I could read over and over and enjoy it more each time. 

About the Author

David_Benioff_Author
Source: Goodreads

David Benioff

David Benioff (born David Friedman but changed his name to take his mother's maiden name) was born and raised in New York City and attended Dartmouth College and the University of California at Irvine. His father, Stephen Friedman, is a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and current Chairman of the United States President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. 

Before the publication of his first novel The 25th Hour, Benioff worked as a club bouncer and high school English teacher, until his adaptation of The 25th Hour into a feature film directed by Spike Lee led to a new new career as a screenwriter, including the screenplays for "The Kite Runner". 

Stories from his critically acclaimed collection When the Nines Roll Over appeared in Best New American Voices and The Best Nonrequired American Reading. His latest novel is City of Thieves. He is also a co-creater of the award winning HBO series, "Game of Thrones". He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Amanda Peet, and daughter.   Source: Bookbrowse.com

Revealing Interviews

City of Thieves was my first exposure to David Benioff. I don't follow Game of Thrones -- I know, I know. Oh, the shame! However, after reading City of Thieves and loving it as much as I did, I was fascinated with this author and had to learn more about him. Below are some wonderful interviews discussing his books, his writing process, fears, other authors, X-Men, Game of Thrones, and more.  Such a genuine, talented man.

David Benioff on Writing:
Game of Thrones, City of Thieves & Telling Lies for Grown Ups

Published on Jul 8, 2013

In this interview with Rich Fahle of Bibliostar.TV, writer, screenwriter, and Producer David Benioff explains how the Game of Thrones books helped him rediscover his fantasy roots, his love of the New York filmmakers of his 1970s youth, the story behind his own successful novels, and the challenges of adapting beloved stories for the big screen.

 
Writers' Confessions

Published on Jul 18, 2010

David Benioff discusses screenwriting and other aspects of the writing process. Shot during the 2008 International Festival of Authors at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

 
A Conversation with David Benioff

Source: Penguin Random House

Q. City of Thieves begs the question: Did all this really happen to your grandfather?

No. My grandfather was born on a farm in Delaware. He became a furrier and died in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My grandmother (unlike the non-cooking grandmother in the book) made the best chopped chicken liver in the state. Neither one, as far as I know, ever visited Russia.

Q. David notes, “Truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor.” (p. 4) How much “editing” did you do?

See answer to number one. A whole lot.

Q. How much additional research did you do to write this novel?

I had a wonderful teacher once, the novelist Ann Patchett. I asked her about the research she did for The Magician’s Assistant, and she told me to choose the single best book on the given subject and study it obsessively. Writers are always tempted to track down dozens of books to help give our make-believe stories that tang of authenticity, but often the problem with too much research is a writing style that seems too researched, dry and musty, and eager for a history teacher’s gold star of approval.

Unfortunately, my will was not strong enough for me to follow Ann’s advice. I did end up reading dozens

 
Words & Wine: David Benioff - City of Thieves

Published on Apr 26, 2009

David Benioff joins Warren for another evening of Words & Wine where they measure the importance of talent, place a friendly wager, and stress the importance of bowel movements.

 

The City of Thieves David Benioff Cover

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Discussion Questions

Source: Penguin Random House

  • David wants to hear about his grandfather’s experiences firsthand. Why is it important for us to cultivate and preserve our oral histories? Do you have a relative or friend whose story you believe should be captured for posterity?
  • Lev’s father is taken—and almost certainly killed—by the NKVD, yet Lev himself stays behind to defend Leningrad. How do you think he reconciled his patriotism to his love for his father?
  • In the midst of a major historical moment, Lev is preoccupied with thoughts of food and sex. What does this tell us about experiencing history as it unfolds?
  • From the cannibals in the market to the sex slaves in the farmhouse, there are numerous illustrations of the way in which war robs us of our humanity. In your opinion, what was the most poignant example of this and why?
  • Kolya tells Lev that the government should “put the famous on the front lines” (p. 67) rather than use them as the spokespeople for patriotic propaganda. Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of any contemporary instances of this practice?
  • Aside from the sly pride that Lev notices, are there any other clues that give Kolya away as the true author of The Courtyard Hound?
  • Do you think Markov’s denouncer should have remained silent about the partisan’s presence? Did either of them deserve to die?
  • Even moments before Lev pulls his knife on the Sturmbannführer, he thinks: “I had wanted him dead since I’d heard Zoya’s story. . . . [But] I didn’t believe I was capable of murdering him” (p. 228). Do you think everyone—given the right motivation—is capable of killing another human being? Could you?
  • Lev takes an instinctive dislike to Kolya yet comes to consider him his best friend. What was the turning point in their relationship?
  • Lev says that Vika “was no man’s idea of a pinup girl,” (p.149) but he is instantly infatuated. Would he have been drawn to her had they met in different—safer—circumstances?

Happy Reading!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

 

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris, Cover
Source: Goodreads

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris

Hardcover, 275 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
 
Sedaris's latest essay collection possesses all of the wit, charm, and poignancy his readers have come to expect.

His usual cast of delightful characters returns; including a flashback of his father in his underpants berating a schoolboy or, more recently, hounding David into getting a colonoscopy. Many pieces involve travel, animals, or both: his sister Gretchen totes around an insect "kill jar"; in a Denver airport, David engages with a judgmental fellow passenger; and visiting the Australian bush, he has encounters with a kookaburra and a dead wallaby. Seeking a stuffed owl for a Valentine's Day gift leads him to a taxidermist shop where he is shown gruesome oddities and confronts difficult questions about his curiosity. Another essay explores the evolution of David's 35 years-and-counting of keeping a diary and provides some great insight into his writing process.

In addition to the personal essays, there are six satirical monologues in which he assumes the role of a character with a ridiculous message. One in particular involves a man's ludicrous response to the legalization of gay marriage in New York, believing his own marriage is now "meaningless".

This is a must-read for fans of smart, well-crafted writing with a sense of humor.

Agent: Steven Barclay Agency. (May)  Publishers Weekly via Barnes & Noble

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★

This collection of essays was my introduction to David Sedaris. These essays range from humorous observations of quirky behaviors to downright snarky attitudes to utterly dark, disturbing thoughts and actions. 

What did I like? I liked that I could finish the short essays quickly and start with a fresh one the next time I picked up the book. I liked that some of the lighter essays had me busting out with laughter. And I liked his writing style; It's clear that he is a witty, talented writer.

What didn't I like? The majority of these essays were far too dark for my taste. 

Our reading group was split on this one; some loved it while others felt as did. It's possible that I might like his other works more, but it's unlikely that I'll eagerly seek them out anytime soon.

 

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Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

 

The Waves

Virginia Woolf

Club Selection for September 2017

Pages: 297
Published June 1st 1978 by Harvest Books (first published October 1931)
 
The Waves is often regarded as Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, standing with those few works of twentieth-century literature that have created unique forms of their own. In deeply poetic prose, Woolf traces the lives of six children from infancy to death who fleetingly unite around the unseen figure of a seventh child, Percival. Allusive and mysterious, The Waves yields new treasures upon each reading.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

This was my first Virginia Woolf novel. By definition, it really isn't even a novel. It was an experiment with writing the streams of consciousness of the characters at specific moments in time rather than the traditional writing of plot and dialogue between the characters.

I was intrigued by the concept and idea of following the characters from childhood to death and found it interesting to see the character's thoughts evolve from distracted observations of childhood to deeper contemplation as adults, but from the first sentence it was clear that this would not be an easy read. I had to work hard at placing myself in the mind of each character and the language was difficult for me interpret; It is more like poetry than prose. 

If you like poetry and content that requires deliberate effort on the part of the reader, this may be a great choice for you. For me, it required more effort than I wanted to put into it and finishing it became more of a personal challenge than it was for the enjoyment. This is one I'd like to come back to in the future and see if I can do better with it.

About the Author

Virginia Woolf author image

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, original name in full Adeline Virginia Stephen (born January 25, 1882, London, England—died March 28, 1941, near Rodmell, Sussex), English writer whose novels, through their nonlinear approaches to narrative, exerted a major influence on the genre.

While she is best known for her novels, especially Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf also wrote pioneering essays on artistic theory, literary history, women’s writing, and the politics of power. A fine stylist, she experimented with several forms of biographical writing, composed painterly short fictions, and sent to her friends and family a lifetime of brilliant letters.

Her works are considered unique as they go deep into the psychology of a character, and show the way of their thinking. She published novels and essays as a public intellectual, and received both critical and popular success. She used to self-publish most of her works through the Hogarth Press which she had co-founded.

Throughout her life, she suffered from mental illnesses, probably including bipolar disorder, and she took her own life in 1941. She was 59. Her posthumous reputation suffered after the Second World War, but it was re-established with the growth of feminist criticism during the 1970s. Woolf’s novels can be described as highly experimental: a narrative, frequently uneventful, and commonplace, is seen to be refracted, or dissolved, in the receptive consciousness of the character.

Source: britannica.com and famouspeople.com

About Virginia Woolf's Writing

Had I watched either of the videos below before I attempted reading this or any Virginia Woolf novel, I would have had much greater appreciation for her words. The 4 minute video below is loaded with powerful insight into her writing and what she was trying to accomplish. The narrator, Sue Asbee, Senior Lecturer in English, offers profound, thoughtful descriptions of her experiences with Virginia Woolf's writing and begins the narration with a completely relatable statement:

I first discovered Virginia Woolf as a student. I found the text completely baffling. I think I'd opened Mrs. Dalloway expecting a story and what I got was a flow of ideas. Memories."

I, too, found the text completely baffling. The difference is that I stayed in that mindset for the entire book. In contrast, Sue Asbee looked beyond the text and discovered something I wish I would have discovered:

When I began to understand what Woolf was trying to achieve in her writing, it made me rethink how memories from childhood, inconsequential moments, have actually come to be the basis of my own identity. There is always a desire to make the fleeting moments something permanent. And that's what she does in her patterning, the structure of her work, in her repetition of images. And the writing, once you stop looking for a story, is stunning."

 

Virginia Woolf Video Image
A discussion of Virginia Woolf’s writing. © Open University (A Britannica Publishing Partner)

 

 

 Literature, by The School of Life

 

This video, too, provides us with brilliant descriptions about Virginia Woolf's thinking and writing.

 

Here's a few quotations from this video that I feel truly expresses the spirit, vision, and intent of Virginia Woolf's writing.

"In her novels and essays, Virginia Woolf captured the intimate moments of the 20th century like no one else. She opens our eyes to the neglected value of daily experiences."
 
"In order to stand on the same intellectual footing with men, women needed not only dignity but also equal rights to education, an income of 500 pounds a year, and a room of one's own."
 
"Woolf was probably the best writer in the English language for describing our minds without the jargon of clinical psychology."
"Books like Woolf's, which aren't overly sarcastic, aren't caught up in adventure plots, or cradled in convention are a contract. She's expecting us to turn down the outside volume, to try on her perspective, and to spend energy with subtle sentences. And in turn, she offers us the opportunity to notice the tremors we normally miss and to better appreciate moths, our own headaches, and our fascinating, fluid sexuality."

 

A Tour of Virginia Woolf's Enchanting Home

A country retreat, gardens, inviting spaces, readings from passages of Virginia Woolf's writings...

This 4 minute video of a visit to Monk's House by readingbukowsi beautifully captures the essence of Virginia and Leonard Woolf and their humble home in Sussex.

What a lovely place and a tender, charming visit!
 
 

Book Club Mojo

Prior to our book club meeting a friend and I briefly discussed The Waves over coffee one day. We were talking about how the text was written as a stream of consciousness rather than a story with a plot. She mentioned that the thoughts of the characters jumped around so much that it was difficult to follow and that she was sure her own stream of consciousness did not jump around like that.

This sounded like a the perfect fixings for an experiment to me and hence, the birth of the following book club activity.

Stream of Consciousness Hip-Hop
  1. Set a timer to go off at a random time during the meeting. Be sure it's after everyone has settled in and conversation is flowing.
  2. Hand each member a blank slip of paper and a pen and announce to the group that when the timer goes off, they are to quickly write down what they were thinking about at that very moment. Fold and place slips of paper into a bowl.
  3. Mix them up then pass the bowl for each member to select one slip, preferably not their own, and read it aloud.
  4. Were they as random and jumpy as the thoughts of the characters in the book seemed to be?

Our Results

The Waves by Virginia Woolf Stream Of Consciouness Hip-Hop

I have to say, this made us laugh - Virginia Woolf sure knew her stuff!

 🙂   🙂   🙂

Discussion Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

Source: Schmoop.com

  1. What is the significance of the book's structure? Why does Woolf begin each chapter of with an italicized introduction describing an ocean landscape at a particular point in the course of a day?
  2. The Waves presents six very different narrators (and describes a seventh main character, Percival, in great detail) but then suggests that their perspectives are somehow related or part of a larger whole. What do you think Woolf is trying to say about individuality?
  3. Bernard gets a lot more "air time" than the other characters; indeed, the entire last chapter is written from his perspective. What makes him so special?
  4. Percival is clearly central to the narrative, but he never serves as narrator. Why?
  5. The Waves uses a lot of natural imagery, but it also highlights technology (e.g., the repeated references to trains) and other aspects of modernity. How does the book make use of images of the natural and the modern? Are the references to each balanced? Is one more valorized or demonized than the other?
  6. The novel makes frequent references to language and art, alternately highlighting its power and emphasizing its impotence. Ultimately, does one of those perspectives take precedence? Is "making phrases" powerful and meaningful, or ultimately futile? Why or why not?
  7. What's with the frequent references to death? Why is this an obsession for the novel's characters, even before Percival's death?
  8. The book is one of Woolf's most experimental, breaking a lot of the conventions of traditional plotting, narrative, and characterization. Do you think it counts as a novel? Why or why not?

Happy Reading!

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

 

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols
Source: Goodreads.com

Down the Garden Path

Beverly Nichols

Hardcover, 290 pages
Published December 13th 2004 by Timber Press (first published 1931)
 
Down the Garden Path has stood the test of time as one of the world's best-loved and most-quoted gardening books. Ostensibly an account of the creation of a garden in Huntingdonshire in the 1930s, it is really about the underlying emotions and obsessions for which gardening is just a cover story.
 
The secret of this book's success---and its timelessness---is that it does not seek to impress the reader with a wealth of expert knowledge or advice. Beverley Nichols proudly declares his status as a newcomer to gardening: "The best gardening books should be written by those who still have to search their brains for the honeysuckle's languid Latin name..."
 
As unforgettable as the plants in the garden is the cast of visitors and neighbors who invariably turn up at inopportune moments. For every angelic Miss Hazlitt there is an insufferable Miss Wilkins waiting in the wings. For every thought-provoking Professor, there is an intrusive Miss M, whose chief offense may be that she is a 'damnably efficient' gardener. From a disaster building a rock garden, to further adventures with greenhouses, woodland gardens, not to mention cats and treacle, Nichols has left us a true gardening classic.
 
 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★

A Gem of a Story and a Book to Treasure

In this entertaining story, the first volume of the Allways Trilogy, Beverly Nichols leads you down the path of his own gardening journey. He doesn't claim to know everything. In fact, he does just the opposite. He flat out tells you he's a gardening novice and to our pleasure, that doesn't hold him back at all. He has the desire and motivation to jump in with both feet and see what happens. You're the lucky one that get's to ride along as he puts plans into action that often leaving you scratching your head in dismay yet always smiling at the outcome.

He loves puttering in his gardens and walking the paths, which he insists on traveling start to finish because that is when you discover miracles. His determination in finding tiny, blossoming treasures in the winter snow is a delight as is his dry humor regarding neighbors that range from the nosy to the flirtatious to the gardening nemeses. He's the friend that keeps you in stitches because he's bold enough to say exactly what you're thinking but didn't dare say out loud! 

The book has some wonderful special touches that I loved such as the sketched map of his gardens and the touching illustrations that divide the book into the four seasons. There is also something very curious on every 16th page of this book; Just below the last line of text and along the left margin is a single uppercase letter in small print. They appear in alphabetical order. Any ideas why this was done?

If you don't have an appreciation for gardening or flowers or persnickety personalities now, you will by the time you finish this story. It's easy to understand why this book, first published in 1932, has never been out of print!

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Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

 

War-of-Art Audio Cover Steven Pressfield
Source: Audible.com

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

Pages: 168 / Audio: 2 Hrs 56 mins
Published July 13th 2011 by Recorded Books (first published 2002)
 
Winning the Creative Battle
 
Internationally best-selling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
 
 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

Perfection.

This book was recommended to me by my friend, writer Mo Parisian, whose first novel, What We Know Now, will be released on Amazon November 25, 2017.  Yes, a shameless plug, yet I don't care because I am so excited about it! Back to the War of Art - Mo succinctly described this book as "Perfection".  I completely agree!

It's short and powerful. It's life-changing. No matter who you are, you'll feel the author is speaking directly to YOU. We all have talents and creative abilities and yet we minimize them, deny them, procrastinate, sabotage, and make ourselves miserable -- why??? Steven Pressfield frankly and humorously addresses these issues and exposes all of our excuses. He can. He's waded through the muck and come out clean on the other side.

I listened to the audio book, which was fantastic. I've also ordered the hardcopy so I can reference it often. It's always a good time to read and re-read this one. What are you waiting for?

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About the Author

steve-pressfield-author
Source: stevenpressfield.com

Steven Pressfield

 

Steven Pressfield is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos, The Authentic Swing, An American Jew, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter. 

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

 
Source: Amazon.com
 
Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Still LIfe With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Source: Goodreads

Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Anna Quindlen

Club Selection for August 2017

Pages: 252 / Audio: 6 Hrs 50 mins
First Published January 28th 2014 by Random House
 
New York Times Bestseller

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined. 

 

“[Anna] Quindlen’s seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation.”—NPR

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

Anna Quindlen writes beautifully and this story flows along smoothly like a lazy river; It feels uneventful for the most part, even when important events happened. The characters were likable and the story interesting enough to keep me turning pages.

There was good deal of internal dialogue, which I loved but at the same time found hard to follow because the narrator's thoughts jumped around so much. It made me realize how it confusing it must be for others to carry on a conversation with me at times -- we'll be talking about a subject and suddenly I think of something else (squirrel!) so I jump to that topic for a bit. Thankfully, the narrator of this story always came back to complete the original thought.

This was a nice, easy read with moments of intrigue. I wanted to love it as much as I do the cover art (Oh,that beautiful cover!) but all in all, it was better than ok but not fantastic.

 

About the Author

Anna Quindlen Official Author Photo for Still Life with Bread Crumbs
Photo Credit: Maria Krovatin

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling novelist who wrote the books One True Thing and Object Lessons.

Synopsis
Anna Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age 18, she worked as a copy girl at The New York Times. After college, Quindlen became a reporter for The New York Post before returning to the Times in 1977. She was promoted to deputy metropolitan editor at the Times and wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed column from 1981-1994. After leaving the Times in 1995, Quindlen has written several bestselling novels, including One True Thing.

Career Highlights
Writer Anna Marie Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anna Quindlen joined The New York Times at age 18 as a copy girl. After graduating from Barnard College in 1974, she was hired as a reporter for The New York Post. She returned to the Times in 1977 and was named deputy metropolitan editor in 1983.

As a columnist for The Times from 1981 to 1994, Quindlen was only the third woman in the paper's history to write a regular column for the prestigious Op-Ed page. Her column, "Public and Private," won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Other columns included "About New York" and "Life in the 30s." In 1995, she left the paper to devote herself to becoming a novelist.

Quindlen's body of work includes fiction, non-fiction, self-help and children's books. She has written five best-selling novels, three of which were made into movies, One True Thing, Black and Blue and Blessings. Thinking Out Loud, a collection of her "Public and Private" columns, was also a best-seller. She currently writes the Last Word column for Newsweek magazine.

Anna Quindlen and her husband, attorney Gerald Krovatin, live in New York City with their three children.

Source: biography.com

Revealing Interviews

With each book you read, aren't you curious to know the inspiration behind it or to understand more about the research,  creative, and editing processes?

Well, we're in luck! Anna Quindlen gives us the inside scoop to these questions and more in these revealing interviews.
 

A Q&A with Anna Quindlen, author of Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Random House: Reader's Guide
November 21, 2013

Anna Quindlen author - Still Life With Bread CrumbsPeople love to know where the inspiration for a novel comes from. Would you say something about Still Life with Bread Crumbs in this regard?

It’s not one thing. It’s never one thing. I’ve thought a lot about the nature of art, and why women’s art, particularly if it arises from domestic life, is minimized, or denigrated—why, for instance, we pay less attention to the work of Alice McDermott, a genius miniaturist whose novels reflect the quiet everyday, then we do to the more sprawling, outward-facing work of Philip Roth. Some of my thinking on that is embodied in Rebecca’s photography and public reaction to it. I’m 61 years old, and I’ve thought a lot about aging, and the stages of a woman’s life, and that’s in there, too. From a purely mechanical point of view, I try to do some essential thing in each novel that I haven’t done before. In this book it was twofold: I’ve never written a love story, and I haven’t written a book with a happy ending, and this material lent itself to both. ...[Read the full interview]
 

 

Anna Quindlen Spins A Tale Of Middle-Aged Reinvention

NPR Author Interview
February 2, 2014,  6:05 AM ET
Heard on Weekly Edition Sunday | Listen 6:32

Rebecca Winter is at a crossroads. The famous photographer had been living off of sales of one particular photograph for years. When the money stream starts to dry up, she reluctantly decides to rent out her Manhattan apartment and move to a small, rural town far from her seemingly fabulous New York life. It is here that she tries to map out her next chapter. No longer married, no longer needed as much by her grown son, no longer as successful as she used to be.

That's where we meet the main character in Anna Quindlen's newest novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs.

Quindlen tells NPR's Rachel Martin, "I'm really intrigued by the idea that we now live long enough to get to reinvent, rediscover ourselves over and over again, and that's definitely what's happening to Rebecca."

Interview highlights include details on why Rebecca leaves New York for the country, on the love story at the heart of the book, on taste and art, and staying down to earth.

Listen to the interview below or read the transcript.

Book Club Mojo

Inspired by Sarah, one of the characters in the book who runs the English-themed Tea for Two cafe, DeeAnn prepared a beautiful tea party for us!

She treated us with tea (Winter Chocolate Spice and Dancing Sugar Plum), wine, appetizers of meat, cheese, and shrimp, an entree of cucumber sandwiches and scones, and a dessert of sherbet and cookies.  

Loads of laughs, delicious food, and interesting conversation made for an evening of sheer delight!

Pin Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - Mojo 6

Discussion Questions

Novel Gobblers Original Questions

1.Rebecca's story reminds us that it's important to leave behind people who destroy our dreams and hopes and to find the right people in life. Who were these people in her life? Why did she leave them or embrace them?

2. At one point in the story, Rebecca says to her son, Ben, that she used to be Rebecca Winter. What do you think Ben meant when he replied, "You'll always be the Rebecca Winter."?

3. How might this story be a coming-of-age story for Rebecca Winter, a 60 year old woman?

4. Which of the five W.H. Auden verdicts fits this story for you? Why?

1. I can see this is good and I like it.

2. I can see this is good but I don’t like it.

3. I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it.

4. I can see that this is trash but I like it.

5. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.

5. Did you make any predictions as you read this story? What were they? Were you right?

6. Anna Quindlen has stated that she wanted to write a love story. Do you think she succeeded?

7. How did this story make you feel? Who would you recommend it to and why?

 

Questions Issued by the Publisher

Source: Litlovers.com

1. What part of Rebecca Winter’s life do you relate to the most? How did the way Rebecca handled her hardships compare to decisions you’ve made in your own life?

2. One of the themes of Still Life with Bread Crumbs is discovering how to age gracefully. What has been one of your biggest struggles when entering a different stage of life? What is something you’ve enjoyed?

3. Rebecca finds herself living far outside the comfort zone of her former New York City life. What do you think is the most difficult part of moving somewhere new? Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

4. At one point in the book, Jim says that he believes that people live in houses that look like them. How does your own house or apartment reflect your personality?

5. "Language had always failed her when it came to describing her photographs…There was nothing she could say about the cross photographs that could come close to actually seeing them." Rebecca realizes this after speaking at the Women’s Art League event. Do you ever find it difficult to describe the effect that art --- photographs, paintings, writing --- has had on you? What might that say about the power of artwork?

6. Throughout the book, Sarah is often the perfect antidote for Rebecca’s unhappiness. Do you have a person like this in your life? Think about one of the times that you were most grateful for him or her.

7. One of the turning points for Rebecca is when Ben tells her, "You will always be Rebecca Winter." How has Rebecca’s personal identity become entangled with her identity as an iconic artist? What helps her to ground herself?

8. The dog gradually becomes a bigger part of Rebecca’s life as she moves further away from her past self—the "not a dog person" city girl. The dog pictures are even the catalyst for Rebecca’s break with TG. What do you think the presence of the dog means in Rebecca’s life, especially after she discovers his name is Jack? How might the constant company of an animal have a different effect from that of the company of people?

9. When Rebecca finally learns the meaning of the crosses, she wonders if the great artists had ever considered "the terrible eternity of immortality" for their subjects. We live in a culture of camera phones and constant photography. Was there ever a moment when you were particularly grateful to have a certain photograph? Do you ever wish that our lives were less documented?

10. O. Henry’s short story and the story of Rebecca’s mother’s Mary Cassatt both have a bittersweet quality to them. Think about a moment in your life that might have been upsetting or sad. Was there someone who helped you see beauty or happiness in that moment instead?

Happy Reading!

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
Source: Goodreads

The Road Back to You:

An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

 
Pages: 238 / Audio: 9 Hrs 17 mins
Published November 17th 2016 by Inter-Varsity Press,US
 
Ignorance is bliss except in self-awareness...

What you don't know about yourself can hurt you and your relationships―and even keep you in the shallows with God. Do you want help figuring out who you are and why you're stuck in the same ruts? The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system with an uncanny accuracy in describing how human beings are wired, both positively and negatively.

In The Road Back to You Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile forge a unique approach―a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of ourselves, compassion for others, and love for God. Witty and filled with stories, this book allows you to peek inside each of the nine Enneagram types, keeping you turning the pages long after you have read the chapter about your own number. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will also start to see the world through other people's eyes, understanding how and why people think, feel, and act the way they do. Beginning with changes you can start making today, the wisdom of the Enneagram can help take you further along into who you really are―leading you into places of spiritual discovery you would never have found on your own, and paving the way to the wiser, more compassionate person you want to become.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

"There are others [personality typing systems] that describe and encourage you to embrace who you are, which isn't very helpful if who you are is a jerk." 

This is wonderful introduction to the Enneagram Personality Typing System. The authors break down a complicated subject into a clear, concise, and entertaining guide to self-discovery. The authors tell it like it is and provide relatable and often humorous examples.

As I read through the different personality types searching for myself, it seemed at first that all of them held pieces of me. But then I came to the chapter that powerfully resonated with me.

How did it make me feel? 
Relieved. Understood and accepted. Liberated. Empowered. 

It explained why I see the world the way I do, why I do what I do, that I am not alone, and provided manageable tips to save me from my self-defeating self and move toward my wiser more compassionate self.

What I like best about this typing system is that it removes judgement from the equation and focuses on the motivation behind the behavior. But it doesn't stop there. Accountability is addressed, too. "...once you know your Enneagram number it takes away any excuse you might have for not changing."

When we learn to recognize behaviors and understand the root of them, doors will open to healthier communication and relationships. This book leads you to the glorious, attainable path of becoming your best self.

 

About the Authors

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
Source: theroadbacktoyou.com

Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron is a bestselling author, Enneagram teacher, nationally recognized speaker, psychotherapist, and Episcopal priest. His books include the novel Chasing Francis and spiritual memoir Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. Ian draws on an array of disciplines—from psychology to the arts, Christian spirituality to theology—to help people enter more deeply into conversation with God and the mystery of their own lives. He and his wife, Anne, live in Nashville, Tennessee.

Source: Goodreads

Suzanne Stabile

Suzanne Stabile is a highly sought after speaker and teacher, known for her engaging laugh, personal vulnerability and creative approach to Enneagram instruction. Suzanne received her B.S. in Social Sciences from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where she also completed additional graduate work in the Schools of Sociology and Theology. She has served as a high school professor, the first women’s basketball coach at SMU after Title IX, and as the founding Director of Shared Housing, a social service agency in Dallas.
When she is not on the road teaching and lecturing, Suzanne is at home in Dallas, Texas with her husband Rev. Joseph Stabile, a United Methodist pastor with whom she co-founded Life in the Trinity Ministry and the Micah Center. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of six.

Source: nacr.org

Book Trailer, Podcasts, & Other Cool Stuff

If there's anything that makes learning about ourselves fun, it's having a sense of humor and Ian Morgan Cron definitely has one! His wit and humility makes delving into self-awareness an entertaining and enlightening experience. Here is a great article that includes a short except from the book - just to give you a taste of what you're in for when you read this book.  🙂

It's Called the 'Enneagram': How This Thing Could Save Your Life

Neuroscientists have determined the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is associated with decision making and cost-benefit assessments. If MRI brain scans had been performed on my friends and me one summer’s night when we were fifteen, they would have revealed a dark spot indicating a complete absence of activity in this region of our brains.

That particular Saturday night a group of us got the brilliant idea that streaking a golf banquet at an exclusive country club in my hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut, was a wise decision.

Other than certain arrest for indecent exposure, there was only one problem: Greenwich isn’t a big town, and it was likely someone we knew would recognize us.

And that would have been the end of it if it weren’t for my mother.“What did you and the guys do last night?” she asked the next morning. “Not much. We hung out at Mike’s, then crashed around midnight.”

I instantly had an uneasy feeling. “What did you and Dad do last night?” I said brightly. “We went as guests of the Dorfmanns to their club’s golf banquet,” she replied in a tone that was one part sugar, one part steel.... [Read More]

Self-awareness is an obligation I have in the world to truly love other people." - Ian Morgan Cron

 
Podcasts

For some interesting background into the history of the Enneagram and how the authors learned about it and ultimately began teaching it, take a listen to these two podcast episodes with guest host Luke Norsworthy, host of the popular podcast Newsworthy with Norsworthy.  The authors also host their own podcast on iTunes entitled Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram.

Discover Your Enneagram Type

Source: exploreyourtype.com

"What most of these tests conveniently forget to mention is that the accuracy of personality tests depends heavily on the test takers’ level of self-awareness, and the degree to which they're willing to answer truthfully. But wait— didn’t we take the test in part because we know we need to be more self-aware and honest with ourselves?
 
You get my point.
 
All to say, Enneagram tests can be helpful first steps so long as you don’t rely on them to always be 100% accurate. You alone are the only person who can determine your Enneagram number, and that involves more than taking a test. Take advantage of our resources to help you on your journey toward becoming your best, and truest self. See you on the road!"

Take the Assessment

I thought this assessment was fun and I was especially pleased that the results matched what I had ascertained from reading the book - I'm a five! I asked many of my friends to take it as well.  I will tell you though, in order to take the quiz you have to submit your email address. If this doesn't bother you, great! Have some fun with it. You can always unsubscribe. But if you do decide to unsubscribe, be sure you're thorough about it; there are several layers to the thing that require unsubscribing from.

Discussion Questions

 

1. What did you already know about this book’s subject before you read this book?

2.  Was your "type" quickly evident to you as you read the book?

3.  What is your Enneagram number?

4.  Did you try "typing" others as you read the book?

5.  Did anything surprise you?

6.  What insight or introspection did this book bring about for you?

7.  What questions do you still have?

8.  How did reading this book make you feel?

9.  Did the content prompt any great discussion with your friends any family?

10.  What else have you read on this topic?

11.  Did you recommend this book to anyone? Who was the first person?

 

Happy Reading!

The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

The Henry Family Series by Herman Wouk

2 Volumes

Source: Goodreads

A Masterpiece of Historical Fiction-The Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation" Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events-and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II-as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

The Winds of War

Volume #1

 
Pages: 896 / Audio: 45 hrs and 53 mins
Published February 5th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published November 15th 1971)
 
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War and Remembrance

Volume #2

 
Pages: 1056 / Audio:56 hrs and 8 mins
Published February 5th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 1978)
 

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"The purpose of the author in both War and Remembrance and The Winds of War was to bring the past to vivid life through the experiences, perceptions, and passions of a few people caught in the war's maelstrom. This purpose was best served by scrupulous accuracy of locale and historical fact, as the backdrop against which the invented drama would play."  ~ Herman Wouk in Notes by the Author

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

Fantastic! This is How History Should be Told

If you're looking for an impactful, compelling, unputdownable, entertaining family drama packed with historical facts leading up to and into WWII, this is the series! I learned more about WWII from this book than from any other. Most history books tend to be a snooze for me, regardless of how badly I want to learn the information. But not this one. Herman Wouk is a masterful storyteller. His telling of history works because he humanizes it. You experience it through his characters.

Members of the fictional Henry family are completely believable characters; some lovable, some admirable, some total morons, and all with flaws we can relate to. As the members of this military family are spread across the world, we learn about the struggles of those affected by the war be it due to location, heritage, or personal convictions. We learn about the political players and strategic political plays. We learn historical details from different characters with different perspectives. I especially enjoyed that some chapters were devoted to Victor Henry's translation of "World Empire Lost", a history book written by a fictional German General, Armin von Roon, and to which Victor Henry offers his own insights.

My review hardly does justice to this series. But believe me, you don't want to pass this one by.

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About the Author

Herman Wouk
Source: geni.com

Herman Wouk

Born in 1915 into a Jewish family that immigrated from Russia to New York City, Herman Wouk is the author of such classics as The Caine Mutiny (1951), Marjorie Morningstar (1955), Youngblood Hawke (1961), Don't Stop the Carnival (1965), The Winds of War (1971), War and Remembrance (1978), and Inside, Outside (1985). His later works include The Hope (1993), The Glory (1994), and Hole in Texas (2004).

Among Mr. Wouk's laurels are the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Caine Mutiny; the cover of Timemagazine for Marjorie Morningstar, the bestselling novel of that year; and the cultural phenomenon of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, which he wrote over a thirteen-year period and which went on to become two of the most popular novels and TV miniseries events of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, he received the Guardian of Zion Award for support of Israel.

In 2008, Mr. Wouk was honored with the first Library of Congress Fiction Award, to be known as the Herman Wouk Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. His more recent works include The Lawgiver (2012). His autobiography, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author, came out on his 100th birthday (January 2016). He lives in Palm Springs, California.

Source: bookbrowse.com

5 Reasons This is the Best History Book Ever. Period.

I have always wanted to understand the causes and events of WWII better, but most history books are painfully dry and quite honestly, far over my head. Not so with this book! The history is delivered in such a way that I was able to connect with it. I not only learned a ton but enjoyed it, too!
 

1. It clearly explains some of the causes behind WWII.

Of course, there are many factors but here's a big one.

 

The Treaty of Versailles

Quote from the book - Chapter 21 pg 16

The Versailles Treaty, said the Fuhrer, had simply been the latest of these foreign efforts to mutilate the German heartland. Because it had been historically unsound and unjust it was now dead."

The Treaty of Versailles (French: Trait de Versailles) was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required "Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war ....and forced Germany to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers.

The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left no one content...

Source: Wikipedia


Video Source: Produced by the Department of Defense [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

An American silent film. "Shows views of the Palace of Versailles and of the gardens; the arrival of Fr. For. Min. Pichon, Premier Clemenceau, Robert Lansing, Gen. Bliss, Herbert Hoover, Fr. Gen. Mounory, Gens. Allen and Pershing, Col. House, Arthur Balfour, Ignace Paderewski, Lloyd George, Baron Sonnino, Amb. Hugh Wallace, and Pres. and Mrs. Wilson; Clemenceau addressing the gathering; the U.S. and British delegates signing the treaty; and Lloyd George, Premier Orlando, Clemenceau, and Pres. Wilson posing and being greeted by huge crowds."

 

 
2. It explains how Hitler was able to gain the position of power that he did.

Herman Wouk explains this rather brilliantly, through the memoirs of his fictional character, German Brigadier General Armin Von Roon, who directly served the Fuehrer, attempted to assassinate him, and was eventually sentenced to 21 years in prison for war crimes.

How Hitler Usurped Control of the Army

Quote from the book - Chapter 17 pg 6

In 1938, he and his Nazi minions did not scruple to frame grave charges of sexual misconduct against revered generals of the top command. ... the Nazis managed to topple the professional leadership in a bold underhanded coup based on such accusations. Hitler with sudden stunning arrogance then assumed supreme command himself! And he exacted an oath of loyalty to himself throughout the Wehrmacht, from foot soldier to general. In this act he showed his knowledge of the German character, which is the soul of honor, and takes such an oath as binding to the death."

Our staff, muted and disorganized by the disgusting revelations and pseudo-revelations about our honored leaders, offered no coherent resistance to this usurpation. So...the German army...came to an end; and the drive wheel of the world's strongest military machine was grasped by an Austrian street agitator."

 

 

3. It explains the roots of Hitler's anti-Semitism; his hostility toward Jews. Besides his being nuts.

A conversation between Byron Henry (youngest son of Victor & Rhoda Henry) and Leslie Slote (with the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland) cleared this up for me.

In an attempt to better understand the German people, Byron reads Adolf Hitler's 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that describes Hitler's anti-Semitic views and political ideology. I was completely impressed (and envious) of Byron's ability to sum things up so succinctly.

Hitler's Anti-Semitism and Political Ideology - Mein Kampf

Quote from the book - Chapter 14 pg 15

Well, that's why I've been reading this book, to try to figure them out. It's their leader's book. Now, it turn out this is the writing of an absolute nut. The Jews are secretly running the world, he says. That's his whole message. They're the capitalist, but they're the Bolsheviks too, and they're conspiring to destroy the German people, who by right should really be running the world. Well, he's going to become dictator, see, wipe out the Jews, crush France, and carve off half of Bolshevist Russia for more German living space. Have I got it right so far?"

A bit simplified, but yes -- pretty much."

 

 

4. The author has stated that telling the history of the holocaust through the frame of WWII was his main task in life. I think he nailed it!

The theme and aim of The Winds of War can be found in a few words by the French Jew, Julien Benda:

Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind. In this sense the most insignificant writer can serve peace, where the most powerful tribunals can do nothing."

 

 

5 . Lastly, the family drama portion of this story. Oh yeah 🙂 It includes the good, the bad, the ugly, the naughty, the honorable, the adventurous, the vain, the foolish, the busy-bodies, the morons - and I loved every moment of it.

With that in mind, I just have to share my impression of Natalie Jastrow's behavior in Volume 1. Thankfully, my opinion of her improved in Volume 2.

 

Intriguing Interviews & Videos

Herman Wouk Says He's a 'Happy Gent' At 100

NPR Author Interview
January 14, 2016 |by Lynn Neary
Heard on All Things Considered | Listen 4:52

Herman Wouk 100 Winds of War

Herman Wouk has written a lot of well loved novels like The Winds of WarWar and Remembrance and The Caine Mutiny, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. But his latest achievement is a rare one Wouk reached a milestone that few of us will ever see: the age of 100.

Many years ago, a well known biographer approached Wouk about writing his life story. He gave her access to his journals, but after reading them, "she said, your literary career would be wonderful material and I'd love to do it," Wouk recalls. "But there is a spiritual journey running through your volumes which only you can do." ... Read more or listen below

 

Herman Wouk on CBS

by Nate Bloom | 

CBS Sunday Morning aired on July 2 an interview with author Herman Wouk, 102. Wouk's last book, the memoir Sailor and the Fiddler, was published in 2015. Now he says he will write no more new books, but he does write in his diary every day.

Frankly, the CBS interview seemed like the last word from Wouk. Just two years ago, in photos that accompanied a Sailor and Fiddler review in the New York Times, he was wearing nice, casual clothes (including a Panama-type hat) and was sporting a long, well-groomed white beard. However, in the CBS interview, he is in a bathrobe, in a wheelchair and has an oxygen tube up his nose. His beard is a bit ragged and he wears a simple yarmulke on his bald head.


Still, his mind is still sharp. He quickly discusses his most famous work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny (based on his World War II naval service). And he talks about the aim of his central life work: to fix down in literature what happened in World War II and the Holocaust. Besides The Caine Mutiny (1951), Wouk also wrote Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978). The latter graphically depicted the Holocaust and was the foundation for a 1988-89 TV miniseries of the same name.

TV Miniseries Promo Trailers

Discussion Questions

1. Do you feel you came to know the characters personally? Some characters more than others?

2. Has reading this book helped you feel closer to any of your friends or family members or helped you gain a better sense of what they may have lived through?

3. Do you believe the author gives an accurate account of history and human nature?

4. What has the author stated was the "main task of his life"? Do you feel he accomplished it?

5. Have you watched the television mini-series based on this book series?  Does it follow the general rule that the book is better than the movie or is it an exception?

6. What were the most enlightening things you learned from reading this series?

7. Who were your favorite characters?

8. Which characters do you feel experienced the most growth and development? Give examples.

9. What do you think is the overall take away from this series?

10. Were you in Natalie's shoes throughout this story, would you have made similar decisions in her circumstances?

 

 

 

Happy Reading!

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Source: Goodreads

The Dovekeepers

Alice Hoffman

Club Selection for June 2017

Pages: 504 / Audio: 19 Hrs 01 mins
Published October 4th 2011 by Simon and Schuster
 
Blends mythology, magic, archaeology and women. Traces four women, their path to the Masada massacre. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived.

Four bold, resourceful, and sensuous women come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The four lives intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.

The book was recently, 2015, made into a multi-episode TV movie starring Maia Laura Attard, Rachel Brosnahan, Cote de Pablo and Kathryn Prescott.

..........................................................................................................................................

 

Carol's Rating: ★★

 

This was one of our reading club selections and to be honest, I was reluctant to read it. My experience with a different Alice Hoffman novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, led me to believe this author focuses on the dark and macabre, which isn't my cup of tea. However, as I looked into the plot and topic for The Dovekeepers, I became intrigued with the events of the last Jewish revolt and the siege of Masada. I decided to give this author another try by listening to the audiobook.

From the beginning, I had trouble getting into the story. I was confused by the sudden changes to different female characters telling their story and I couldn't grasp what they had to do with each other. The story felt like drudgery and the characters seldom experienced joy of any sort in their lives. On the rare occasion that they did, such as the birth of a child, joy was fleeting and the focus quickly returned to the burden of being alive. The last quarter of the book picked up steam and had some clever twists, which was nice, as I became more interested in the story - just in time for it to end.

The concept had so much potential. I was eager to learn the history of the siege of Masada but I just couldn't connect with the characters, the story didn't hold my attention, and I really didn't learn anything more than already I knew going in - that only a handful of the Jews survived. The story left me depressed. Were I a baby born into this story my crying would not be for milk but a plea to please drown me at birth rather than have me endure the utter hopelessness for females portrayed within this story. Too harsh? Apologies.

In all fairness, I may have enjoyed the story more had I read it rather than listened to the audiobook. With the hardcopy I would have understood the format - that it was divided into four parts told by separate characters. Still, this simply was not the book for me.

..........................................................................................................................................

About the Author

Alice Hoffman

Born in the 1950s to college-educated parents who divorced when she was young, Alice Hoffman was raised by her single, working mother in a blue-collar Long Island neighborhood. Although she felt like an outsider growing up, she discovered that these feelings of not quite belonging positioned her uniquely to observe people from a distance. Later, she would hone this viewpoint in stories that captured the full intensity of the human experience.

After high school, Hoffman went to work for the Doubleday factory in Garden City. But the eight-hour, supervised workday was not for her, and she quit before lunch on her first day! She enrolled in night school at Adelphi University, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. She went on to attend Stanford University's Creative Writing Center on a Mirrellees Fellowship. Her mentor at Stanford, the great teacher and novelist Albert Guerard, helped to get her first story published in the literary magazine Fiction. The story attracted the attention of legendary editor Ted Solotaroff, who asked if she had written any longer fiction. She hadn't — but immediately set to work. In 1977, when Hoffman was 25, her first novel, Property Of, was published to great fanfare.

Since that remarkable debut, Hoffman has carved herself a unique niche in American fiction. A favorite with teens as well as adults, she renders life's deepest mysteries immediately understandable in stories suffused with magic realism and a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility. (In a 1994 article for the New York Times, interviewer Ruth Reichl described the magic in Hoffman's books as a casual, regular occurrence — "...so offhand that even the most skeptical reader can accept it.") Her characters' lives are transformed by uncontrollable forces — love and loss, sorrow and bliss, danger and death.

Hoffman's 1997 novel Here on Earth was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick, but even without Winfrey's powerful endorsement, her books have become huge bestsellers — including three that have been adapted for the movies: Practical Magic (1995), The River King (2000), and her YA fable Aquamarine (2001).

Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor; and like many people who consider themselves blessed with luck, she believes strongly in giving back. For this reason, she donated her advance from her 1999 short story collection Local Girls to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA

Source: litlovers.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

A Tale Of Forgiveness From The Tragedy Of Masada

NPR Author Interview
November 5, 2011  3:29 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered | Listen 7:43

"When I was there, I felt so moved and so connected," author Alice Hoffman tells Laura Sullivan, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered.

Hoffman was so struck by the beauty of Masada's rocky terrain, she says, that she chose to make it the backdrop in her new novel, The Dovekeepers.

 
The Dovekeepers CBS (Trailer Official)  TV Mini-Series 2015

Based in Alice Hoffman's historical novel about the Siege of Masada, the miniseries focuses on four extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada.

This TV miniseries stars my favorite actress from NCIS - Cote DePablo! I haven't watched the minisereis yet, and there are loads of mixed reviews. What's you take on it? Did you see it? Did you enjoy it more than or less than the book?

 

The Siege of Masada (73 AD) - Last Stand of the Great Jewish Revolt

Ok. Soooo, while the book is advertised to be about the Siege of Masada, it really didn't provide much regarding the actual siege itself or events leading up to it. This left me disappointed and set me on the prowl for more details. My hunt was successful.Thank you, Invicta for your fabulous documentaries! Here is a terrific fact-filled video that satisfied much of my curiosity about this historic event.
 
Published on Oct 2, 2016

In 73 AD Masada, the impregnable mountain fortress in the Judaean desert, stood as the final holdout against the onslaught of Rome’s legions. The siege that followed would mark the final, bloody suppression of the Jewish revolt with an encounter whose awe inspiring remains can still be seen in the desert today!

 


 

Book Club Mojo

Dawn is certainly the hostess with the mostest! She prepared a beautiful, tasty meal of turkey lettuce wraps (recipe coming soon) with plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, cheesecake and of course, wine!

Summer has been so full only one of us was able to finish the book by the time we met. So we discussed it as much as possible without spoilers.

It was fun to discover how different each of our experiences were with the book. Some of our members loved the women characters and the language used to convey their stories. Others were not as fond of the book but we all felt the characters were interesting. Which characters were your favorites?

 

 

 

Discussion Questions

Source: Alicehoffman.com

  1. The novel is split into four principal parts, with each of the main characters—Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah—narrating one section. Which of these women did you find most appealing, and why? Were you surprised to find you had compassion for characters who were morally complex and often made choices that later caused guilt and sorrow?
  2. Yael describes her relationship with Ben Simon as “a destroying sort of love” (p. 46). What does she mean by that? Are there other relationships in the novel that could be described in the same way?
  3. From Yael’s setting free the Romans’ lion, to Shirah’s childhood vision of a fish in the Nile, to the women’s care of the doves, animals are an important component in the book. What did animals mean to the people of this ancient Jewish society, and what specific symbolic forms do they take in the novel?
  4. The figure of Wynn, “The Man from the North,” who comes to serve the women in the dovecote, is based upon archeological finds at Masada. In what ways does Wynn come to bring the women together? Compare Yael’s relationship with Ben Simon to her relationship with Wynn.
  5. How do spells function in the novel? What is the relationship between Shirah’s Jewish beliefs and her use of magic? If you have read other Alice Hoffman novels that include mystical elements—such as Practical Magic or Fortune’s Daughter—how do they compare to The Dovekeepers and its use of magic?
  6. How do Shirah’s daughters react to the intimate friendship that develops between Yael and their mother? Is Shirah a good mother or not?
  7. What do you make of Channa’s attempt, essentially, to kidnap Yael’s baby Arieh? Is Channa different from the other major female characters in the book? Do you find your opinion of her changes?
  8. “You don’t fight for peace, sister,” Nahara tells Aziza. “You embrace it.” (p. 343). What do you think of Nahara’s decision to join the Essenes? Is she naïve or a true believer? Do you see similarities between the Essenes and the early Christian movement?
  9. Why is the Roman Legion preparing to attack the Jews at Masada? From historical references in the book, as well as your own knowledge of history, explain the roots of the conflict. Do you feel the lives of the women in The Dovekeepers echo the lives of women in the modern world who are experiencing war and political unrest?
  10. Revka’s son-in-law, the warrior known as “The Man from the Valley,” asks Aziza, “Did you not think this is what the world was like?” (p. 378). Describe the circumstances of this question. After all her training for battle, why is Aziza unprepared for the experience of attacking a village filled with women and children?
  11. In the final pages of the book, Yael sums up those who perished at Masada, remembering them as “men who refused to surrender and women who were ruled by devotion” (p. 478). Do you agree with her description?
  12. For the women at Masada, dreams contain important messages, ghosts meddle in the lives of the living, and spells can remedy a number of human ills. How does their culture’s acceptance of the mystical compare to our culture’s view on such things today? Do mystical and religious elements overlap? How do they compare to your own views?
  13. In the note on page 507, Hoffman explains that the historical foundation of her story comes from Josephus, the first-century historian who has written the only account of the massacre. How does knowing that the novel is based on history and archeological findings affect your reading of the book?
  14. Women’s knowledge in The Dovekeepers is handed down from mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend. Why do you think it is so difficult to know what the lives of ancient women were really like? Do you see any connection with the way in which your own family stories are handed down through the generations?

 

Source: Bookbundlz.com

  1. Were there any particular quotes that stood out to you? Why?
  2. Are there any books that you would compare this one to? How does this book hold up to them?
  3. Have you read any other books by this author?
  4. Were they comparable to your level of enjoyment to this one?
  5. What did you learn from, take away from, or get out of this book?
  6. Did your opinion of the book change as you read it? How?
  7. Would you recommend this book to a friend?

 

Happy Reading!

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Get Well Soon

Jennifer Wright

Club Selection for May 2017

Pages: 336 / Audio: 7 Hrs 43 mins
Published February 7th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
 
A witty, irreverent tour of history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and a celebration of the heroes who fought them.
In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-seventeenth-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure. And in turn-of-the-century New York, an Irish cook caused two lethal outbreaks of typhoid fever, a case that transformed her into the notorious Typhoid Mary.

Throughout time, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the diseases history and circumstance have dropped on them. Some of their responses to those outbreaks are almost too strange to believe in hindsight. Get Well Soon delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues we’ve suffered as a species, as well as stories of the heroic figures who selflessly fought to ease the suffering of their fellow man. With her signature mix of in-depth research and storytelling, and not a little dark humor, Jennifer Wright explores history’s most gripping and deadly outbreaks, and ultimately looks at the surprising ways they’ve shaped history and humanity for almost as long as anyone can remember.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★

"The purpose of this book is not to scare you. Instead, like all good books, it is intended to distract you from the screaming baby one aisle over from the airplane where you are currently trapped for the next five hours."

It took me a bit to get into this book but once I did, I liked it. It's one of those books that you find yourself pondering long after you've finished reading it. I was aware of many of the diseases discussed in the book but was surprised to discover that I had no idea how gruesome they really were. This is important stuff to know. It's easy to pass them off as though they could never happen again but that is simply a false sense of security. It's critical that we act responsibly in order educate and protect ourselves and our communities from the spreading of disease.

It was interesting to me that things that are common sense today, such as cleanliness, was the culprit of many of the epidemics in early history. (Really? You think it's a good idea to throw your sewage into your basement?) I also find it fascinating that when fear kicks in, people will grasp for anything to help, even nonsensical and usually quite disgusting practices in hopes to cure what ails them - this even happens in the world today.

I wasn't sure what to expect regarding the humor but soon discovered the sarcasm to be pretty entertaining at times. Her references to the X-men, Mumps Matilda, Meningitis Mathew, etc had me giggling. In the end, I learned a lot from this book and I agree with the author's overall message that sick people are not villains to be shunned and isolated. They are simply unwell. We need to be smart and more compassionate. We need to separate the disease from the diseased and "give a damn about our fellow man".

 

..........................................................................................................................................

About the Author

 

Jennifer Wright Author

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright is a columnist for the New York Observer and the New York Post, covering sex and dating. She was one of the founding editors of TheGloss.com, and her writing regularly appears in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Maxim. Her breakup cure is gin, reruns of 30 Rock, and historical biographies. She lives and loves in New York City.

Source: us.macmillan.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

Jennifer Wright author "Get Well Soon" on "BookTalk" Radio

Published on Feb 9, 2017

Doug Miles talks with Jennifer Wright ("It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History") about her new book "Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them" on "Talk Across America" (www.dougmilesmedia.com)

 

 

There are many heroes and a few villains mentioned in this book. Here's a just a handful of the most memorable ones.

 

Father Damien with lepers
Father Damien with lepers quarantined on the island of Molokai. "Father Damien is reminder that you don't have to be genius or a brilliant scientist or a doctor to help in the war against disease; you just have to be someone who gives a damn about your fellow man."
Typhoid Mary Mallon
Asymptomatic Typhoid carrier Mary Mallon, dubbed Typhoid Mary in 1909 by reporters, was forcibly taken by the government to a small island in New York's East River, where she remained isolated and confined for most of her life.

Walter Freemand II

 

Walter Freeman II, a consummate showman, traveled the country in his Lobotomobile and performed lobotomies to treat everything from "excessive eating" to drug addiction to alcoholism. And to make it even more unbelievable, people were lined up to get one!

...lobotomies, the scariest procedure that you never want performed. This is a plague induced by human stupidity, not disease..."

 

 

 

images of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin admitting vaccines to children.
Jonas Salk (left) and Albert Sabin (right) administering their polio vaccines to children. Salk developed the killed virus vaccine while Sabin developed the live one. The two became bitter rivals, with Sabin referring to Salk as merely "a kitchen chemist." Fortunately for all of us, both vaccines worked.

 

Here’s what to do when the next big plague hits humanity

New York Post |February 11, 2017

Runny nose? Sore throat? Wheezing? Painful joints? No — you are not going to die. It is just a winter flu. Probably. Bolstered by antibiotics, brandishing an inhaler and slurping chicken soup, you will likely live to fight another day.

Not so in the past. Then a sore throat could mean death by dinner time. Nearly every generation has had to deal with a widespread infectious disease that swiftly strikes down otherwise healthy individuals. Plagues kill a whole bunch of people. And they can take society and the economy down with them.

The notion that in this interconnected world we’re not likely to experience a massive epidemic is too good to be true. Maybe not this year. Maybe not in your lifetime. But it’s not a question of whether humanity will face another plague. We will. And then we will be faced with how to handle that plague when it comes. Will we respond with science, stoicism and compassion? Or will we just burn our neighbors as witches?

The answers to these questions likely come from the past. Here are some of the most gruesome plagues from my new book “Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them” and what we can learn from them.

[Read full article]

 

 

How Would Donald Trump Handle A Plague Outbreak?
‘Get Well Soon’ author Jennifer Wright has the answer
NYLON | February 07, 2017
 
There’s a common enough sentiment right now that we’re confronting apocalyptic times. It’s hard not to think that. After all, here in America, we currently have a commander in chief who is basically taunting other world leaders with threats of invasion, to say nothing of his ongoing insistence that climate change is a myth and that vaccines are something about which we should all be skeptical. What a time to be alive, right?

Well, if you’re looking for something to read that will simultaneously stoke and soothe your fears, look no further than Jennifer Wright’s excellent new book, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. In it, Wright recounts civilization’s many epic biological disasters. From leprosy to the bubonic plague and the Spanish flu to cholera, Get Well Soon acquaints readers with some of the most deadly periods in human history. And while this might sound like it makes for some pretty depressing reading, Wright manages to make the most dire of topics not only incredibly compelling but also, often, hilariously funny. ....

...We recently spoke with Wright about her new book, why it’s important to laugh during even the most tragic times, and how she thinks our new president would handle an outbreak of the plague. Read on! And try not to get too scared.

[Read full article]

 

Book Club Mojo

Kelly hosted the meeting and provided a fun, relaxing evening full of great discussion, great food, and great drink! We had a thought provoking discussion about the things that fascinated and surprised us most about the plagues. The epilogue topic of AIDS was also discussed and really had us thinking about the possibilities of future plagues, how our leaders would manage (or deny) the situation, and what we believed would be the best course(s) of action. 

 

image of the gang
Novel Gobblers (left to right) Donna, Dawn, Carol Ann, and Kelly. We sure enjoy these opportunities to catch up with each other and chat about books (and pretty much everything else!). We all come away from the meetings having gained new perspectives and sometimes a few extra pounds!
Just look at all this deliciousness! Treat your friends and family to Kelly's Taco Salad, Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers, and Keto Cheesecake Tarts. They'll love you for it. Pass the guacamole, please!

 

Discussion Questions

Source: Kelly

1.  What was your initial recation to the book? Did it hook you immediately, or did it take some time to get into it?

2.  How do you think would Donald Trump handle a plague outbreak?

3.  What did you think about the humorous aspect of the book?

4.  What surprised you the most when you were reading this book?

5.  Which of the plagues did you find most intriguing and why?

 

List of Chapters

Antonine Plague                         Cholera

Bubonic Plague                           Leprosy

Dancing Plague                           Typhoid

Smallpox                                       Spanish Flu

Syphilis                                         Encephalitis Lethargica

Tuberculosis                                Lobotomies  

Polio


Source: Nylon article (above) entitled "How Would Donald Trump Handle a Plague Outbreak?" by Kristin Iversen

 

1.  This book is centered around some of the deadliest, most devastating plagues to wreak havoc upon civilization. Why would Jennifer Wright choose a topic so dark?

2.  How did the author manage to keep things witty when covering such dark periods in history?

3.  Which were the author's favorite plagues? Why?

4.  In times of epic disaster, what separates the heroes from everybody else?

5.  Which of the historic figures mentioned in this book do you most admire?

6. Who are history’s straight-up villains when it comes to dealing with plagues?

7.  How do you think Trump would be equipped to handle a disaster of that magnitude?

Happy Reading!

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Book Cover for Lab Girl by Hope JahrenLab Girl

Hope Jahren

Club Selection for April 2017

Pages: 290 / Audio: 11 Hrs 45 mins
Published April 5th 2016 by Knopf (first published March 1st 2016)
 
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

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About the Author

 

Goodreads Author Hope Jahren

HOPE JAHREN

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the Earth Sciences. Currently, she is a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where in 2008 she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health.

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

 

 
PBS NEWSHOUR
The secret life of plants — and ‘Lab Girl’ author Hope Jahren
May 24, 2016 at 6:20 PM EDT

 

'Lab Girl': An Homage To The Wonders Of All Things Green
April 22, 20165:10 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

Listen below or get the transcript here

Book Club Mojo

Donna hosted the meeting for Lab Girl and pulled together a beautiful evening full of great discussion and delicious food themed after the book; Potato Dumplings (a true labor of love) and Hungarian Goulash. She also prepared a fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad and served Pickled Beet Salad from Trader Joes. We were all so busy talking and enjoying the meal that we forgot to take photos of the evening so you'll want to look over Donna's recipes and give them a try to experience Lab Girl more fully!

Discussion Questions

Source: Litlovers

1. How did Jahren's upbringing help determine her dedication to science? Consider her father's background as a science teacher and her mother's love of English literature.

2. One of the literary tropes Jahren uses in her memoir is the comparison of plant life with human life. Talk about the parallels she draws between her subjects and herself. In what ways are we all similar to our rooted, blossoming brethren? Do you see those parallels in your own life?

3. What do you find most remarkable in Jahren's descriptions of the wonders of the natural world? Consider, for instance, the sheer numbers of the plant world. Or how the willow tree clones itself...or the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi...or the airborne signals of trees in their perennial war against insects.

4. Talk about Jahren's struggle with manic depression and how it has affected her life and work.

5. How would you describe Jahren's relationship with her lab partner Bill? What makes both professional and personal relationship work?

6. Describe some of the hardships that make life for any scientist difficult—bucking the status quo, the often endless waiting for results, the grunt work, or the scarcity of funding.

7. Will you ever take a tree—or any plant life—for granted again?

 

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Source: Penguin Random House

1. Lab Girl opens with a detailed description of the laboratory Jahren loved as a child. How does she transform a cinder-block room stocked with scientific equipment into a “castle” (p. 8)?  In what ways do her recollections of her time in the lab and the trips home late at night with her father evoke the mood and magic of fairy tales? 

2. Jahren writes of the emotional distances between members of a Scandinavian family, of “growing up in a culture where you can never ask anyone anything about themselves” (p.11). Are Jahren’s feelings about her family shaped solely by cultural tradition? 

3. Does Jahren’s observation that “being mother and daughter has always felt like an experiment that we just can’t get right” (p. 16) capture something you have experienced, either as a parent or child? Why do you think Jahren dedicated Lab Girl to her mother? 

4. Jahren writes, “I chose science because science gave me what I needed—a home as defined in the most literal sense: a safe place to be” (p. 18).  Discuss and evaluate the combination of elements that determine her choice, including her attachment to her father and the recognition that “being a scientist wasn’t his job, it was his identity,” the acceptance by her science professors of “the very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers,” and her simple declaration that the desire to become a scientist “was founded upon a deep instinct and nothing more.”  Compare this initial explanation with the self-portrait she offers in the final chapter (p. 277).
 [eallen1]Per text of book. 

5. In alternating chapters, Jahren forges links between her own life and the plants that have populated it. How does the story of the blue spruce tree (pp. 27–29) set a pattern that is echoed and enhanced throughout the book? What insights do these close examinations of a large variety of plants provide into the needs and the capabilities shared by all living things? Is there a particular topic—for instance, the universal struggle for survival or the interdependence evident in nature—that resonates with you?

6. In recalling her first scientific breakthrough, Jahren writes, “On some deep level, the realization that I could do good science was accompanied by the knowledge that I had formally and terminally missed my chance to become like any of the women that I had ever known” (p. 71).  What are the emotional and practical repercussions of this moment?  Is there a moment in most people’s lives that marks a line between who they are and who they might have been?

7. Jahren describes her struggles with mental illness in a gripping and vivid interlude (pp. 144–47).  Why do you think she introduces this at the midpoint of her book?

8. Jahren’s relationship with Bill is a sustained theme in Lab Girl.  In what ways do Bill’s manner and methods in the lab complement Jahren’s?  What qualities shape their behavior toward each other on a personal level? Discuss the sense of intimacy and tolerance at the core of their friendship, as well as the boundaries they establish.  What do their long conversations, their reactions to institutional rules, and the misadventures they share on their field trips all add to the book?  In what ways does their trip to the Arctic capture the essence of their bond (pp. 195–201)?

9. What previously hidden aspects of Jahren’s character come to light as she describes her meeting and marriage to Clint (pp. 205–209)?  

10. Jahren writes of her pregnancy, “I know that I am supposed to be happy and excited. . . . I am supposed to celebrate the ripening fruit of love and luxuriate in the fullness of my womb. But I don’t do any of this” (p. 217).  How do such factors as her childhood, her professional ambitions, and her mental illness affect her experience? Why does she “decide that I will not be this child’s mother. Instead, I will be his father” (p. 228). 

11. What obstacles does Jahren face in her career as a research scientist?  Are some of the setbacks Jahren faces attributable to her being a woman in a male-dominated field? 

12. Do you agree that “America may say that it values science, but it sure as hell doesn’t want to pay for it” (p. 123)?

13. Science writing is sometimes criticized for seeming to anthropomorphize scientific subjects. Do you think that Jahren avoids this potential pitfall? In what ways do her choice of words and use of metaphor balance the scientific facts that she wants to convey with having the reader understand and even delight in these facts? What facts did you find most interesting?

14. As you read Lab Girl, were you equally engaged with the autobiographical sections and the chapters on plants and trees, or did you find yourself more drawn to one or the other? 

15. Lab Girl makes use of a wide range of language and tones, from the scientific to the colloquial, from biblical references to profanity. Does this range subvert our expectations about how scientists “should” talk? What do the different tones reveal about Hope? How does her varied language help us to see her in multiple lights—as scientist and writer, as friend and human?

16. Memoir is a highly intimate form. Do you feel you’ve gotten to know Hope through Lab Girl? Does she seem similar or different to science teachers you have had? Do you see her as an inspiration for young women who want to pursue a career in science?

 

 

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Book Cover for All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyAll The Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy

Series: Border Trilogy, Book 1

Club Selection for March 2017

Pages: 302 / Audio: 10 Hrs 3 mins
Published June 29th 1993 by Vintage (first published May 11th 1992)
 
The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

"Every dumb thing I ever done before in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it."

Despite the pretty title, this is a tough story. John Grady Cole has lost his grandfather and the ranch will be sold. It's all John has ever known. He's a cowboy and that's all he ever wants to be. So he and his cousin, both about 16 years old, leave Texas and ride their horses across the border into Mexico. It's 1949. In Texas they tie their horses up outside cafes and gas stations. The moment they cross into Mexico, they step back in time. Desert. Cactus. No motor vehicles, few settlements. The people they meet lead them to hard life and hard choices; some of them life threatening.

I am so glad I read this book. There were many things I loved about it but many things I didn't. What did I love? The contradictory nature. The depth of the story and characters yet the direct, no frills conversations with little show of emotion. The action yet the slow pace. The beauty yet the harshness. I loved that once they passed into Mexico, the descriptions of the land and many of the discussions between the characters we given in Spanish. There was a very distinct feel that you were no longer in Texas nor in 1949! I liked the boys and was impressed with their maturity at such a young age.

What didn't I love? The lack of quotations caused a lot of confusion for me about who was speaking. At times the story would jump forward to a new scene, leaving me confused about how we got there. McCarthy offers beautiful language but the story is not a lullaby like the title implies. It's not a happy story and I was I left with a strong hope that John Grady Cole will somehow find his place and his happiness.

Happy Reading!

 

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See

 Anthony Doerr  

Club Selection for March 2015

530 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Scribner
 
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

 

About the Author

Photo from Tweeds Mag http://tweedsmag.org/interview-anthony-doerr/
Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, and the novels About Grace and All the Light We Cannot See, which was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short StoriesThe Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, two Pacific Northwest Book Awards, three Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFGShort Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best Young American novelists.

Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two sons. Though he is often asked, as far as he knows he is not related to the late writer Harriet Doerr.

Source: anthonydoerr.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

Official Book Trailer

 

 

What Does the Title Mean?

 “It’s a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.”    ~ Anthony Doerr

 

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Anthony Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything—radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns—but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things—love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr’s new novel is that novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read—now.

~ JR Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar

 

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THE RUMPUS INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY DOERR

BY NANCY SMITH | May 28th, 2014

… I first encountered Doerr’s work a decade ago when I picked up a copy of The Shell Collector at a small bookstore in Seattle. I carried the book to a nearby coffee shop and spent the rainy afternoon reading it. I had recently graduated college, and I’m not sure if it was my uncertain future or the gloomy day, but this collection of stories had a profound effect on me. I found a precise kind of truth within those pages—the kind that captures human experience in only the way perfectly crafted stories can. I reveled in those wonderful sentences that afternoon, and since then I have always looked forward to reading Doerr’s work.

… All the Light We Cannot See is a book that was ten years in the making, and it is a remarkable novel, but perhaps more than anything, it has reminded me of Doerr’s extraordinary ability to bring together the elements—rhythm and imagery and tone—to somehow perfectly capture the most mysterious parts of our experience—love and fear and fate—with something so simple as a sentence. … [Read the Interview]

 

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An Evening with Anthony Doerr

Novel Gobblers Dawn, Carol, DeeAnn, Donna, & Catherine
On April 20th, 2017, our reading group had the opportunity to attend "An Evening with Anthony Doerr", a lecture and dinner for the Idaho Humanities Council's 10th Annual event. For some, this may sound like a torturous evening but I'm here to tell you it was anything but torturous and boring! 
 
Anthony Doerr was gracious, insightful, witty, inspiring, and full of captivating stories that had the audience rolling with laughter. It was such a fun evening! Now we're all eager to gobble down more novels written by Anthony Doerr! 
 
I was especially pleased that his presentation was very similar to that in the video below, which you won't want to miss. Click the play button, sit back and enjoy Anthony Doerr's wit and  enthusiasm for discovery. You'll be glad you did!
  

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A captivating presentation by Anthony Doerr to the John Adams Institute, Amsterdam.  
A Masterpiece. Tremendous. Wow. Overwhelming.

“Just a few characterizations by readers of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. And the literary critics were also unanimous: Anthony Doerr has an immense talent for storytelling.”

 

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An Unforgettable Highlight for the Author

“Among multiple outstanding experiences at Lake Oswego Reads [Feb 12, 2015] (hosted by the amazing Lake Oswego Public Library), an unforgettable highlight was being handed a warm loaf of bread by master baker Dominique Geulin from St. Honoré Boulangerie. I carried it back home, sliced it, and look what we found inside!”

Discussion Questions

Source: Simon and Schuster

1. The book opens with two epigraphs. How do these quotes set the scene for the rest of the book? Discuss how the radio plays a major part in the story and the time period. How do you think the impact of the radio back then compares with the impact of the Internet on today’s society?

2. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How did this affect your reading experience? How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?

3. Whose story did you enjoy the most? Was there any character you wanted more insight into?

4. When Werner and Jutta first hear the Frenchman on the radio, he concludes his broadcast by saying “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” (pages 48–49), and Werner recalls these words throughout the book (pages 86, 264, and 409). How do you think this phrase relates to the overall message of the story? How does it relate to Madame Manec’s question: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (page 270)?

5. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This . . . is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

6. Reread Madame Manec’s boiling frog analogy on page 284. Etienne later asks Marie-Laure, “Who was supposed to be the frog? Her? Or the Germans?” (page 328) Who did you think Madame Manec meant? Could it have been someone other than herself or the Germans? What does it say about Etienne that he doesn’t consider himself to be the frog?

7. On page 368, Werner thinks, “That is how things are . . . with everybody in this unit, in this army, in this world, they do as they’re told, they get scared, they move about with only themselves in mind. Name me someone who does not.” But in fact many of the characters show great courage and selflessness throughout the story in some way, big or small. Talk about the different ways they put themselves at risk in order to do what they think is right. What do you think were some shining moments? Who did you admire most?

8. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

9. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

10. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

11. Von Rumpel seemed to believe in the power of the Sea of Flames, but was it truly a supernatural object or was it merely a gemstone at the center of coincidence? Do you think it brought any protection to Marie-Laure and/or bad luck to those she loved?

Happy Reading!

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Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen

Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen
Source: Goodreads.com

Red Butterfly

 A.L. Sonnichsen  

Club Selection for February 2017

Pages: 400 
Published February 2nd 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
 
A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this “heartbreaking, heartwarming, and impressive debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold.

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more?

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.

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Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

"Don't worry if your new life has been tough.
Remember, it takes a while for a butterfly's wings to dry."

Every once in a while a book comes along that imprints itself in you and changes you forever. This is one of them.

A tender, tragic, relishing story of hope, isolation, adaptation, kindness, and love in a world where harsh political policies have triggered harsh choices and consequences for families and children. Though a fictional story about a young Chinese girl being raised in China as an American, it truthfully tells of ethical decisions faced by many in China since the One-Child policy was placed into effect in 1980. There are many questions about the characters that are answered with flawless timing as the story beautifully unfolds at a perfect tempo, keeping you intrigued, hopeful, and deeply moved. The Author's Note at the end of the book is powerful and added yet another layer of love and understanding to the story.

I borrowed this booked from our local library but it is one of the few that I will buy and place on my own shelf where I will see it, re-read it, and experience it again and again.

Happy Reading!

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Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai - Book Cover
Source: Goodreads.com

Inside Out & Back Again

Thanhha Lai

Club Selection for February 2017

Pages: 272 | Audio: 2 hrs 30 min
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins
 
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.
 

 

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Carol's Rating:  ★★★

Don't Pass This One By

This is a touching story of Vietnamese family that comes to America for refuge due to the fall of Saigon. Ten year old Ha tells her story in verse, which perfectly conveys the young voice of a child facing mature circumstances and events; her father is missing in action, her mother is doing her best to provide for and protect the family on her own, her country no longer exists, her new home in America is safety yet completely unfamiliar, her family must learn to accept assistance and the generosity of many and overlook cruelties inflicted by others, and Ha must learn to compromise, be grateful, and discover that love and family is the ultimate definition of home.

Ha is an adorable, spunky character that bristles at being told she cannot do something simply because she is a girl. She is smart, yet struggles with feeling stupid due to language and cultural barriers. Her moments in the sunshine are delightful. Best of all, is after having fallen in love with Ha, I discovered she was actually the talented author of this book and these were her experiences.

A wonderful, wonderful story for all ages that you won't want to miss.

Happy Reading!

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kidd

Club Selection for January 2017

Pages: 384 / Audio: 13 hrs 46 min

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.


Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

"My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it's the other way around."

This beautiful, moving story of hope and courage stirred my heart and mind through and through. I listened to the audiobook where narrators Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye give a dazzling performance and portrayal of two young women; one white, one black; the same age, the same time period, the same plantation - yet living in two separate worlds of expectations and both yearning for freedom.

The story is rich in symbolism and purpose. "She (mauma) use to say, you got to figure out which end of the needle you gon be, the one that's fastened to the thread or the end that pierces the cloth." I became emotionally connected to these fabulous characters as they took measures to protect their minds and spirits from being broken by society throughout their journeys to stay true to their convictions for human rights. I learned that Sarah and Nina Grimke were true historical figures. I learned about Denmark Vecey, story quilts, and spirit trees. I learned once again that we are all "meant to do something in the world, something larger than (ourselves)".

Read it. You'll love it, too.

About the Author

Sue Monk Kidd lived one of those perfect, small town, southern childhoods (except for the swarm of bees in the walls of her 100-year-old house).

She could walk to the drugstore and charge a cherry Coke to her father. Or to Empire Mercantile and charge a pair of cheerleader socks to her mom. By the time she got home, her parents would know what color socks she’d bought and what size Coke she’d drunk.

But the 1964 Civil Rights Movement changed Sue’s idyll forever. Her high school class became the first to integrate. She was 16 and old enough to understand racism’s cruelty. It stayed with her.

In 1970, Sue earned a B.S. in Nursing from Texas Christian University. She worked as nurse, met her husband, Sanford (Sandy), a Baptist minister, and had two children.

In her 30s, she left nursing for full-time mothering, taught Sunday School, and wrote inspirational essays for Guideposts Christian magazine. They led to her first memoir, God’s Joyful Surprise, published at age 40. Source: Debra Eve's Late Bloomer

In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction. Her short stories appeared in TriQuarterly, Nimrod, and other literary journals and received a Katherine Anne Porter award and citations in Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories.

Since then she has written several bestsellers such as The Secret Life of Bees (2002), The Mermaid Chair (2005), Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story (2009), and The Invention of Wings (2014).  Her novels have earned international acclaim and multiple literary awards as well as some having been adapted into award wining movies.

Kidd serves on the Writers Council for Poets & Writers, Inc.  She lives in Southwest Florida with her husband, Sandy, and dog, Barney.   Source: Suemonkkidd.com

 

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

After reading The Invention of Wings, I was motivated to learn more about the author and the Grimke sisters. What inspired her to write the story? Where did her research begin and where did it take her? How did she come up with fictional characters and the structure of the story?

I discovered a lot of interesting booty!  I'm excited to share it with you - to take you deeper into, and even beyond the book.

Listen to this short, compelling NPR interview where Kidd offers loads of insight into the inspiration behind the story. Then keep scrolling to learn even more!

 

January 8, 2014
Heard on NPR:All Things Considered
Sue Monk Kidd's new novel is a story told by two women whose lives are wrapped together — beginning, against their wills, when they're young girls. One is a slave; the other, her reluctant owner. One strives her whole life to be free; the other rebels against her slave-owning family and becomes a prominent abolitionist and early advocate for women's rights.

The book, The Invention of Wings, takes on both slavery and feminism — and it's inspired by the life of a real historical figure.

 

Sue Monk Kidd provides a super cool Book Club Kit on her website that includes a conversation with the author, quotes, and recipes. Here are a few tidbits:

History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another's pain in the heart our own."

~ Professor Julius Lester

I first came upon the Grimké sisters in 2007 while visiting Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Their names were listed on the Heritage Panels, which honor 999 women who’ve made important contributions to western history. Later, I was astonished to discover they were from Charleston, South Carolina, the same city in which I was then living. Somehow I’d never heard of these two amazing women, but I immediately dove in, learning everything I could, and the more I learned, the more excited I became. I discovered that Sarah and Angelina were from a wealthy slave-holding family, at the top of the planter class, moving in the elite circles of society, and yet they broke with everything, their family, religion, homeland and traditions, and became the first female abolition agents in America and among the earliest feminist thinkers. They were, arguably, the most radical females to ever come out of the antebellum South. I fell in love with their story. I was especially drawn to Sarah. I was moved by how thoroughly life was arranged against her and what she overcame, by how deeply she yearned to have a voice in the world, by how utterly human she was, and how determinedly she invented her wings.

image of quilt by Harriet Powers
Story Quilt by Harriet Powers
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I was inspired by the quilts of Harriet Powers, who was born into slavery in 1837 in Georgia. She used West African applique technique and designs to tell stories, mostly about Biblical events, legends, and astronomical occurrences. Each of the squares on her two surviving quilts is a masterpiece of art and narration. After viewing her quilt in the archives of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., it seemed more than plausible to me that many enslaved women, who were forbidden to read and write, would have devised subversive ways to voice themselves, to keep their memories alive, and to preserve their African heritage. In the novel, Charlotte is the Grimke’s rebellious and accomplished seamstress, and I envisioned her using needle and cloth the way others use paper and pen, attempting to set down the events of her life in a single quilt. She appliques it with strange, beautiful images—slaves flying through the air, spirit trees with their trunks wrapped in red thread—but she also sews violent and painful images of her punishments and loss. The quilt in the novel is meant to be more than a warm blanket or a nice piece of handiwork. It is Charlotte’s story. As Handful says, “Mauma had sewed where she came from, who she was, what she loved, the things she’d suffered and the things she hoped. She’d found a way to tell it.

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Who Were The Grimke Sisters?

Louise W. Knight, author and historian, provides some great history about the sisters and even addresses the issue of the unflattering "photographs" of the women that are widely associated with them.  I was happy to see some different photos of them; ones taken when they were in their 70's (Sarah) and 60's (Angelina). Plus, if you're ever in Charleston, the Preservation Society offers a Grimke Sisters Tour. How cool is that?

Born near the turn of the 19th century, Sarah and Angelina Grimké were white Southern aristocrats of Charleston, South Carolina whose fate at birth seem sealed: by rights they should have married well, mothered many children and managed the slaves who ran their households.  Instead, they rejected slavery, which they hated, moved to Philadelphia, and converted to Quakerism, wrongly supposing that it continued to embrace the cause of antislavery. In time, rejected by the Quakers for their reform work, the sisters became social activists in the causes of abolition and ending racial prejudice. Making the principle that no man should have dominion over another man their own, they became the first American women to make a fully developed case against the oppression of women and for women's equal rights.

Sarah Grimké (1792-1873)

Sarah, the older sister, had a scholar's bent, with a judicious mind. Once she established her carefully arrived at conclusions, she never budged, regardless of the consequences. A deeply spiritual person, she was the more tender-hearted of the two sisters. Older by 13 years, Sarah devoted herself to Angelina's care and education to such a degree that Angelina called her "mother" until she reached her twenties.  One of the fascinating stories in the book is that of Angelina's influence on Sarah, her beloved and admired sister, at a crucial turning point in their lives. Sarah turned down two marriage proposals, her ambition being aimed in a more unusual direction - that of being a Quaker minister. Sarah was a moderately skilled speaker but her brilliant mind (she had aspired to be a judge, like their father) produced some of the strongest arguments for women's rights ever penned in her Letters on the Equality of the Sexes (1837/1838). She also published a moving pamphlet appealing to Christian ministers of the south to oppose slavery (1837). In  1838, she went to live with the newly married Angelina in Fort Lee, New Jersey, helped raise three children, taught in the schools Angelina and her husband Theodore Weld founded, and continued to engage  in social action -- particularly the growing women's rights movement of the 1850s, though rarely in person.

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Angelina Grimké (1805-1879)

Angelina was by instinct a woman of action, and a natural prosecutor, ready to make a forceful case. Compelled by her hunger for the truth, she possessed great courage in the face of condemnation. Though a gentle personality, she was also a passionate speaker who could command audiences of thousands with the force of her arguments and her unmatched eloquence. She published an appeal to (white) Christian women of the south to petition state legislatures to end slavery, and an appeal to white and black women of the north to join the abolitionist cause. She also was the first American woman to address a legislative body. The opening of her speech, in support of abolitionist petitions to the Massachusetts state legislature, is posted on this website under "Long form blog." (LINK). When she was 33 years old, and at the peak of her fame as a public speaker and organizer, Angelina  Grimké married the nation's most prominent abolitionist speaker and organizer, Theodore Weld. Now Angelina Grimké Weld, she and her sister lived with Theodore for the rest of their lives. They raised three children, founded and taught in many schools, and continued to engage in social action, although in less frequent and less prominent way.

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What about Those Famous Pictures of the Sisters?
  The images to the left (Sarah, far left, Angelina, immediate left) are widely used, both in books and on the internet.  The reason is that for many years they were the only images available. Furthermore, they appear to be of the period when the sisters were active in social change campaigns. The two photos above,  less frequently published, were taken when they were much older.

But there is a problem with these images. First of all, although they are frequently described as "photographs," they are not. They are not even daguerreotypes. Rather they are wood engravings based on daguerreotypes that have since disappeared. 

Thus the first question to ask about these images is -- Are they accurate as representations? The answer, obviously, is no.  Indeed, while I have yet to track down where these engravings were first published, it is very likely they appeared first in a periodical of the 1830s that disapproved of the sisters for being abolitionists and wished to portray them as peculiar and unappealing. This was a common practice of the time -- to draw people as ugly if you disapproved of their politics or, in the case of African Americans, of their race. I see these engravings more as political cartoons than as legitimate representations of the sisters.

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Southern Abolitionist Angelina Grimké | The Abolitionists

In this video adapted from the American Experience: “The Abolitionists,” featuring historical reenactments, learn about the daughter of South Carolina slaveholders who devoted her life to ending slavery and winning equal rights for women. Angelina Grimké and her sister Sarah drew upon their strong religious beliefs from an early age to oppose slavery in their native state and throughout the United States. After moving north, they became prominent writers and speakers in both the abolitionist movement and the struggle to obtain equal rights for women. This resource is part of the American Experience collection.

Book Club Mojo

Our entire reading group enjoyed reading and discussing The Invention of Wings.

We discussed how thankful we are for these women and the sacrifices they made toward equal rights that allow women and black people of today so many more freedoms than were ever experienced in their own time period. We talked of having to repress your aspirations for the sake of societal expectations, the alternating perspectives of the two main characters, Sarah and Handful,  the complicated relationships between the characters, and how learning to read is a form of freedom in itself.

The topics led to further discussions about why groups of people oppress other groups of people, and why the oppressors will follow along with such behavior? We noted this to be a common thread among some of the books we've read, for example, The Handmaid's Tale, and yet how slavery and oppression have spanned nearly every culture and nationality from ancient times to the present. The WHY of it remains to be our biggest, unanswered question.

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"Who Said It?"
Generate some lively discussion with our fun activity filled with quotes from the book.

Download the PDF

 
 Here's another great way to get some discussion going.

The Invention of Wings is loaded with symbols representing deeply personal and empowering significance to the characters throughout the story. This short presentation by Juliana Bush highlights a few of them such as Sarah's fleur de lis button, needle and thread, Handful's rabbit-head cane, Charlotte's story quilt, and the spirit tree.

 

And of course, Discussion Questions from the Author!

Source: Suemonkkidd.com

1. The title The Invention of Wings was one of the first inspirations that came to Sue Monk Kidd as she began the novel. Why is the title an apt one for Kidd's novel? What are some of the ways that the author uses the imagery and symbolism of birds, wings, and flight?

2. What were the qualities in Handful that you most admired? As you read the novel, could you imagine yourself in her situation? How did Handful continue her relentless pursuit of self and freedom in the face of such a brutal system?

3. After laying aside her aspirations to become a lawyer, Sarah remarks that the Graveyard of Failed Hopes is "an all-female establishment." What makes her say so? What was your experience of reading Kidd's portrayal of women's lives in the nineteenth century?

4. In what ways does Sarah struggle against the dictates of her family, society, and religion? Can you relate to her need to break away from the life she had in order to create a new and unknown life? What sort of risk and courage does this call for?

5. The story of The Invention of Wings includes a number of physical objects that have a special significance for the characters: Sarah's fleur-de-lis button, Charlotte's story quilt, the rabbit-head cane that Handful receives from Goodis, and the spirit tree. Choose one or more of these objects and discuss their significance in the novel.

6. Were you aware of the role that Sarah and Angelina Grimke played in abolition and women's rights? Have women's achievements in history been lost or overlooked? What do you think it takes to be a reformer today?

7. How would you describe Sarah and Angelina's unusual bond? Do you think either one of them could have accomplished what they did on their own? Have you known women who experienced this sort of relationship as sisters?

8. Some of the staunchest enemies of slavery believed the time had not yet come for women's rights and pressured Sarah and Angelina to desist from the cause, fearing it would split the cause of abolition. How do you think the sisters should have responded to their demand? At the end of the novel, Sarah asks, "Was it ever right to sacrifice one's truth for expedience?"

9. What are some of the examples of Handful's wit and sense of irony, and how do they help her cope with the burdens of slavery?

10. Contrast Handful's relationship with her mother with the relationship between Sarah and the elder Mary Grimke. How are the two younger women formed-and malformed-by their mothers?

11. Kidd portrays an array of male characters in the novel: Sarah's father; Sarah's brother, Thomas; Theodore Weld; Denmark Vesey; Goodis Grimke, Israel Morris, Burke Williams. Some of them are men of their time, some are ahead of their time. Which of these male characters did you find most compelling? What positive and negative roles did they play in Sarah and Handful's evolvement?

12. How has your understanding of slavery been changed by reading The Invention of Wings? What did you learn about it that you didn't know before?

13. Sarah believed she could not have a vocation and marriage, both. Do you think she made the right decision in turning down Israel's proposal? How does her situation compare with Angelina's marriage to Theodore? In what ways are women today still asking the question of whether they can have it all?

14. How does the spirit tree function in Handful's life? What do you think of the rituals and meanings surrounding it?

15. Had you heard of the Denmark Vesey slave plot before reading this novel? Were you aware of the extent that slaves resisted? Why do you think the myth of the happy, compliant slave endured? What were some of the more inventive or cunning ways that Charlotte, Handful, and other characters rebelled and subverted the system?

16. The Invention of Wings takes the reader back to the roots of racism in America. How has slavery left its mark on American life? To what extent has the wound been healed? Do you think slavery has been a taboo topic in American life?

17. Are there ways in which Kidd's novel can help us see our own lives differently? How is this story relevant for us today?

Happy Reading!

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Wolf Border

Sarah Hall

Pages: 432 / Audiobook: 13 hrs 14 mins
Published June 9th 2015 by Harper

The award-winning author of The Electric Michelangelo returns with her first novel in nearly six years, a literary masterpiece about the reintroduction of wild wolves into the United Kingdom.

She hears them howling along the buffer zone, a long harmonic.
One leading, then many.
At night there is no need to imagine, no need to dream.
They reign outside the mind.

Rachel Caine is a zoologist working in Nez Perce, Idaho, as part of a wolf recovery project. She spends her days, and often nights, tracking the every move of a wild wolf pack—their size, their behavior, their howl patterns. It is a fairly solitary existence, but Rachel is content.

When she receives a call from the wealthy and mysterious Earl of Annerdale, who is interested in reintroducing the grey wolf to Northern England, Rachel agrees to a meeting. She is certain she wants no part of this project, but the Earl's estate is close to the village where Rachel grew up, and where her aging mother now lives in a care facility. It has been far too long since Rachel has gone home, and so she returns to face the ghosts of her past.

The Wolf Border is a breathtaking story about the frontier of the human spirit, from one of the most celebrated young writers working today.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★

Meatloaf & Potatoes not Steak and Lobster

And bland meatloaf and potatoes at that. This is not to say that the writing is not beautiful or that the story is not interesting, because it is. But it is in an everyday, matter of fact, plodding, monotone, deliberate way. I can see the brilliance of the symbolism between Racheal and the wolves; the need for freedom rather than captivity. It is clear that Rachael is a lone wolf, dedicated and loyal to her cause, yet the story did not allow me to connect with the characters at all. It was devoid of emotion. Any interaction with others is told briefly or completely skipped. Thomas Pendleton's actions near the end were a complete surprise to me and were the most exciting part of the story. I wanted so badly to love this book but the characters were kept at such a distance that it sadly prevented me from having anything beyond a flatline experience.

What Does It Mean?

The Wolf Border is full of vocabulary-building words. Here's just a few of them and their definitions.

  • encomium - [en-koh-mee-uh m] noun, plural encomiums, encomia; a formal expression of high praise; eulogy.
  • connubial - [kuh-noo-bee-uhl] adjective; of marriage or wedlock; matrimonial; conjugal: connubial love.
  • copse - [kops] noun; a thicket of small trees or bushes; a small wood.
  • tannoynoun; trademark a sound-amplifying apparatus used as a public-address system esp in a large building
  • pedant - [ped-nt] noun
    • 1. A person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning
    • 2. A person who overemphasizes rules or minor details 
    • 3. A person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard tocommon sense.
    • 4. Obsolete. a schoolmaster.

 

 

Have you learned some new words lately?  Share them at Wondrous Words Wednesday (hosted by Bermudaonion.net). “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”

Happy Reading!

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

Pages: 311 pages / Audiobook: 11 hrs
Published March 16th 1998 by Anchor Books (first published 1985)

The Handmaid's Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment's calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid's Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.


Happy Reading!

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