March 29, 2018

February and March

 And, just like that, we're back to having fairly small meetings with even fewer people having read the book. I'll grant you that Their Eyes Were Watching God was much more of a challenge than anticipated - the dialect was work to get through. But Alice I Have Been wasn't a tough read at all and both of the past couple of books did have quite a lot to talk about.

For example, Ann and I came away from Alice I Have Been with very different impressions about Melanie Benjamin's take on Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll. Then there's always the discussion with historical fiction about what was true and what wasn't. With Their Eyes Were Watching God Ann asked why the book was considered a classic and so we talked about that.

I still want to read books and have people to talk to about them.

Here's what I'm proposing. Going forward, for those who have read the book and want to discuss it, the meetings will start at 7 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., anyone else who's available to join us is more than welcome to join us so that we can catch up with each other and enjoy the friendships we've made. Let me know what you think!

January 17, 2018

January - Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

We kicked off the new year with a great turnout, great food, and, maybe, the greatest number of people to finish the book in ten years! We were excited to have Diana stop by, if only for a few minutes, so that we could remember what she looks like and encourage her as she continues working on her PhD and to welcome Mary Beth to the group. At least, I hope we didn't scare her off!

Kitchens of the Great Midwest was, Ann pointed out, not really a book about kitchens, which she had been expecting. And Lisa S pointed out that music played almost as big a role as food; you could spend a lot of time putting together a playlist to listen to as you read this book.

Mary Beth was let down by the ending of the book but we all agreed that most of the stories in the book ended without really ending. Linda took us through the book so we could revisit each of the endings which turned out to be a great way to pick up on some things that came back up at the end of the book, including characters that reappeared and the way that Stradal had used each of the chapters names (food names) in the final menu of the book.

We were all heartbroken by the ending of the first story, which totally put us off of what we thought the book was going to be about. We loved the ending of the next chapter - revenge is best served with pepper oil, apparently! We got a kick out of Eva and her cousin hustling men who think they can handle the hottest foods (girl power!). In the fourth story, Walleye, Lisa was reminded of Rainbow Rowell's book, Eleanor and Park. Pat Prager's big chapter got us talking about the spectrum of foodies from great home cooks to the pretentious foodies that ruin Pat's big shot. Or did they? They reminded Cheryl of the great scene in Portlandia where the characters are so invested in knowing the background of the chicken that they are about to eat that they are whisked off to the farm where it was raised.

This was definitely a great choice for a book club selection - we could easily have talked about it much longer and, for the most part, everyone enjoyed it.

As much as we all like to eat and like good food, none of us could imagine spending as much as the characters did for the final dinner in the book, especially considering they would all have left still hungry!

January 8, 2018

You Knew I Was Going To Do This, Right?

I hope you haven't read too far ahead (I'm looking at you, Ann!), because I've changed the book for March. Instead of Colm Toibin's Nora Webster, we will be reading Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been

This is the second year I've  bumped Nora Webster off the list. Sorry, Nora, but it doesn't look like it's going to work out between us!

December 21, 2017

November and December

There were just four of us in November and not one of us had finished the book. Why? Were we all just being slackers? Were we all just swamped with our lives and had not time to read? Some of both, I suspect, but primarily it was because Stacy Schiff's The Witches is one slow (ok, very, very slow) read. The long list of characters at the beginning should be a good clue that this one's going to be trouble to keep up with but all of us agreed that Schiff had put together her research in such a way that it made it even more difficult to wade through. Linda had tried listening to the audiobook and felt like she got more out of it that way. Lisa has since finished the book by going the audiobook route and agrees that the narrator does a terrific job of making the book feel more interesting and alive.

We spent some time talking about what had really caused all of the trouble that lead to a community killing so many people and we were all amazed that so few people even voiced the notion that a group of teenaged girls might be lying. The idea that so many people could get sucked into the frenzy, and the ways that it was impossible to disagree with the consensus because they always had a response that invalidated contradictory ideas, were of interest to us. Ultimately, we all found the book interesting but wish it had been less muddled, formatted differently, so that it was a more enjoyable reading experience. We would not recommend this book for book clubs unless your book club is looking for a real challenge.

It was our first time meeting at Nancy's house and she outdid herself with delicious food and drink, even finding ways to tie in all of the goodies to the book.

In December we talked about The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress. For about fifteen minutes total. It wasn't because those of us who had read the book didn't enjoy it; we did. But we had a bigger group and about half of us hadn't read the book. Makes it tough to keep on subject. Also, because there were members we hadn't seen in a while, we got off track catching up. We had a visitor and we're not sure yet if we scared her off our not!

Those of us who did read the book, felt like Ariel Lawhon had done a great job of immersing readers in the time and setting of the book. Because the book moves back and forth in time and place, when, in the end, Lawhon reveals that the wife, the maid, and the mistress might have been in cahoots, so to speak, it was hard for us to figure out how and when, exactly, that fit into everything else. Lisa was excited to find Shelby, Iowa show up in the book; Shelby is the very small town in Iowa where her mom grew up. Always a good way to help a reader connect to a book. We would recommend this book for book clubs, especially if your members will read the books!