September 19, 2015

September - Station Eleven

We were a small group this month but all three of us had read the book so we didn't have to worry about spoilers and we were better able to stay focused that sometimes when the group is bigger (of course, we still made time to catch up and get personal!).

Ann said that this one had taken her a little while to get into but once she did she really liked it, as did Nancy and Lisa. We all agreed that even though we don't any of us particularly care for so-called dystopian fiction, this one didn't feel so much like what we think of as dystopian. We imagined this was because of the type of cataclysmic event that lead to the near extinction but also the fact that Mandel had largely skipped over the twenty years between when the virus started and the "present" time. Of course, the fact that a flu pandemic that wipes out the Earth's population isn't all the implausible made the book that much more believable...and frightening.

We talked a lot about what it would be like at first after such an event, the denial (Elizabeth's insistence that it was all going to be okay), the gridlock, the panic, and the reality, for those like Jeevan who had managed to stay isolated for several weeks, that this was a new world. One in which some people, like Jeevan's brother, would have to accept the fact that they won't survive. In which you're going to have to eventually brave it and step out of your safe place.

Nancy felt like it was a little unrealistic to imagine that the people at the airport would just happen to be able to so quickly adapt and find that they had just the people that the needed to do the things that needed to be done. But Ann pointed out that given the location of the airport, there were bound to be some people flying in that were coming home to a place where they were likely to be hunters and that there were enough people who stayed that they all fell into their niche.

Both Ann and Nancy saw the big revel about the prophet coming before Lisa but all of us were impressed with the way that Mandel had gradually started pulling all of these characters together and how all of the pieces of the story worked so well together as the book came to the end.

This got us thinking about what we would be like if (when?) something like this happened. We weren't any of us sure we'd be strong enough to survive but then we agreed that you really never know how you'll react to something until you're faced with it. Also that other circumstances surrounding us at that time would play a part in how we fared. For example, if our children were near, we all felt we'd be much fiercer in keeping ourselves alive so that we could care for them.

We also talked about what would be the worst thing for us about living in a world like the one Mandel imagined. Nancy said she hates the idea that she wouldn't be able to get clean - wouldn't be able to shower or wash her hands. Lisa talked about the idea of living in a world where you were surrounded by creatures - spiders, snakes, and bigger wild animals. None of us particularly liked the idea of living off the land. Although, when it came right down to it, we all agreed that the worse would be not being able to contact our loved ones. Ann imagined both of her girls being in California as they are now and she wouldn't know if they were alive or dead and how hard it would be to live with that.

For next month we'll be reading All The Light We Cannot See. Both Ann & Nancy have started it and are enjoying it.

September 13, 2015

August - Some Luck by Jane Smiley

How do we convince our very busy resident playwright to come back to book club? Let her pick the book! Ellen chose Jane Smiley's Some Luck for our August selection.

Our feelings were mixed on this one, although, through discussion, I think some of us appreciated the book more. As Ellen said, it is a book about the minutiae of life. Interestingly, that word somehow made this very detailed look at one family's life seem more intimate and, therefore, more interesting.

Linda was a big fan of this books, saying she could see why Smiley was award winning. She was especially impressed with Smiley's writing. Others of us had some issues with the writing. We were particularly put off, right from the beginning, by Smiley's choice to write from the point of view of an infant/toddler. In a book so firmly set in reality, it seemed odd to choose the point of view of a character who could not possibly have made such mindful observations.

Even those that liked the book more than others, felt like the focus sometimes slipped from where they wish it would have stayed. Although Ellen understood that Smiley was trying to show the bigger world picture by taking the book into the World War II theater, she agreed that it was a bit jarring given the focus of the rest of the book. Lisa pointed out that there would have been plenty of story to tell for that time period from the perspective of the family at home and how the war affected them.

Some Luck is the first book of a trilogy and we talked about where Smiley might take the story in the next two books. This one ended in the 1950's so there is certainly room to move forward but we also wondered if she might pick up one of the characters and move the focus to that person's immediate family. Only a couple of us indicated that they might read more of the trilogy.