December 22, 2016

Coming in 2017!

It was fun to play with a theme for last year's book selections so we're doing it again this year. For 2017, our theme will be "Friendship, Family, and Feminists." The list for the year is not yet complete, a couple of the choices are still not set in stone (although, as you know, nothing is ever entirely set in stone as we may run into trouble getting books from the library or something will come up we really want to read). At least one of the open months we'll likely look to do a movie night again. Those of us who went to The Light Between Oceans enjoyed doing that a lot (and found we were in a theater full of book club members!).

January: Kicking off the year, we're reading a book about friendship (which also gets into the theme of family and touches on feminism), Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. Lisa has an extra copy of anyone wants to borrow it.

February: This month will be both our classic and our multi-generational read (if you'd like to invite your mom, aunt or daughter(s) to join us, we'd love to have them!). Instead of choosing a single book we'll all read, each of us will choose a book to reread that we particularly loved as a young girl. I'm interested in seeing what everyone loved then and hearing why and hearing how it held up to a reread.

March: The first in a book series (although it's not essential to read all of the books), Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend is not just a book about friendship but a nice chance for us to read a translated work.

April: Tentatively this month we will read Anne Tyler's  A Spool of Blue Thread. The library has a book club bag of books we may be able to get.

May: This month we're getting in a nonfiction read and hitting on that feminist theme with Iron Carmon's Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 

June: Again, this month's choice of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest is a tentative choice.




October: Stacy Schiff's The Witches will be another nonfiction read for us and it's one that got rave reviews when it came out.



Some of the books I'm considering for 2017 are Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg, The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawson, Kitchens of The Great Midwest by Ryan Stradal, The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Wonder by Emma Donohue, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, and The Trespasser by Tana French. I'll continue to scour "best of 2016" lists for other choices as well.

Of course, as always, I welcome your suggestions!

October, November, and December

In October, we read Anna Quindlen's Miller's Valley. For Lisa S, it was one of her favorite books of the year. While not everyone enjoyed it as much (some thought it was too slow), we had a interesting discussion about it, trying to skirt around a big reveal toward the end of the book that actually let all of us wondering. The relationships between the characters gave us a lot to talk about - sisters who lived on the same piece of property but had almost nothing to do with each other, a couple who may have been living with a secret for years, the burden placed on a daughter by her parents. While it may not be a book everyone will love, it's definitely a book that will give book clubs plenty to talk about.

In November, we read Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies (unless your Linda, who accidentally raced to finish it for our December meeting!). Lisa and Ann both liked the book a lot, the way Groff tells the story of a marriage from both the husband's and the wife's point of view. We agreed that the wife's part almost read like a thriller with secret after secret being unveiled but we also agreed that the book might have been a bit too long, with so much of some of the plays included. Again, this one is certainly not a book everyone in book clubs will enjoy, but since the point of a book club is to find things to discuss about the book, this does make a good choice.

For December, we read The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown. Those who finished the book all liked it a lot, although we all agreed that, for most readers, it's too detailed. If you're interested in rowing as a sport, you may be interested in reading the details of each race and the minutiae of building the shells from wood. For those looking for an interesting human interest story, an underdog success story, and some interesting history of both the U.S. and Germany, this is a book worth reading even if it does mean you might want to skim over a lot of the races.

We all learned a lot about the Nazi propaganda machine as well; while we were aware that Hitler had meant for the games to shine a positive light on Nazi Germany, we weren't as aware of just how much had been done to sanitize what they were doing so that they looked less dangerous to the world.

We got very involved in the stories about the boys in the boat that we got to know well and got a little agitated about how Joe Rantz's father and stepmother treated him. Although Linda had been a month behind, because she had just finished Fates and Furies, she was the one to point out that in both November's and December's books, we had characters whose parents had abandoned them and we spent the rest of the book seeing how that had impacted the character (although, of course, here it was a real person).

September 28, 2016

September - The Light Between Oceans: The Movie

In 2013, our book club read M. L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans. We loved it and found so much to talk about. We decided to do something different this month and go see the movie adaptation of a book we had all enjoyed.

Only three of us were able to make it (the rest of you will be sorry!) and were not disappointed. It is beautifully filmed and the acting is superb. Alicia Vikander, as Isabel Sherbourne, is especially terrific; her portrayal of a women suffering through a miscarriage is absolutely heartrending. There were tears!

Ann felt that the movie was a bit too slow - it is. But some of that, we thought, was essentially to give the feeling of isolation on the island that's essential to feel. Lisa had a problem with the costuming which she felt was of the wrong era for just one character and we all agreed that a shot of a hand at the very end of the film was not well done. That sounds silly when typed out - but it was a close up of a hand meant to be that of a middle-aged woman but was clearly a much younger hand. It's a little thing but it was so disconcerting.

The theater was full of groups of women - all book club groups. Clearly our club was not the only club that had read and enjoyed the book. We were also not the only group that stayed for a bit once the movie was done to discuss the book.

August 25, 2016

August - The Aviator's Wife

Just three of us this month and one of us had read the wrong book - but, hey, she's ahead of the game now! If you've not already read this book, we definitely recommend it. Benjamin has done her homework - we know, because the book had both Lisa and Ann hitting the internet to see how much of what we were reading was based on reality and how much was made up. We'd also certainly recommend it for book clubs. There is, of course, the usual discussion about the writing and story itself as well as the story of the famous couple, the story of a marriage, the specter of World War II, infidelity, mental illness, parenting, homosexuality, and fame.

Charles Lindbergh? We were not fans by the time we finished reading this book. He was a cold fish obsessed with his image, single-minded, and extremely manipulative. To say nothing about his Hitler sympathies and stance against American intervention in Germany's war on Europe.

We had all been aware, certainly, of the celebrity of Charles Lindbergh but agreed that his fame and celebrity was unprecedented and still unequaled. It certainly accounted for the kidnapping of the Lindbergh's son and the crazy reactions of the country in the aftermath. For people like Charles and Anne, it wasn't an easy life to lead.

Ann felt the story was a little slow to get into and Lisa found some of it reading a little like a romance novel early on, but both of us got wrapped up in the story, even as it wound down and slowed down toward the end. We had both known that Anne Morrow Lindbergh had achieved fame on her own but were surprised to see how little she was acknowledged earlier in her life, even by her husband who utterly relied on her as his co-pilot in the plane and in life.

In September, we will meet at the Village Pointe Theater to watch "The Light Between Oceans," which the book club read in 2013 and liked a lot. The cast is excellent so we're looking forward to it. We'll go on our usual book club night which also means that we'll get in for the $5 ticket price.

July 21, 2016

July - Where Did The Time Go?

 Well, the past few months have certainly flown by! We were all so busy that May's meeting ended up being cancelled and we didn't really get a chance to talk about The Secret Daughter more than very briefly at our June meeting. Those who read it enjoyed it and I'm sure we would have had a good discussion about it if we'd all just finished it.

We had a better discussion about The Marriage of Opposites which we had just finished. For the most part, we all enjoyed the book and there were a lot of things to like about it. The imagery was amazing and the relationship between Rachel and Camille sparked a lot of discussion. Some were not aware that the book was based on the real life of artist Camille Pissaro. We felt like the changing focus of the book was a bit jarring and that the story of Jestine was not necessarily essential to the book although it helped to round out some parts. It's a book I think we'd recommend to other book clubs if for no other reason than the wealth of relationships explored.

This month we talked about Jesmyn Ward's Salvage The Bones. With our focus this year on Love and Learning, this one covers both topics. It's a book set way outside of our neighborhoods and there was a lot to think about when considering the life of the Batiste family. The Lisas talked about what it would be like to prepare for a catastrophe when your cupboards were already bare, you didn't have the money to stock up, and you didn't even have the ability to store water. Lisa W was having a tough go of it, but those of us who had finished recommended to everyone who had not to push on. It is sad and hard to read but there is some measure of hope in the love the children have for each other. And from the time the preparations start for Hurricane Katrina to the end of the book, things are tense and compelling. Ann and Lisa agreed that Ward does a fantastic job of making you feel like you are going through the storm with the family. The members were interested to learn that Salvage the Bones was partially inspired by Ward's own family's struggle to survive Katrina. We talked about the way the boys' interactions are very much like those of the dogs that they fight and the fact that poor, motherless Esch doesn't even seem to be aware that she is being abused by her brothers' friends without someone to tell her. That was hard to read for the mothers of young women. Again, this is a book with a lot to talk about and we'd recommend it for other book clubs.

April 25, 2016

A Girl's Entitled to Change Her Mind

We won't be changing books in May, after all. We will be reading The Secret Daughter by Shilpa Sowaya Gowda.

April 20, 2016

April - Behind The Beautiful Forevers and A Change of Books for May

Despite only one person reading the book & one other person reading part of it, thanks to Linda also bringing in a synopsis of the play by the same name, we did manage to get in a bit of a discussion about this book and the situation in India. The scale of the corruption and the number of people living in abject poverty in the slums is mind boggling for people who live in the suburbs of of a Midwestern U.S. city.

If you didn't read it, if you can find a copy through the library, I do highly recommend that you give this one a shot. There is so much here to think about beyond the poverty. For example, compared to what they might have if they lived in the countryside or a higher economic class, the women have a surprising amount of freedom and power within their neighborhood.

***The book for May has been changed - we will now be reading The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar***

April 2, 2016


If you look at the list of books for the rest of the year, you may notice that there have been a couple of changes later in the year. Last month we discussed adding The Boys In The Boat, which fits right in with our theme of reading books that help us learn about things, so that's been added in November.

In August, I've changed in Anna Quindlen's latest, Miller's Valley, which is one of her best ever, as well as being a book with so much to discuss and which fits in with our other theme for the year of love.

I told you at the beginning of the year that there might be changes along the way as new books caught our eyes!

March 17, 2016

March - The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Two reasons to read Chris Bohjalian's The Sandcastle Girls - word has it that Bohjalian is a superb writer and the refugee aspect of this book ties in with current events. After all, one of the themes of our reading this year is learning.

As far as the writing was concerned, none of us was overly impressed. We felt like there were too many points of view in use and that first person narrator piece sometimes felt awkward, although we knew why Bohjalian chose to use it. Some felt there were just too many characters to try to keep track of in a book that wasn't that long. We also had some quibbles with how things played out, particularly in a key part of the story.

The story, however, we all found interesting and even those of us who were aware of the Armenian genocide had our eyes opened. We wondered how much of what Bohjalian included was true, although we felt certain that most of it must have been for him to have included it, particularly because of the way he included the details. Lisa had done some research to check this out for the group and between what Bohjalian had written about and what Lisa learned, we had a lot to discuss. Why the leaders of Turkey had decided to wipe out the Armenians, how they had managed to carry it out, how the rest of the world could not have noticed or why they didn't care if they did, how this genocide might have impacted the genocide of the Jews little more than 20 years later. We couldn't help but feel that Adolph Hitler may have used the Armenian genocide as a blueprint for how to carry out the extermination of the Jews without the world noticing or carrying enough to interfere.

We talked about Hatoun, a little refugee girl taken in by a refugee woman and an American woman who brought them both into the American consulate. How she dealt with what had happened to her and how it impacted the rest of her life made us wonder how someone so young might survive watching her mother and sister beheaded (or any of the other terrible ways parents and siblings were killed or died).

While this wasn't a favorite book for anyone, it was definitely a book that made for a great conversation - about the events in the book, about the aftermath of those events, and about how they tie in with events in the world today.

Book clubs looking to learn something and looking to have an intelligent world-view discussion might well find this book worth reading.

February 16, 2016

January and February: A Man Called Ove and A Duet of Sherlock Holmes Novellas

Our February book was Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove, as recommended by Ann. What a great book for discussion. A unique writing style where certain phrases kept repeating throughout the book, a unique character who was not at all someone to like in the beginning and who you came to love as you read on. Very few of us had finished the book which made for a short, disappointing discussion as those of us who had read the book didn't want to spoil it for those who had not finished the book.

It is above all a book about how circumstances can crush a soul but also about the transformative power of love. Those of us who had read the book. Those of us who had read the book love the relationships Ove had with those around him, particularly with the women in his life.

This book was and excellent book club selection but a good reminder that if not enough people read the book before book club meets, it's really hard to talk about some books.

Going forward, those of us who have read the books are just going to spoiler the hell out of the books for those of you who haven't gotten finished yet but might want to finish yet. Sorry. But it's not nearly as much funny to discuss the book when you have to worry that you're going to ruin it for someone.

This month we enjoyed having a special guest, Nancy's daughter Maggie who belongs to a Sherlock Holmes book club and is something of an Sherlock expert. We also had a quiz. Yep, a quiz. Lisa had done some research and watched a television show on PBS about the impact of the Sherlock Holmes books and put together a quiz. It made for a lot of fun as everyone learned something about the impact of the books on forensic science and Maggie could contribute a lot to giving us more details about the answers. Linda was the winner of a loaf of coffee cake bread. Extra points were given for having read the books. Heads up, guys; you never know when we'll have another quiz...and another prize!

Some had read one or the other of the books, some both, some none but we were still able to have a lively discussion about Conan Doyle's characters, writing, and the history of the books. We agreed that the character of Watson serves as the "every man," all of the readers, in that we are always behind Holmes in solving the case. We talked about whether or not Holmes might now be concluded to have Asperger's Syndrome (as further evidenced by both the latest BBC adaptation, "Sherlock" and NBC's "Elementary").

Everyone was impressed by the fact that a man who had very little medical background was able to write stories that included investigative skills that are still considered the best method, skills that police forces had never considered when the books were written. We also talked about the way Conan Doyle wrote about women...and how Watson was lost once women came into the picture.

These were definitely stories out of our comfort zone but they made for fun discussion and, given the amount of background information to be found, make good book club selections.