Today at the book club, we discussed Wave, the memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala about surviving the 2004 tsunami that killed her two sons, her husband, and her parents. This was a very good discussion because we had a number of different opinions about the author. Some people found her very selfish and self-involved, and others felt she responded in a way that was reflective of the devastation that she had survived. A number of people felt very removed and detached from the author in a way they weren’t expecting, given the story she was telling. However, it was also noted that the author herself seemed very detached from the story. Her grief is overwhelming and non-stop; there is no hopeful ending here. She has survived, and written this book, but even at the end, she still yearns for her lost family.
One of the most compelling parts of the book is the way she talks about some of her actions after the tsunami. She recounts these events, seemingly without emotion. For example, when a Dutch family moves into the renovated house she lost her entire family in, she takes it upon herself to harass them into leaving. How dare they get to live in that house when Deraniyagala’s family died there, she thinks. They never leave, but they do change their phone number, and soon the author falls back into a stupor of Ambien and alcohol.
The book club met yesterday morning to talk about The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. The discussion was spirited and far-reaching, including discussions of current events as well as the historical realities of John Brown’s time.
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion revolved around comparisons to Huckleberry Finn, which many reviews have noted. Some of the book clubbers thought this was a valid comparison, given the dialect, the humor, and the satire, but some didn’t quite see it.
One book club member brought a biography of John Brown in order to talk about the accuracy of the book’s portrayal of Brown. Most of the broad strokes of Brown’s life were true to all accounts, but some of the specific actions of secondary characters were embellished or completely created by McBride.
Because this book was based on real events and real people, we also discussed some of the additional secondary characters, such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Douglass does not get a particularly positive treatment in the book, but we discovered no basis in reality for these descriptions. Continue reading
Tomorrow morning, July 15, at 10 am, we will be meeting to discuss John Brown and Henry (Onion) Shackleford in the novel The Good Lord Bird. What did you know about John Brown, aka the “Old Man,” before reading this book? Did it change your views at all?
And if you get a chance, watch this interview with the author James McBride before then. He has a lot of interesting things to say about the book.
Today we met in the Morris County Library conference room to talk about the YA novel everyone has been buzzing about, We Were Liars. We had our biggest discussion yet, but there’s still room for more of you! We’d love to have you.
Overall, people really liked this book, with many giving it 4 or even 5 starts. I don’t know if that’s happened before, so this was a definite favorite. A couple of people gave it a low of 3, mostly because even the significant characters were fairly flat and undeveloped. However, a case could be made for that actually being the way teenagers actually view other kids their age who they only see every summer.
First, we will not spoil the ending of the book, so don’t worry! If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a doozy, and no one saw it coming. Aside from the ending and its emotional impact, we discussed the themes of wealth in society. Cadence and her cousins are from the “keep a stiff upper lip” upper crust of society, and nothing breaks into that shell. As teenagers, they rebel against it, of course.
Today we met at the Morris County Library to discuss the sci-fi classic Kindred by Octavia Butler. We had several new Book Clubbers, and it was a really fascinating hour and a half. We started by talking about why Butler chose to take a modern (well, modern in the 1970s) woman and transport her back to the Antebellum south, instead of just writing a more straightforward slave narrative. Some people didn’t feel like that worked for them; they didn’t like the time travel because it wasn’t realistic. Once we discovered how she came up with the idea of this novel, however, most of the book club members appreciated her reasoning, even if they still didn’t necessarily think it worked. As she stated in an interview:
I wanted to take a character, when I did Kindred, back in time to some of the things our ancestors had to go through, and see if that character survived so very well with the knowledge of the present in her head.
Join us on Wednesday, May 20 at 10AM for a discussion of Kindred by Octavia Butler.
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin. — from Goodreads
Join us on Wednesday, April 15 at 10AM for a discussion of Someone by Alice McDermott.
We first meet Marie at age seven, when she’s sitting on the stoop in her tight-knit, Irish-Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood, waiting for her father to come home from work. Down the street, boys play stickball, consulting with dapper Billy, their blind umpire, an injured WWI vet. Tragedies and scandals surge through the enclave, providing rough initiations into sex and death. Gabe (Marie’s older brother) becomes a priest. Marie works at a funeral home as a “consoling angel,” acquiring cryptic clues to the mysteries of life via teatime gossip sessions with the director’s wise mother and a circle of wryly knowing nuns. Eventually Marie finds joy as a wife and mother, while Gabe struggles with his faith and sexuality. A marvel of subtle modulations, McDermott’s keenly observed, fluently humane, quietly enthralling novel of conformity and selfhood, of “lace-curtain pretensions” as shield and camouflage, celebrates family, community, and “the grace of a shared past.” – from Booklist
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