2013 Book Discussions

May 17 State of Wonder   Ann Patchett

Summary of discussion (Spoiler alert) Ann Patchett’s writing kept us involved with the story all along. (We really want to know what Amanda thought, if she read it.) Some of us understood the clue about Anders being alive, while others of us were just swept along with Maria, oblivious. Our hearts were broken at the return of Easter to the tribe but believed Anders that it was the only way to get out alive. There was some discussion about the advisability of a drug company supporting research for a drug which would allow for fertility in a 73 year-old woman. I’m sure you can guess the tenor of that discussion. Malaria – yes.

June 14 The Ladies of Missalonghi   Colleen McCullough

It was a cozy experience with 10 of us gathered around the dining room table for Black Bean soup, a delicious salad provided by Donna, and Cheryl’s favorite sun-dried tomato and herb bread. Then Andree joined us for Amanda’s lovely homemade strawberry rhubarb pie and vanilla ice cream. We finally moved to the living room to spread out a bit and talk about “The Ladies…”. And talk we did. About everything. From women’s rights to ghosts. From plagiarism (The Blue Castle, by Lucy Maude Montgomery) to pithy sayings (“Every dog has its day”). Who knew this light, fun, far-fetched, fairy-tale-like short novel could stir up so much discussion: Do the ends justify the means? Should Missy follow the ghost’s advice and not confess to the lie she told? Will the spoiled, nasty heiress find happiness with the chauffeur? A note from Natalie about her father’s reaction to her coming all the way to NJ from Minnesota (after not securing a husband in college) reminded us that we are not that far removed from the cultural expectations which constrained the women in the book. So whether we thought that Missy was a believable character or not, we all admired her decision to effect a change in her situation.

July 12 (Fallen Angels by Noel Coward) Shakespeare Theatre

I will order the tickets on July 1, for the 8:00 PM show on Friday, July 12. The tickets are $55.00 each. We will open this up to friends and family to join us. I am not organizing a plan to eat together before the performance, but feel free to do that yourselves if you wish. Let me know as soon as possible if you plan to attend. We can car pool.

August 16 (Summaries of summer reading)

September 13  The Sandcastle Girls   Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls was an important book to read because it made us aware of an event in history about which we had very little previous information. It was heart breaking to discover what horrific actions one group of people in power, inflicted upon a minority of less powerful people. From Turkey, in 1915, Armenian women and children were taken to Aleppo, in Syria. Anne called our attention to a poignant statement toward the end of the book. Paraphrasing: if you want to get rid of a group of people, do it in an area where there is nothing else. No witnesses, no evidence. The desert around Aleppo served this purpose. Politics, genocide, religion,family dynamics, overcoming trauma; so many issues in this book. I won’t stop thinking about this story for a long time.

November    Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny.

We settled in the living room, by the fire, to go to icy Quebec City and the village of Three Pines in the dead of winter. We all agreed that Louise Penny made us feel each and every freezing bite of wind and every soft snowflake. Our favorite character might have been Henri, Armand’s faithful dog. Sometimes we didn’t know what each other was talking about because we all had different versions of the pronunciation of the French names and phrases in our heads. Fortunately, some of the group had listened to the audio version of the book and could correct our mispronunciations. It was fun. This English/French theme was central to our understanding of the plot, characters and mystery in this book. We loved the back and forth among the four levels of the story. And some of want to go to Pittsburgh to find Champlain! Here the books in order by Louise Penny which feature the same characters and the village of Three Pines for those who want more murder and mysteries with Armand Gamache. I’ve read all but the last and am a great fan.

Still Life A Fatal Grace    The Cruelest Month    A Rule Against Murder    The Brutal Telling     Bury Your Dead      A Trick of the Light       The Beautiful Mystery


December 13  A Lucky Child   Thomas Buergenthal

A Lucky Child indeed, and a lucky mother. And lucky everyone who survived the camps and marches and train transports and selections and freezing weather and disease and starvation and bullets and humiliation. But Tommy didn’t just survive; he grew up to be an outstanding person. He served as the American judge on the International court of Justice and is now a professor of international law and human rights. Because of, or inspite of, his horrific experience as a 10-12 year old child? Who can say? How many others would have made significant contributions to our world if they had also been lucky? How many geniuses and inventors and doctors and artists and statespersons and friendly neighbors is our world getting along without?

But these thoughts occur after reading the book. While reading the book, we were mostly in awe of this brave, creative, clever, likable child. His father showed him how to look for opportunities in situations and Tommy learned well.

We want to remember Tommy and his friends, those who didn’t make it, and those who helped him: the doctor, the man from Norway, the Polish army soldiers, the people of Czechoslovakia who threw the life-saving bread down to the train, the tutor, his step-father, and so many others. We want to remember that everyone always has a choice, no matter what the circumstance. We want to choose good.