Monday, August 23, 2010
JUNE 2010 BOOKERS MINUTES - "Roses" by Leila Meacham
A Rose – A reflection of life tender to touch – a vision of beauty – the prickly thorns “harming only those who would steal the blossom.”
30 “rose-clad” Bookers took a short road trip to meet at the home of Sandy Molander proving once and for all we can indeed leave the Pinnacle compound. Thank you Sandy for opening your home and hosting us even if it meant putting on your bedspreads! Joining our group for the first time were Daryl Daniels, Ann Morwood, and Debbie Ellsworth. Welcome everyone and we hope you enjoyed your first encounter with Bookers. Also, congratulations to Linsey Garwacki on the birth of her grandson just hours before our meeting…he is precious!
Today’s warm-up consisted of analyses of some of the characters in “Roses,” by Leila Meacham. Mary, Percy, Rachel, and Alice were the centers of a flower surrounded by blank petals, which were filled in as we described each one of them. Not surprisingly, Mary drew the most animated conversation with words like obsessive, immature, uncompromising, unfulfilled, focused, and strong…some liked the strength of her character, her drive to uphold the wishes of her father, and thought she was as a savvy business woman – others felt every decision she made was foolish and the book could be renamed ‘Poor Mary.’ Percy was the overwhelming favorite – the heartthrob, an entrepreneur, steadfast, loyal, fair, considerate, and generous – the hero of the book – don’t know any among us who would not take him home to meet Mama. Rachel, whose character grew up in the story, was portrayed as independent, beautiful, passionate, driven, assertive, and an Aggie to boot! Alice, Rachel’s mother, was the least likeable character – “she got what she deserved” – angry, disappointed, jealous, self-absorbed, and unforgiving, with just a hint of motherly love thrown in for good measure. Ollie’s character was almost too good to be true with his unfailing devotion to Percy, his undying love for Mary, and his loyal and courageous acts on their behalf. Most agreed – the male characters were more likeable than their counterparts. Bravo to Ms. Meacham for her skill in telling the story through the rich development of her characters.
The theme today was the garden of friends, each one unique and equally special. With Bette Midler’s lyrics from “The Rose” and a stunningly beautiful photo montage of Tyler’s rose gardens as a backdrop, our reviewer, Melba Holt, led us through this good old fashioned read – an epic family saga (one she could have written herself only her version would have been “juicier”) told on a big canvas spanning three generations of the Toliver, Warwick, and DuMont families. It has been called the Texas version of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind;” compared to Colleen McCullough’s “The Thorn Birds,” and linked to Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth.” Not bad company to be in.
Many thanks to Melba for a job well done!
The reader is immediately hooked trying to figure out why Mary Toliver is relinquishing the life she painstakingly built, giving in to the one thing she said she would never do, and changing the lives of the ones she holds most precious – all wrapped up in a codicil to her will. 609 pages later, we understand. Within this saga, we learn the significance of the red, white, and pink roses and the symbolic role they play throughout the novel; we are told of the passion, commitment, and sacrifices in keeping a father’s dream alive; we see a love story laden with strong desire but surrounded by impenetrable walls; we recognize the impact choices have on lives; how revenge and hatred disguised as an act of love and healing ends tragically; we learn how even well-meaning secrets can destroy the most innocent of lives; we agonize alongside the characters with the loss of a child; we learn that even the best laid plans are often out of reach; and the light at the end of the tunnel often appears only after many treks through the darkness. In the end, true love finds its way into the hearts of Matt and Rachel and one would hope their rose garden reflects the true English rose – white on the outside and red in the center…forgiveness encircling penitence.
The discussion questions encouraged lively conversation prompting the group to express their opinions to the following: Why did Mary’s beloved Somerset rank above everything else? Is it possible to love someone for your entire life? How did the fulfillment of promises affect each generation? At what point, if ever, does individual happiness come before family obligation? Does Mary’s desire to do right by her family outweigh her greed of acquiring more land? Mary and Percy are both driven but by different forces, what were they? How do the colors of the roses play a significant role in the novel? If Mary and Percy had married, would it have worked in the end? What was the father-son relationship between Percy and Wyatt? What role do family traditions have in your own life? How is forgiveness a path to the future? How did the mother-daughter relationships between Mary and Darla and Rachel and Alice differ? What is the fine line between compensation and charity? What knowledge does the older generation owe to its heirs and when should it be passed down? Did Mary really “save” Rachel? The responses were a mixed bag laced with personal stories and experiences, not only addressing the issues outlined in this book, but life in general. Once again, a book paved the way to group therapy, minus the tissues this time!
We would be remiss not to pause to applaud the author’s incredible journey from a retired English teacher to writing a best selling book. At 65 years of age, Leila picked up an old manuscript from twenty years ago and began writing “Roses.” Her inspiration came from a compilation of newspaper articles about an East Texas family, and drawing on her small town roots in Wink, she was off and running. “Roses” was accepted for publication and published five years later and she is currently working on another saga set in the Texas Panhandle. One has to think this one might have something to do with the “oil bidness.” We’ll have to wait and see, but I for one will be watching for its release.
On the business side
MN and I promised to have the list of books to vote on for the upcoming year available by this meeting. Unfortunately, “Dolly and her manager” have occupied more time than first planned. Today, our group discussed and voted on the following revisions:
In the spirit of “ Roses,” please refer to the following color codes to describe our book selections:
WHITE: Light read
PINK: Moderately challenging
July & August Summer reads – Trilogy series by Stieg Larsson
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“The Girl Who Played With Fire”
"The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”
September 14th: The “girl” Trilogy series
Recommended by Sandy Molander, MN, Lorene, Kathy M.
Home of Jean Alexander
Reviewer: Leslie Mullins
October 12th: “Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt,” by Beth Hoffman
Recommended by MN & JoDee
November 9th “Broken For You,” by Stephanie Kallos
Recommended by Patsy Dehn, MN, JoDee
December 14th: Holiday Party
“Not My Daughter” by Barbara Delinsky
Recommended by Leslie Mullins, Linda Hoff & MN
January 11th, 2011 “The Clan of the Cave Bear” by Jean M. Auel
Recommended by Pat Faherty, Patty Evans, MN
As you can see, we filled out five months for next year, but we still plan to compile a list for your consideration for the remaining months. Also, if anyone would like to volunteer your home for any of these meetings, please let me know and don’t be shy about stepping up to lead the review of one of these selections – the format is entirely up to you. We know and you know you can do this!
What’s on your Shelf?
The following are books recommended by some of our members and we are grateful for everyone’s continued efforts to share with our group:
“Spoken From The Heart,” Laura Bush’s memoir, takes a wonderfully candid and heartfelt journey through her life. (Eunice Hamlin)
“Brooklyn,” by Irish author, Colm Toibin, chronicles the life of a young Irish immigrant finding a home in a boarding house in Brooklyn, New York. (Cherry Fugitt)
“Eat, Pray, & Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, a funny memoir of a magazine writer’s yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure and balance. (The movie stars Julia Roberts) The sequel, “Committed” has been released recently. (Melba Holt)
We should all agree, in theory anyway, that you reap what you sow in the “good earth” as in life and recognize there are different definitions of love. They can range from a willingness to sacrifice everything to find it to a sublime longing satisfied by only thoughts of a relationship. The common ground is we shelter “our” version deep inside ourselves only to be unlocked by the keys of trust, or in Bette Midler’s words: “Love is a flower and you it’s only seed…and it’s the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.”
Too bad for Mary and Percy that these words were not sung in their day.