Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 2011 Bookers Minutes - Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

The book…a charming comedy of manners, lovely, wondrous, witty, wise, romantic, sparkling, and lively.  The Major… delightfully droll, “a pukka sahib” or true gentleman if there ever was one.

The author, born in England spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex.  A resident of the United States for twenty years, she is a full-time wife and mother of two sons – her debut novel, five years in the making, draws on fond memories from her youth.  “I’m horrified to report that (this novel) began with the slightest of ideas – a moment of clarity – when I decided to write something for myself – an afternoon treat with no calories.  My mind immediately produced a small brick house in the country and an older man wearing his dead wife’s housecoat answering the door to a stranger.”  See what the smallest detail can produce!

A contrast of characters fills the pages of this novel which not only touches on the idea that love is never out of reach, she confronts racism, prejudices, loss, grief, disappointment, parent/child relationships, and religious beliefs…subjects we all can relate to.  The Major, the quintessential local whose values of honor, duty, decorum and a properly brewed cup of tea contribute to his prim and proper appeal versus the highly educated Mrs. Ali, viewed by the village as the “permanent foreigner” but together they shared a love of literature and the loss of their spouses and managed to forge a bond despite the walls of culture and tradition blocking their way. This is not a new theme but Ms. Simonson has us standing up and rooting hard for this couple.  Ahhh….happy endings!

The one drawback for this type of book is what we witnessed today.  Everyone loved it and sometimes the discussion suffers because we have limited differences of opinions.  Everyone tends to say this part was great and we laughed out-loud at that part, and didn’t you just hate that son and his Amazon American girlfriend…and everyone agrees with each other.  However, a book that you smile all the way through has unlimited value to our happiness factor and it certainly is a great way to start the summer with optimism…and maybe some rain! Many thanks to Barbara Creach for her insight and detailed review of this selection - full copy available to Bookers members via attachment to the e-mailed minutes.

Several members brought to our attention a recent article in the Dallas Morning News entitled “ So Much More Than a Book Club” by Nancy Rosenberg.  Rosemary Farmer read excerpts, which echoed our own Bookers’ experiences with the books we select and the discussions that follow.  Ms. Rosenberg touched on books that make your spirit soar and those so sad they are difficult to discuss at all, those that provoke deep discussion on diverse, often, controversial subjects, and those that merely entertain us.  “There is something very unique in a group that is able and willing to tackle the Big Issues with no agenda and a true willingness to consider different opinions.”  Sound familiar?

MN’s Alabama beach house is under construction and a “niche of honor” has been specifically designed to display the Broken For You mosaic cross we made and presented to her after fire destroyed the original house.  Thanks again to Patsy and Patty for the review of that book and the forethought to figure out a way to show our support and commemorate how much MN means to Bookers.

Leslie Mullins was not able to attend the last meeting and asked if she could bring a book to share with us.  Snow in August, by Pete Hamill (same author as Marsha Smith’s recommendation, North River) set in Brooklyn in the late 1940’s tells the story of an eleven-year old Irish Catholic altar boy and an elderly Orthodox rabbi who both revel in the exploits of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers, but whose friendship is as unlikely as “snow in August.”  

Marsha Smith’s high school friend and published author, Golden Keyes Parsons, will be releasing her 4th book in November.  His Steadfast Love, a historical fiction set on the Texas coast during the Civil War tells a story of torn loyalties…the love of a Southern family and a brother fighting for the Confederacy versus a Union sweetheart.  It is possible that Golden might be available to address our club.  MN and I plan to read the book upon its release…stay tuned!

Other books chatted about are: Freedom by Jonathan Franzan, The Greater Journey; Americans in Paris by David McCullough, Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (author of Still Alice,) Dreams of Joy by Lisa See (sequel to Shanghai Girls,) The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

Books for September through December were selected as indicated in the following section.


WHITE:                       Light read
PINK:                          Moderately challenging
RED:                            Challenging

July/August                   Summer Break, but not from reading…enjoy

September 13th:     8th year of Bookers
                                    REDDISH PINK or PINKISH RED
                                    A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei
                                    Recommended by MN & JoDee
                                    Home of Janet Erwin, co-hosted by Madelyn Chubb
                                    Reviewers: Linsey Garwacki, Janet Noblitt, Pat Faherty, Beverly
                                    Dossett, Barbara Creach & Pam Davis
October 11th:                Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
                                    Not yet rated (Most likely pink or red)
                                    Home of Cherry Fugitt, co-hosted by Jane Freer
                                    Reviewer: Jane Freer

November 8th:              Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress
                                    Not yet rated (Most likely white)
                                    Recommended by Mary Jacobs & guest, Pam Parks
                                    Home of Lorene O’Neil, co-hosted by JoDee Neathery
                                    Reviewers: Mary Jacobs & Pam Parks

December 13th:            Holiday Party & Meeting
                                    A Week in Winter by Marcia Willett
                                    Recommended by Bernie Crudden, MN & JoDee
Home of Jean Alexander, co-hosted by Bernie Crudden
Reviewed by Janet Noblitt

January 10th:                 Book TBA
                                    Home of Beverly Dossett, co-hosted by Patsy Dehn

February 14th:               Book TBA
                                    Home of Daryl Daniels, co-hosted by Janet Noblitt

March 13th:                  Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
                                    Recommended by Beverly Dossett, Lee Durso, Alison Crawford,
                                    Jane Freer, Melanie Prebis, Jean McSpadden
                                    Home of Lee Durso, co-hosted by Kay Robinson
                                    Reviewed by Lee Durso

April 10th:                     Book TBA
                                    Home of Donna Walter, co-hosted by Charlotte Pechacek
                                    Reviewers: MN & JoDee

May 8th:                       5th Annual Wine & Cheese Evening Meeting, 6:00 PM
                                    Home of Melanie Prebis (she never learns!), co-hosted by Linsey

June 12th:                      Bonus Bookers meeting to be determined

Drawing a comparison with the Major’s view of party planning – a traditional refined black-tie soiree has turned into a series of elaborately designed evenings – with the progression of the Pinnacle Women’s Club’s events of late didn’t go unnoticed by us…not a criticism of the evolution, just an observation and salute to our incredibly talented women who continue to surprise us!

Have a great summer of reading,


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