19 met at the home of Melanie Prebis for our annual evening meeting. Thanks to Bonnie Magee for organizing the food and to those who contributed. Yumminess galore! Even our host’s bulldog sampled a tortilla roll-up right before taking center stage with his reenactment of 50 Shades of D.J. The animal could be on the X-rated version of Dancing With The Stars with those moves!
Many questions surrounded the “pink box” displaying Christmas décor on the coffee table. Those attending last year’s May meeting suspected something was up and they were correct. MN’s book to recommend was again, Life In A Box, my work-in-progress novel, and NO it is not complete, but now three quarters done with plans to follow the traditional publishing route through a literary agent upon completion. I recently had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize winner for Olive Kitteridge, at the Dallas Museum of Arts & Live series. As some recall, her praise of my review of ‘Olive’ lit the smoldering fire prompting this giant leap into writing my novel. The following is a summary I sent of my book and MN though it might answer many of your heartfelt inquiries about what Life In A Box is about:
‘It is a character-driven novel of discovery exploring how things are not always as they seem, and how a person’s actions, whether misguided or not, are often driven by a fierce need to protect themselves and those they love. The title is an analogy not only for the gift from a mother to daughter, but one of a daughter’s finding the courage to break through the emotional bars that bind. In this process, my protagonist finds an inner strength forbidding anyone to steal what is rightfully hers. Family secrets and choices unravel baring the dynamics of her relationship with her parents, theirs with each other, and other family members revealing the deep emotional scars that framed them all.’
A condensed version of a chapter, entitled, Sweet Home Menagerie, was read…making sense of the Christmas decorations, as it is set in Dauphin Island, Alabama during the holidays. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to share with you the progress and snippets from the novel. My friends and fellow Bookers’ members are integral parts of the road to completion of this project. Thank you for the encouragement and I hope the finished product is up to our standard of Bookers’ worthy!
Books To Share
Cherry is reading Jodi Picoult’s latest, The Storyteller. Last month Pat Faherty’s sister recommended it also. Pat was not able to join us so we don’t have the latest report on this one but look forward to hearing Cherry’s and Pat’s assessments at our next meeting. Many of us want this to be up to the high standard the author set with her earlier novels.
Daryl has read the autobiography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and has begun Elizabeth Strout’s latest, The Burgess Boys, set in Shirley Falls, Maine. Two brothers haunted by a freak accident that killed their father both escape their small town for New York. One becomes a sleek and successful corporate attorney, the other a Legal Aid lawyer. Their sister’s son gets in big trouble, which brings the two brothers back home again. (I loved the book…but I might be a little biased.)
Gloria is reading last month’s selection, Sentence of Marriage, by Shayne Parkinson and Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog, by Lisa Scottoline, light-hearted girl-talk similar in style to works of Erma Bombeck.
Rosemary just read a Danielle Steele novel, Hotel Vendome, which invites the readers to “an ultra-glamorous world of a five-star New York hotel and brings to vivid life the man who built it as his dream, the girl who grows up in its loving embrace, and the colorful guests and staff who make its magic complete.”
Melanie read a book recommended by Lee Durso, We Band of Angels, The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese by Elizabeth M. Norman. In the fall of 1941, the Philippines were a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. On December 8th their life changed as most were herded into internment camps enduring three years of fear and starvation.
Patsy’s brother-in-law, Dr. George E. Laramore, (a Ph.D. in physics and M.D, professor and department Chairman at the University of Washington with a career in cancer medicine) has written a (medically intense) novel, Control Point, about Jack Olivetti and his protégé who have discovered a new treatment process individualized for each patient.
Marlene recommends No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that captured Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer.
Beverly read Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple which is about the notorious Bernadette Fox. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. A good beach read…sweet with a happy ending. Beverly is also “addicted” to The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon (recommended last month by Melba.) It’s 1945 and Claire Randall is traveling with her husband when she touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is hurled back in time to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord 1743. Catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, she soon realizes that an alliance with James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, might be the only way to survive.
Pam, along with sister-in-law, Donna, and brother, Bruce, recommended One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. It’s the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Could be a Bookers’ book…will keep you posted.Kay recommended The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created, a non-fiction, by William Bernstein. This is a “big-picture” work that highlights and explains the impact of four elements that when occurring simultaneously, are the fundamental building blocks for human progress.
Patty (along with MN and me) recommends The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. The title is from Shakespeare… “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves” meaning fate doesn’t doom us – it’s our own failings. The author’s message is that “we can still live and make decisions despite the fault in our stars.” It’s not a book about dying of cancer it’s a book about living with cancer.” Written for young adults through the eyes of two teenagers, it is a tough subject matter, but after lots of discussion, we concluded this would be a great Bookers’ book. It not only will challenge, enlighten, and inspire, but promote a lively discussion among the group. We have chosen this for our February selection and Patty has agreed to lead the review. She has also read Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes. Could be a Bookers’ book…will keep you in the loop.
Linsey has read, Too Soon Old Too Late Smart, Thirty True Things You Need to Know by Gordon Livingston with a forward by Elizabeth Edwards. A collection of inspirational “truths”… such as “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Charlene just downloaded The Girls of Atomic City a true story by Denise Kiernan. At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee was home to 75,000 residents consuming more electricity than New York City. To most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians, many young women from small towns across the South, were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Few could imagine the true nature of the tasks they performed daily in factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains…that is until the end of the war when the secret was revealed.
You Might Like These:
The 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction is The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson…a story of a man’s travails in North Korea and an in depth look into totalitarianism. Early favorites for this prestigious award were Dallas author, Ben Fountain, for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk chronicling Billy Lynn and his Bravo squad mates who have become heroes thanks to an embedded Fox News crew’s footage of their firefight against Iraqi insurgents. During one day of their bizarre Victory Tour, set mostly at a Thanksgiving Day football game at Texas Stadium, they’re wooed by Hollywood producers, smitten by Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and share a stage at halftime with Beyonce. Kevin Power’s The Yellow Birds is a novel written by a veteran of the war in Iraq. It’s the harrowing story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive. And, Louise Erdrich’s, The Round House transports readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota and tells of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. The actual finalists were What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander – eight powerful stories, dazzling in their display of language and imagination, show a celebrated short-story writer and novelist grappling with the great questions of modern life. And – drum roll for the clairvoyant Ms. Stanky please – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (which we have chosen as our Bookers’ book for January.)
Jack Stone, our honorary member of Bookers, recommends Ordinary Grace by William Krueger, set in New Bremen, Minnesota in 1961…a “summertime when thirteen-year old Frank Drum faced death in many forms…accident, nature, suicide, and murder.” The story is told from his perspective forty years after this fateful summer. “It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.” MN is currently reading this one.
Our featured author for June, Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, will release his latest in September, Songs of Willow Frost. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, this is a powerful tale of two souls – a twelve-year old orphan boy who is convinced his mother is alive when he sees her on the silver screen…and a woman trying to escape her haunted past.
Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner has a new one – And The Mountains Echoed – which revolves around parents and children, brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers. He explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, honor, and sacrifice for one another and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
On the business side:
MN “stood” on an Oxi-Clean bucket representing her “soap box” to discuss our two “imbibing” meetings and the mission of Bookers in relation to these events. It has always been her contention that the two don’t mix. We are a book club and book clubs discuss books. “We have enough parties.” Needless to say, the discussion was animated and diverse…I think I heard someone who shall remain nameless comment, “Wine is fun.” Yes, it is, however, the issue remained…there are so many quality books to read and officially we only have nine chances to discuss them. MN feels strongly that we are missing our opportunity to explore what literature has to offer by combining our book club with the social aspects of meeting. Here’s the compromise we voted on (and of course we know we cannot please everyone): Our December holiday party will be limited to mimosas to toast the season and a few light snacks. We will try to choose a book fitting of the season…light but with substance. Our May meeting is no longer an evening meeting but will begin at the regular time, 10:00 AM. We discussed having a mid-summer evening Bookers’ party with the focus on books to share. We hope this is agreeable to the majority as we look forward to reading and discussing those “treasures” that keep us reading until the wee hours!
Too many heartbreaking stories in the news of late and now, as if taken from a page of Emma Donoghue’s ROOM, the FBI is trying to piece together how three women and a six-year old girl could be held captive for more than a decade in a densely populated section of Cleveland without anyone knowing. Our hearts go out to them and we know they will be facing a long road to recovery and of course, to the victims and families of the Boston marathon bombings last month and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. Mark Davis of the Dallas Morning News wrote, “Tragedy shines light on the best of us – those who ran toward danger not away…countless hearts on the scene outweigh the evil motives.”
BooksNBloom, the April fundraiser for Henderson County Clint W. Murchison Library in Athens featuring Kathleen Kent, author of Heretic’s Daughter, was a huge success raising $16,000 for the library. Our group of nine was among the 420 who attended and we all enjoyed Kathleen’s presentation and a wonderful lunch. Thanks to all who donated in support of this literary event. Her latest book due out in October is The Outcasts, another historical fiction but set in Texas.
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
June 11th: Bonus Bookers Meeting
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Home of Kay Robinson
Reviewer: Pat Faherty
July/August Summer Read: A classic, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the 20th century. The book, in essence is a portrayal of a utopia in which there is constant prosperity, people are always content and provided for, and have been programmed to like their society in all respects. It asks the question: ‘What can possibly be wrong with a world in which everybody is happy?’
September 10th: Happy 10th Birthday Bookers
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Home of MN Stanky
Reviewer: Penny Barshop
October 1st: Book TBA
Home of Bonnie Magee
November 12th: Book TBA
Home of Daryl Daniels
December 10th: Book TBA
January 14, 2014 The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Home of Beverly Dossett
Reviewer: Melanie Prebis
February 11th: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Home of Patty Evans
Reviewer: Patty Evans
March 11th: Book TBA
Home of Marlene Ungarean
April 8th: Book TBA
Home of Sandy Molander
May 13th: Book TBA – regular meeting 10:00 AM
Home of Charlotte Pechacek
What we love about our group with or without wine is the unadulterated honesty in which we speak…for example. “I don’t know why a lot of these novels have to have so much sex in them.” “To remind us what it used to be like.” I rest my case!