Wednesday, April 13, 2016

APRIL 2016 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

         Within the prism of understanding, the truth guides us along the path.

20 Bookers emerged from the long dark night braving the cold Russian winds coming off the frozen water as snowflakes dropped out of the sun onto cars buried in ice mantles. Humor me. We’re stationed in Leningrad for Jean Alexander’s review of this month’s selection, Winter Garden, instead of April in Texas at the home of Kay Robinson.

We would like to offer our continued prayers and healing to those struggling with health issues and thank Kay Robinson for her uplifting report on Winston Welch thriving in his new environment. We appreciate Kay Hazelbaker sending photos of an early Bookers meeting for us to see what we looked like in our “infancy.”

Jean Alexander in her usual flair for capturing the essence of a book began with Kristin Hannah’s inspiration….how can any woman know her own story until she knows her mother’s past. Winter Garden encompasses two tales, the contemporary one set in Washington State detailing the lives of two sisters, Meredith and Nina, their adoring relationship with their father, Evan, and growing up with a mother, Anya, as frosty as a Russian winter, and the other set during the siege of Leningrad during World II. Jean donning a wool coat, snow boots, and head scarf, narrated life in a city cut off from the world, filled with women and children freezing and starving and the lengths they went to in order to survive. Within the details of Anya’s struggles and choices in Russia, she saw herself as an unfit mother because of some of the agonizing decisions she made, fostering an innate fear that she would damage her own daughters if she showed them love. Her vulnerability only surfaced when in the dark she recited fairytales so melodious, the sound of her voice made her daughters believe for at least a little while, love seeped from her words into their hearts. What they didn’t know was the fairytale of the prince and the peasant was a detail accounting of their mother’s life, emphasizing in order for children to survive extreme hardship, they needed strength and courage, not comforting.

Winter Garden proves it is never too late to discover, to understand, and replace the unspoken grief with unconditional love. The author writes “about women that rise above victimhood, not succumb to it, believing in the human spirit and their amazing resilience…never quit on family, friends, or yourself.” Ms. Hannah accomplished this magically within the pages of her historical fiction. Thanks to Jean Alexander for taking us on this journey!

Our discussion centered on the differences between the sisters, Meredith, the organizer, burying grief and her personal relationship with her husband inside busy work. Nina saw death through the lens of a camera, always running as fast as she could from her own life on the pretense of saving someone else’s life. Their father’s death forced them to look at their own lives with an uncomfortable rawness, the sisters facing the fact they both were like their mother by not trusting another person with their emotions. Meredith, Nina, and Anya sharing a family meal complete with shots of vodka and conversation began the melting stage…their lives always defined by things said and things unsaid suddenly evolved…now, words mattered. Some expressed there was too much detail in the beginning, others seeing this as necessary to set up the relationships; one member said she was angry with the husband for letting their daughters feel unloved for so many years. We spoke of not knowing the details of our grandparents and/or parent’s childhoods and the need to explore this before it was too late. And whether or not Anya’s inability to see color was psychological – “sometimes a thing was its truest self when the colors were stripped away”…Anya saw her life in its reality – its starkness…color would soften her view. And, then the talk livened up as we dissected the ending. The author said she toyed with several ways to tie it all up, but it all came down to not wanting Anya to lose anyone else…to come to the end of her life as a happy woman. 6 Bookers agreed, the rest, felt it was contrived, hokey, unbelievable, and convenient…attesting to how we all read differently…and that’s a good thing!    

                                           On the business side:
Our special gathering, Lunch with Lucy, on Friday, April 8th was attended by Bonnie, Rokhshie, Melanie, Rebecca Robinson, Linda Thompson, Jane, Pat, Barbara, Beverly, MN and me. We had a great meal and discussion of Elizabeth Strout’s latest My Name Is Lucy Barton, written with “distilled emotion” on the human condition, asking the question is it possible to fix an imperfect love. We would highly recommend you devour this one!

9 Bookers attended the Books in Bloom luncheon on April 1st at the Cain Center in Athens enjoying a fascinating presentation by author Jan Jarboe Russell of her new book, The Train to Crystal City. We discussed picking this as our summer read, as it is as relevant today as it was during World War II, we voted it might be too politically charged and is a very tedious read, but we recommend you dive into this fascinating piece of little-known American history.

We’ll select our summer read at the May meeting, (MOVED TO THE 24TH) and ask that you each bring a recommendation to vote on…one lengthy book, three short ones, a classic, a contemporary fiction, something from a list of the 100 books you must read before you die….your choice, but please help us by offering a suggestion. Our May meeting is a BYOB evening meeting, and we are requesting a heartier fare to soak up some of the B. Bonnie Magee will be again coordinating this. Watch for an email soon and please respond to her directly.

               COLOR CODING SYSTEM
               WHITE:         LIGHT READ
               PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
               RED:              CHALLENGING

May 24th:                                Wine & Cheese evening meeting, 6:00 P.M.
                                                Note later date
                                                Bonnie Magee, Food Czar
                                                A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
                                                Home of: Beverly Dossett
                                                Reviewer: Jean McSpadden

Summer Break:                     June, July, & August
                                                Summer Read, TBD
September 13th:                      Beginning of Bookers’ 12th year

            “You would be amazed at what the human heart can endure.”

Happy Reading,


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