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Saturday, February 18, 2017

FEBRUARY 2017 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Miss Jane by Brad Watson

      
                   “A little girl, I believe”
   Love does not exist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.     
                        Antoine de Saint-Exupery

22 umbrella-ed Bookers braved the cold wind and rain to Jean Alexander’s home on Valentine’s Day. This day is associated with love, hearts, roses, cupid, chocolate, and lace. Ironically, the history of the day relates to this month’s book selection. As the legend goes, February 14 was referred to by the Romans as the fertility festival, the day birds began mating. How about that for matching the day with the book….pure luck!

A warm welcome to Ann Ireland, joining us for the first time, and it was wonderful seeing Melba back again. We hope both will become regular fixtures at Bookers. Melba thanked everyone for their prayers, support and blood donations during their daughter’s illness seven years ago. A college fund was set up at that time for their granddaughter through the generosity of the community. Julia has now graduated from high school and will be the recipient of this outpouring of love as she embarks on the next chapter of her life. Pat Faherty’s husband, Greg, is now home and recovering from his knee replacement, heart attack, and pneumonia! They also appreciate all our support in their time of need. Jane Freer was so moved by our “hat” campaign last month and we know she will enjoy her basket of Valentine wishes. Many thanks to MN for making these handmade treasures! Jane’s husband, Gary, is home now after suffering a slight stroke on Sunday and is doing well. Our special community rallies through heartbreak until the heartwarming takes its place.

Jean Alexander in the typical flair we’ve come to expect, dressed in the role of sixty-seven year old Miss Jane Chisolm, giving her review from a rocking chair accompanied by a jar of apple brandy and cigarettes. Rocking away in character she talked about the letter she received from John Hopkins offering to “fix” her condition…about the anger of the timing and the tears of frustration. She had spent a lifetime living with her condition…a lifetime of disguising her condition…a lifetime of accepting the circumstances dictated by her condition. Why now?

Jane’s rare urological condition affected every character in the book. Her mother Ida said Jane’s “soul was corrupt at birth” coming in a sinful way, Ida not able to remember anything about the conception. Her father, Sylvester, blamed himself – he was ten years older than his wife, and she was too old to have another child and he was “too drunk and too cheap to pay two dollars for a whore.” By the time Grace was ten, she was determined to leave the farm. She resented being Jane’s surrogate mother, but confessed, “I have to love something.” In order to keep Elijah and Jane from inevitable heartbreak, her family separated them…love bloomed and died before she had to reveal her secret. Dr. Thompson, Jane’s friend, confidant, mentor, and father figure took a special interest in the baby he welcomed into the world. She was the child he never had, wanting desperately to find a way for her to be “normal.”

Jane’s family life mirrored a character in a silent movie. Stern looks answered questions. Muttering replaced conversation. Innuendo masked truths. All around her though, the simplicity of creation in its most natural form was before her eyes…the erotic world of nature on display for her to learn about reproduction…something she would never experience. .She saw in herself, a beauty not unlike the peacocks – oddly beautiful – making her feel less alone in the world…less strange. The Greeks believed physical love was the lowest form of love. True love was akin to divine love. The Catholic religion views the peacock as a sign of resurrection, renewal, and immorality…the exchange of the earthly body to the glorified body…the peacocks shed their feathers yearly, the new ones, more brilliant than the old…their flesh does not decay…the symbol of Christ, an all-seeing God.

We discussed whether Jane’s father committed suicide…the consensus; he gave up on life, drinking himself to death. Did Jane take her own life…she got all her ducks in order, so most likely she was tired of living alone too. We talked of the difference in Grace’s coloring versus the rest of the family and Sylvester and Ida’s “darkness of spirit,” and how she came to resent “their marriage contract.” Looking at the institution of marriage – the Chisolms, Dr. and Mrs. Thompson, Grace, and even Elijah – every character was let down by the business of love.

The true story of the author’s great aunt, on which this novel is based, has been in his subconscious since he was a boy when the mysterious “Aunt Jane” appeared in his life. He had always heard that something was “wrong” with her…she couldn’t have a “romantic” life. Mr. Watson stumbled onto a box of old photographs many years later of a pretty girl looking back over her shoulder at the photographer with a flirtatious expression and pose. It was his great-aunt – the one with the “problem.” This began a journey that ended with this book…beginning with an epigraph from Gustave Flaubert…. “She’d had, like everyone else, her love story.”
                                        On the Business side:
Cherry, Pat, and Patty are working on our Books in Bloom table (Dallas Cowboy theme) and will let the rest of us know what to bring to add to the d├ęcor. March 31st. $40.00 per person includes lunch. I would be happy to check with the organizers to see if there is any individual seating available if anyone else is interested in going to this event
                                        COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                                        WHITE:         LIGHT READ
                                        PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                        RED:              CHALLENGING
March 14th:                              The All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion 
                                                 by Fannie Flagg
                                                WHITE
Reviewer: Barbara Creach
                                                Home of Bonnie Magee

April 11th:                                The Girl Who Wrote In Silk, by Kelli Estes, debut
                                                PINK
                                                The protagonist discovers an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in her deceased aunt’s island estate revealing a connection with a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before.
Reviewer: Pat Faherty
                                                Home of Rokhshie Malone

May 2nd                                   Earlier date due to travel conflict
                                                Orphan # 8 by Kim van Alkemade
                                                RED
                                                Reviewer: Patty Evans
                                                Wine & Cheese evening meeting
Home of Melanie Prebis.
                                                Bonnie Magee, Food Czar

Miss Jane is a “divine beacon of love that unfolds like a country creek that moves slowly on the surface but runs deep…a peaceful page-turner.”
(FYI…we talked about the “readability statistics”… the above sentence contains 26 words, one sentence. Flesch Reading Ease - 60.0 (ideal is between 60-70) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, 11.3 – (ideal is below 10th grade level)

Happy Reading,

JoDee