Friday, January 12, 2018

JANUARY 2018 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

“Faith is a strange creature…like a falcon that nests year after year in the same place, but then flies away…only to return again, stronger than ever.” Cardinal Shuster

21 Bookers met at the home of Daryl Daniels for our meeting and discussion of this month’s selection led by Patty Evans. We shared a moment of silence and prayers for Elaine Bownes undergoing abdominal surgery and a complete hysterectomy in connection with her primary peritoneal cancer; for Sheri Green who continues with her chemotherapy treatments; and for Bernie Crudden, who on January 19 will endure robotic Cyberknife surgery to tap a nerve in her neck with radiation to relieve the excruciating pain she has been experiencing, hopefully eliminating the need for pain medications.

                                                    On the business side:
We had a few items to discuss before focusing on this month’s selection. In the past Bookers 
discouraged serving food at the meetings for two reasons – one our focus has always been on the book and secondly, we wanted those who volunteered their homes not to feel obligated to provide anything other than coffee, juice, and water. From now on, the host will make the call, but please keep in mind our intent is not to be a “you-top-it” type of organization.

On Tuesday, January 23, I’m honored to be addressing the Cedar Creek Women’s Club about Life in a Box. Michael Hannigan, editor of Henderson County Now, will be covering the event. Book signing will begin at 10:30 a.m. with my presentation slated for 11:15 followed by lunch. The majority of you know everything you would ever want to know about my book, but if you would like to come, the luncheon is $12.00 and Penny Barshop will include you as a guest. Let me know by January 15.

We have several new members of Bookers and feel it is important to share a little history of our book club. Fourteen years ago, our PWC President, Melba Holt, and Social Chairman, Jean Alexander, recognized a need for a book club for our members. MN Stanky and I jumped at the opportunity and here we are (although she is in our “satellite” office in Alabama now.) We’ve read 128 books for Bookers alone, facilitated Amish and Happiness studies, poetry appreciation month and personality testing, and listened with our hearts as Rosa Blum, a Holocaust survivor, recounted the horrors and joys that life had thrown in her path. Bookers is successful because of our different perspectives on the books we read. We all learn and process information differently and our goal has always been to offer book selections that foster a lively discussion from various points of view. This concept has kept us from being ‘Bookers in a Box.” Many of you are aware there is a new smaller book club in town formed by Paula Butcher focusing on bestsellers and classics to be discussed over lunch. Books have their own power source – they are called readers – and as both a reader and a writer, there can never be too many. We are happy that the love of books continues to spread throughout our community and encourage participation in either or both opportunities.

You might have an interest in a new release by Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. (Bookers, March 2014) Her latest, The Music Shop, is set in the late 1980’s. Editorial and customer reviews are generally positive. Language and blasphemy were the reasons given for a rare three star review.

Cold Mountain, a 1997 historical fiction by Charles Frazier, follows a wounded Confederate Army deserter who walks for months to return to the love of his life and the mountains of North Carolina. Recommended by Lee McFarlane. Also a 2003 movie starring Nicole Kidman.

Later in 2018, Melanie Prebis will review one of her favorite books, A Prayer for Owen Meany, a 1989 release by John Irving – the story of two young friends growing up in a small New Hampshire town in the 1950’s-1960’s.
Mark Sullivan joined the Peace Corp after graduating from college, teaching high school English to students in West Africa. Upon returning to the States, he began a career as an investigative reporter before writing eighteen novels including the bestselling “Private” series with James Patterson. This biographical/historical fiction at times reads like a literary nonfiction narrative then lapses back into his journalistic style of writing. The novel, chocked full of characters and stories at every turn, seems impossible for all of that to have happened to one person, but documentation reveals the accuracy of the tales. The author spent ten years researching and writing this novel, resulting in Pino’s story surfacing after six decades of silence. Seventy-nine year old Pino remembered what the love of his life had said, “By opening our hearts, revealing our scars, we are made human and flawed and whole.” It was time for him to reveal his scars.

Patty Evans, as always, provided a thorough and entertaining review of Beneath a Scarlet Sky, showing a photo book of the small crowded village of Asolo  perched on a hilltop in Northern Italy, similar to the community where the Lella family lived and worked. Asking for a show of hands of those who had not finished the book, she opted not to discuss the ending avoiding spoiling it for those yet to finish. The novel details the untold tale of a seventeen-year-old Italian boy, Pino Lella, between June 1943 and May 1945 during the Nazi occupation.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music (especially jazz) food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When Allied bombs destroyed his home in Milan, Pino joins an underground network helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will share one day.
Our discussion offered many personal stories of family involved in war, revealing the universal theme of our “Greatest Generation,” before and beyond…the refusal to talk about their experiences once they returned home. Statistics show that 88% of veterans returning from war have had direct experience of violence – either as a witness, a victim, or having caused it. What we lose with this silence are the legacies of the men and women who defended our freedom. We talked about Pino’s innate ability as a teenager to step into a leadership role with insight beyond his years, possessing fearless bravery and casting out the threat of dying, begging the question, are leaders born or made? I posed the question to one of my friends who has written books on leadership and counsels CEO’s on how to be more effective leaders. His answer, “leaders clearly are made not born because a person’s character is shaped from the moment they come into the world by their circumstances, profoundly influenced by parents, mentors, and their circle of friends in all cases – either good or bad.” He believes “you are a product of the ten people you spend the most time with…and a “person’s value system of right and wrong, their focus on a purpose that’s bigger than themselves, and their drive to live it and achieve it is influenced, not wired in at birth.”

Taking a look at Pino’s family, we find the answer to his maturity – the people who surrounded him – his no-nonsense mother, his father’s ability to tune out the world’s misery with the sound of music; his little brother’s dependency and admiration for him; the respect of his friends; his Uncle Albert who encouraged him to drive the Nazi General and become a spy; Father Re who preached not to “let your heart be troubled, trust in the Lord” making no moral judgment on anyone including the Nazis. Look around – who are the ten that made you?

One of the most complicated characters in the novel was General Leyers as he portrayed both good and evil doing everything he could do to insure his people did not starve and in the end, saved himself. His mantra, “always do favors for others because they will owe you.” The theory worked well for his survival.

Bonnie Magee, not able to be at the meeting, called in her comment and approval of the book. “Since I am such a Pollyanna, having the preface to this book was magical. The holocaust and the war were horrific. Reading about different events was much easier for me since the preface made it like a “flashback,” and I wasn’t constantly “on edge.”

Rokhshie Malone, happily huddled up in Crested Butte, wanted to know, “Why is a seventeen/eighteen year old boy running around town at all hours, instead of being in school or college?" Our input – it seems this was a norm among teenagers then. “I am enjoying the book, and one thing is very clear - the Italian Jews were forgotten and as stated, the Italians did not want to discuss it afterwards, and relegated it to the past with no recollection. Sad!”

As Patty began, I’ll finish by leaving the ending to you. Pino cherished the words Anna lived by…she didn’t believe much in the future…tried to live moment by moment, always looking for reasons to be grateful… creating her own happiness and grace and using them as a means to a good life in the present and not a goal to be achieved some other day.

                              COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                             WHITE:          LIGHT READ
                             PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                             RED:              CHALLENGING
February 13                           The Mourning Parade by Dawn Reno Langley
The mother of two sons killed in a school shooting leaves her successful veterinary practice to volunteer in an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
                                                LIGHT RED
                                                Home of Bonnie Magee
Reviewer: Jean Alexander

March 13                                The Rainwater Secret by Monica Shaw
Debut historical fiction by Dallas author based on the life of her great aunt, a missionary woman in Africa teaching leper children.
Home of Patty Evans
We are excited to announce the author will be joining us for the meeting

April 10                                  The Uncertain Season by Texas author Ann Howard Creel
Follows the lives of three women in the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston…one living a privileged life, her disgraced and flamboyant cousin, and an unnamed girl living on the streets.
                                                Home of Sandy Molander
                                                Reviewer: TBD

May 15                                   Change of date due to travel plans
To Everything A Season – Sherri Schaeffer, a debut set in Amish country in Lancaster Pennsylvania where two worlds collide forcing them together.
                                                Home of Donna Walter
                                                Reviewer: TBD

Summer Read:                      America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha, “Patsy” becomes the keeper of the secrets and her father’s confidant after her mother’s death and his appointment as the American Minister to France.

“Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”
Happy Reading,


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