Thursday, January 10, 2019

JANUARY 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

  “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can, and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” Buddha

21 Bookers met at the home of Daryl Daniels to discuss Kristin Hannah’s latest novel, recently voted as Goodreads Best Historical Fiction winner with Patty Evans leading the discussion, offering insight into why this selection was not high on her list of favorites. The majority of the group read and enjoyed the novel, but Patty felt it was disjointed – two books inside the cover of one…a travel book offering a spectacular view of Alaska while the other focused on a disturbing look at a family in crisis. She felt the character development lacked depth, with some stereotypical profiles, with parts in need of tighter editing to eliminate repetition. The author’s insertion of her “head” into the narrative with parenthesis like, “Leni got out of the plane carefully (nothing was more dangerous up here than getting wet in the winter.)” (My pet peeve also– this is me inserting my “head” into this commentary.) By Patty relaying her honest opinion of the novel, we learn how to positively report on literature that might not be “our cup of tea” and the role of constructive criticism in the review process. And on a side note, we couldn’t recall the literary device the author used in the beginning of the book, a quote by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.” It is an epigraph, often used as a preface or a hint as to the underlying premise of the book…encouraging the reader to remember the words as they read. Thank you, Patty…well done!

Having said this, we had a lively discussion covering a variety of subjects – the Vietnam War, PTSD, Hannah’s textbook use of battered women’s syndrome, favorite characters, how secrets are kept both inside and outside the family dynamic, the turbulent world of America in the 1970’s with political unrest, kidnappings and plane hijackings fostering some to seek isolation as an answer to the issues, the lack of support for victims of physical and/or mental abuse, the Romeo-and-Juliet aspect of first love with the sweet, childlike innocence between Matthew and Leni, whether we saw Cora’s explosive act of protection coming when she killed Ernt, Cora’s confessional being the only thing she could give her daughter that would change her life, and Leni’s naivety being coerced into revealing her role in the crime, whether or not we would consider Cora a “good” mother, and Large Marge saying to Leni, “Your mother was a kite string. Without her strong, steady hold on you, you might just float away, be somewhere among the clouds.” Part of the book was a mother-daughter love story…only this one with a broken spine. The ending of the novel put a smile on your face as we saw a life completed, hope after all the endured pain, a family united and a young boy learning of strength and the power of love from both his parents. It might have been predictable and somewhat Polly-anna, but who doesn’t need a reason to think good things can happen, even in the worst conditions.

The art of storytelling consists of a simple formula, you have a who, a what and a why not scenario as the protagonist who is the leading character making key decisions and experiencing the consequences of those decisions. Enter the antagonist whose job it is to prevent the protagonist from achieving the goals. The State of Alaska played both roles and to me was the most powerful character in the novel. Alaska was the who and the what dangling hope for a “new” beginning in front of the Allbright family. The why not…the starkness of an untamed wilderness with its frigid temperatures, isolation, sunlit and dark days represented the literal meaning of the title, but the metaphorical implications dwelled in the lives of Leni, Cora, and even Ernt – all alone inside their own family. They didn’t enjoy the grandeur of being alone – often referred to as solitude, only the pain of being alone. Alaska won on all fronts.
On the business side:

Sheri Green sent a lovely note of thanks to all who contributed to her “surprise tin” and sent big hugs our way for the cards, sweets, words of encouragement, and most importantly, prayers. Please continue to keep Sheri and her family in your thoughts as she seeks treatment at MD Anderson in Houston.

Bookers’ selection committee has been reading…and reading…and reading in search of a selection for us to spend the summer enjoying. They all agreed Markus Zusak’s latest novel, Bridge of Clay, although good, was hard to follow. We discussed Ken Follett’s, The Pillars of the Earth, which Bookers selected September 2009, and those who had previously read it commented they would like to read it again…so ta da…we have a weighty tome to keep us entertained during our break. Thanks to Pat, Katherine, and Melanie for all they’ve done for us!!

Our relocated Bookers’ friend and thespian, Bernie Crudden, reported loving their new life in “the city” and their residences have three book clubs…one of which is “Bookers-like.” She highly recommends Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, as they had a very lively and interesting discussion about the book. Donna Walter thought Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty a very interesting and complex read. I’m into The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. The Dauphin Island book club read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and MN is reading True Places by Sonja Yoerg.

The annual fundraiser for the Clint W. Murchison Library in Athens, Books in Bloom, is scheduled for Friday, April 12, 2019 featuring author, Sarah Bird…our April Bookers’ author! Bookers has reserved a table of 8 ($50.00 per person) every year and we hope to be able to do so again this year although so many of us are on the PWC overnight trip to Austin during this time. Beverly Dossett and Katherine Maxwell-McDonald are spearheading the effort on behalf of the PWC and Bookers. Please connect with one of these ladies if you are interested in joining them.

We strive for consistency on the regular Bookers’ dates on the second Tuesday of the month, but sometimes life happens, and change is unavoidable. Many thanks to the reviewers and home hosts for adjusting our February and March meeting dates to a week earlier to accommodate my conflicts…I am honored and excited to be addressing the American Business Women’s Association in Corsicana on February 12th and the Cedar Creek Literary Club on March 12th. 

RED:              CHALLENGING
February 5:     The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor – Note change of date
Set in 1917 England and based on a true story, two young cousins somehow convince the world that the magic exists.
                        PALE PINK
                        Discussion Leader: Daryl Daniels
                        Home of Beverly Dossett
March 5:         Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles – Note change of date
Set in East Texas during the depression, a story of hardship, sacrifice, and strength.
                        Discussion Leader: Ann Ireland
                        Home of Jean Alexander
April 9:          Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, Sarah Bird
A forgotten part of history detailing the hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
Discussion Leader: TBD
                        Home of Aulsine DeLoach
May 14:           Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Set in the 1950’s in very rural North Carolina revolving around a young woman named Kya Clark – celebrating strength through tragedy and the resourcefulness of a child left to fend for herself in the swamp.
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
                        Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of Melanie Prebis    
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett   
Happy Reading,

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