"The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." John Milton
19 Bookers met at the home of Rokhshie Malone to discuss this month’s debut novel, a psychological thriller featuring a famous painter married to an in-demand photographer whose life seems perfect until one fateful night. We’re introduced to a gruesome murder followed by the psychologist’s fascination with the murderer – she held captive in her own mind – and his maneuvers to secure her as a patient. We follow his successes and failures tied to her care while numerous subplots dangle throughout the book – just enough to distract the reader from the “real” story. And, finally the shocking reveal was as equally impressive as the slow-burning journey to that point. It reads more like a character study methodically building flawed characters, subsequently breaking them down layer by layer while investigating the mind of a criminal. Many thanks to Rebecca Brisendine for dissecting this complicated book and summarizing the plot as she said, “it seemed to begin in the middle, go to the end, and then reveal the beginning, ending in the middle.”
Rebecca provided details about the author that ties into the creation of his novel. He is a former screenwriter who was once told, “Books expand a story and films contract a story. When you slow down by building characters, plot, and details you share the lives in the story with the reader.” Born in 1977 in Cypress to an English mother and a Greek father, Greek mythology, especially Euripides who wrote the myth of Alcestis, haunted him and he knew someday he would write about it. In the story the hero is condemned to death by the Fates but is offered a loophole – escape death if he can persuade someone else to die for him. Alcestis offers to die for him, he accepts, she dies and departs for Hades, but it doesn’t end there. There’s a happy ending referred to as a deus ex machina which is a literary plot device where a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence. Alcestis is returned to living, hubby is moved to tears, but she doesn’t speak and is led back to the house in silence.
Alicia’s self-portrait was entitled Alcestis…it’s a painting about silence and at the heart of all art lies a mystery – her silence was her secret and her mystery. It was important to find out what molded her as the experts say no one is born evil…a baby cannot hate the mother without the mother first hating the baby…babies are sponges, blank slates with only basic needs…but something went wrong in her house for her to harbor vengeful fantasies…rage like fear is reactive…something happened in her childhood to shape her into a person capable of murder. Her father’s comment after her mother was killed in a car accident would be enough to trigger that response! And, in the end the only one she could trust was her diary.
Most read and liked the book although it started slowly for some; a few didn’t believe from the beginning that Alicia murdered her husband. We talked about Theo and his relationship with his wife and his relentless pursuit to prove she was having an affair; why did Alicia give Theo her diary – was she manipulating him and showing she held all the cards or did she trust that he was trying to help her; the author skillfully revealed Alicia’s inner turmoil through her artwork and her physical descriptions – she’s just out of reach to everyone but ever present in the story. We wondered if Alicia had another copy of the diary as Theo could have destroyed it, but he returned it to her – why – because it didn’t incriminate him in any way. Secrets are at the heart of the novel and one by one they are revealed and in the end our jaws hit the floor (at least mine did.) We also talked about Room by Emma Donoghue when MN and I recreated the 12x12 room Jack and his mother occupied. There was talk of recreating this…a visit from Alabama would be in order…stay tuned but don’t hold your breath!
On the business side:
We are all saddened by the passing of Roger Prebis on Sunday. All we can offer are thoughts and prayers from our hearts to theirs. Trees are planted, trunks get taller, thicker, and stronger, old branches support new branches. Bookers Blessing Branch represents an arm of comfort, the strength of friendship, the empathy of a shared loss, a hug wrapped in heartfelt sentiment, and love from one person to another. We attached our notes of support on the branch for the Prebis family and I delivered it today…they were thankful and touched by the outpouring! Bookers “rock.”
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the garage sale and to those who worked tirelessly to organize the PWC event of the season. We endured gale force winds, blinding rain, and cold temperatures but the dedicated spirit that makes it successful prevailed – it’s always been about our community giving back, not only with the net proceeds going to scholarships and local charities, it’s bigger than that…for the shoppers who are treated to an early Christmas by completing their wish lists three-fold and as Jean Alexander pointed out it’s also a bonding time for PWC members, new and “old” participating in an effort to help others. That puts a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart that writing a check would not compare (in my humble opinion of course!)
Barry Evans is slowly recovering from his surgery and has been seen walking within the “compound” and rumor has it eating as much ice cream as he can…baby steps in the right direction. We wish him continued progress and send our love to the family as well.
Melba and Layton Holt covertly left Pinnacle – maybe not in the dead of night, but unknown to many of us. I emailed her “demanding” an explanation and she explained Layton needed to be somewhere to be able to receive intensive treatment for his pain and although they were “gone” their house is not on the market and she plans to visit us often. Good news for all who adore them!
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
November 12: The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty
A novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks (a famous silent-film star) to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.
Home of Beverly Dossett
Discussion Leader: Barbara Creach (Thank you MN!)
December 10: Show up with the Christmas spirit in your heart – the one that causes the weary world to look beyond what confronts us daily and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched. I’m in charge. No book to buy just enjoy a dusting of Ho Ho Ho and bring one pair of warm and fuzzy tootsie covers – a sock in a sack – to exchange.
Home of Jane Shaw
Program by JoDee Neathery
Bonnie Magee will again coordinate the food and beverage.
January 14, 2020: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
Sam always saw the world through different eyes, born with red pupils he was called “Devil Boy” by his classmates: “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. His unique condition, his mother’s devout faith, coupled with his father’s practical wisdom and his two other misfit friends makes for an entertaining read.
Home of Bonnie Magee
Discussion Leader: TBD
February 11: Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris
A scrawled sign peddling young siblings on a farmhouse porch captures the desperation sweeping the country in 1931. A struggling reporter snaps a photograph which changes his life with consequences he never expected.
Home of Daryl Daniels
Discussion Leader: Rokhshie Malone
March 10: The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo
A debut novel set in a house in an olive grove in Northern California, a touching story bringing to life five generations of women, including an unforgettable 112 year-old matriarch determined to break all Guinness longevity records – the secrets and lies that divide them and the love that ultimately ties them together.
Home of Patty Evans
Discussion Leader: Katherine McDonald
April 14: Beloved by Toni Morrison
In honor of the late Nobel Prize laureate’s finest achievement which stares unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery transforming history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby…filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope.
Home of Jean Alexander
Discussion Leader: TBD
May 12: TBD
Home of TBD
Discussion Leader: TBD
Summer read: TBD
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau