“Use it up; Wear it out; Make it do; or Do without.” 1930’s America
19 Bookers sloshed to the home of Daryl Daniels to discuss this month’s selection set within the background of America’s Great Depression. Rokhshie Malone led the dialogue of this domestic/historical fiction tale capturing the hopelessness sweeping the country in 1931. She provided a storyboard featuring the timeline of this period between 1929 and 1938 and into 1940 when the United States began sending military supplies and other assistance to the Allies in Europe. Another chart displayed what items cost in 1931 along with two different book covers, and a tribute to the theme song of the era, “Brother Can You Spare A Dime.” The majority of Bookers read and liked the book; a few loved it; a couple were iffy. Well done Rokhshie…with a nod to hubby Bud.
The author stumbled upon a1948 newspaper photograph of four young siblings on the steps of an apartment building with the mother shielding her face from the camera…the sign haunted Ms. McMorris – 4 Children For Sale – inquire within. She wondered what could have possibly pushed a parent to “sell” her children. The answer to that question became the foundation of this novel.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but this one, 2 children for sale, consisting of one number and three words told the story of families during the Great Depression. In the midst of all this, the photo caught the nation on fire – it humanized the struggles of everyday life and in doing so gave people something else to talk about instead of unemployment and starvation. There was an outpouring of compassion for a mother and her children and Ellis Reed became the reporter with the pulse on the commonality of man and his plight, ambitions, and triumphs. At the heart of the story is loss and how individuals deal with it – Jim Reed, Sylvia Millstone, and Geraldine Dillard lost children while Lily Palmer as an unwed mother would have lost her reputation if her son was discovered.
The photo affected more than Ellis’s career – it was viewed by thousands, each seeing what they wanted to see in the photograph – even today we bring our own perceptions to the table…most skewed by our past – either consciously or unconsciously. Lily and Ellis were kindred spirits, both carrying the torch of survivors out to prove their worth to themselves and to their families. They both dealt with guilt – Lily’s with the stigma of having a child out of marriage and Ellis’s success built on the hardships of others.
Our discussion included what prompted the title of the novel with Ellis wondering what else he had sold on a Monday – himself, his integrity, his principles. There are two English nursery rhymes that might have contributed to the title…Solomon Gundy born on a Monday, Christened on Tuesday, Married on Wednesday, Took ill on Thursday, Got worse on Friday, Died on Saturday, Buried on Sunday – the other another one to consider – Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace, etc.…or it could have been just the beginning of the week…Ms. McMorris most likely had a solid reason. The prologue garnered some discussion as it began where the novel ended – the setting in the waiting area of the hospital where a reporter approaches the story’s unknown narrator seeking a statement…and Lily says, “It started with a picture.” We talked about the image of a pregnant teenage Lily standing at the top of the stairs pondering how a fall would certainly cause a miscarriage…until the baby kicked; the powerful scene between a father and son, at odds their entire lives, with each carrying an unspeakable burden hoping to find a way to right irreversible wrongs; the multiple side stories; the setting, although realistic, might have been more so with heightened attention to more family struggles (although an editor might not agree); the events unfolding seemed rushed – almost frantic toward the end but keep in mind Lily and Ellis did not have the luxury of time if they were going to rescue Ruby and Calvin; the heartbreaking realization that Calvin was chained in the barn of his “new home.” Most agreed the breaking into the orphanage was a touch over the top – but how else are they going to get the information they needed – and again time was of the essence. The characters were well developed pointing to how each one grew as the novel progressed except the depth of Mrs. Millstone’s mental illness although hinted at was revealed enough for the reader to recognize the seriousness of her disease. One of our members shared that she has a friend who was born in Arkansas to a poor family – she and her older brother were actually “sold” to a loving couple – this happening in the early 1950’s not during the depression but points to how some families still have to make difficult choices. Bottom line, the novel was somewhat predictable, was certainly a page-turner, tying up all the loose ends with a happy ending for most.
On the business side:
Please thank our new Bookers Selection Committee, Jean McSpadden, Janet Noblitt, and Beverly Dossett for volunteering to read, read, and read more in order to find those Bookers’ treasures we all love. As we requested last year, please send me the titles of 3 books you recommend for consideration by the committee by March 1st and I’ll pass them along.
Reminder: The deadline to turn in your garage sale survey is Thursday, February 13 at the conclusion of the PWC luncheon. Please make your voice count.
TaleFlick is a company that curates books for movies and television. I submitted my book about a year ago and now Life in a Box was selected to participate in the weekly discovery contest. Voting at www.taleflick.com began Monday, February 10 @ 10:00 a.m. Pacific through Friday, February 14 @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific. The one with the most votes is rewarded with a direct pipeline into the industry professionals. I would greatly appreciate your support!
Kathleen Kent, author of the Heretic’s Daughter is the guest speaker of the 2020 Books in Bloom fundraiser benefitting the Henderson County Public Library. She will be speaking about her newly released noir fiction, The Burn, on April 17, 2020 at the First United Methodist Church, Athens. If you’re not familiar with this genre, it is a subgenre of crime fiction, often called hardboiled fiction where right and wrong are not clearly defined and the protagonists are often tragically flawed. I have reserved a table of 8 for Bookers and we have two more members interested in going. Individual tickets are available but if we can find 6 more, I can reserve another table for us. Please let me know if you are interested asap.
On Saturday March 21, 2020 a new bookstore will hold their grand opening in Malakoff, and I’m honored to be part of the celebration. Details to follow.
As suggested last month I reconnected with Robert Dugoni, (Sam Hell’s author) regarding the audio version. I told him that several Bookers commented what a wonderful job he did narrating as they “felt every word.” Also, I told him about the “standing ovation moments” in the book. He responded “how very heart warming. Thanks so much for letting me know.”
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
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: Beverly Dossett
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: Katherine McDonald
May 12: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
One-hundred and four-year old Ona tells the eleven-year-old unnamed boy who has been helping her out every Saturday morning, “The story of your life never starts at the beginning.” A heartwarming tale of love, loss, and friendship.
Evening Wine & Cheese meeting
Home of Melanie Prebis
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
Bonnie Magee will again coordinate our menu
Summer reads: The Giver of the Stars by JoJo Moyes and
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Much has been made of the similarities of these two books, some calling it plagiarism. They were published five months apart; they both take place in Kentucky and deal with the Pack Horse Library Project tasked with bringing books to remote areas of Appalachia between 1936 and 1943.
Bookers is reading both because of the controversy…will be a fun meeting in September 2020.