Tuesday, March 10, 2020

MARCH 2020 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Roots of the Olive Tree, Courtney Miller Santo

Females are best in the olive grove as they are “wise in the feet and wild in the head.” Some of us might have a future in olive harvesting!

17 Bookers met at the home of Patty Evans to discuss this month’s selection, a debut contemporary women’s fiction, set in a house in an olive grove in Northern California that brings to life five generations of women, including the unforgettable 112-year-old matriarch of Scot-Irish descent, Anna Davison Keller, who is determined to break all Guinness longevity records. As the story unfolds, we learn of the secrets and lies that divide the women and the love that ultimately ties them together.

Welcome KK Mitchell to her first “official” meeting although she’s been on the email list for a long time. We’re glad to have you in person and hope you enjoy our time together. Also, new to the Pinnacle Women’s Club and to Bookers, Suzanne Potter, has joined the group as well as Fran Farmer. We’re happy to have all of you!

Beverly Dossett, our discussion leader, offered a short summary and opened it up for the group to comment.

One of Bookers’ rules (and we only have two) is the book must foster discussion. This one did not disappoint. Sixteen read the selection, four liked, but the rest either disliked or rated it so-so. The common complaints focused on the abrupt ending (did they journey to Australia?), lack of character development, the difficulty of keeping the numerous characters straight…although the main characters were in alphabetical order (Anna, Bets, Callie, Deborah, Erin), the storylines seemed scattered and in some cases useless information failing to drive the story forward, some parts read as though an editor might have removed chunks of the text, the author relied heavily on clichés, some regarding the writing sophomoric especially for a university creative writing teacher, the change of viewpoints made it difficult to follow, and we never learned what Carl, Deborah’s husband, really did to deserve six bullets…although the location of those bullets probably answered that question. The secondary story about the theory of aging lost some momentum with the dissertations of the geneticist, Dr. Hashmit, whose study of the “superagers” saw a clear disparity between chronological age and biological age – those individuals having physical, psychological, and social lives of people one-half there ages. His theory was since they stop or slow senescence (the condition or process of deterioration with age within the body) his mission was to find the genetic mutation in the Keller family’s first-born females that was responsible for defying longevity norms.

On a more positive note, the story of the schoolteacher, Miss Dupont, who survived the fire that killed twenty-six children including Violet, Anna’s little sister and the first child born at Hill House, was heartwarming as she wrote letters on each anniversary of the tragedy to the parents of those who died imagining what he or she would be doing that year if they had lived. Also, the biblical meaning of roots of the olive tree is told in Romans 11:17 saying that Christians are spiritually grafted into the ancient olive tree of Israel…with faith not standing alone but supported by that tree. Those familiar with the olive trees of Israel realize that these old trees can live hundreds of years and are wonderful pictures of stability, endurance and fruitfulness. Ms. Santo adeptly used this imagery and analogy to create the characters, their relationships to each other, their strengths and weaknesses, and the richness in their lives. Anna’s character was the spiritual graft – the roots that held the Keller family together for generations.

On the business side:
Thank you to those who have already sent me book recommendations for the committee to consider. If you have not done so yet, please email your thoughts as soon as possible.

Bonnie Magee, our food czar, will be coordinating the offerings a little early this year for our Wine & Cheese evening meeting as she will be traveling (maybe) and will have surgery in May. Please respond directly to her and again, thanks to everyone for their support.

Our first batch of new books from BookTrib should arrive at the end of this month so we’ll have them to pass out next month.

Easter is almost upon us and Patty Evans needs volunteers to help coordinate the outdoor activities for the kids. Please contact her directly ( if you can tap into your inner “bunny” and help with the project.

The new and gently used bookstore, Bookish, in Malakoff, 211 S. Terry, will celebrate the grand opening with a ribbon cutting at 11:00 am, Saturday, March 21, 2020 to kick off a full day of events in partnership with local merchants. Bookish will provide snacks and Cappuccinos throughout the day with author’s book signings and short presentations. (Mine is 11:15 or 11:30); HF Family Table will be selling book themed box lunches; Sunrise Point (the new luxury cottages and event venue) will be offering tours all day; Malakoff Junction antique store will be open as well as Artful Thinking and the Vault House; Bookish and Sunrise Point will be hosting a giveaway at 2:00 pm – enter for a chance to win dinner for two at HF Family Table and a two night stay at Sunrise Point; Take a historic tour of Anding House B&B, originally the Flagg family home built in 1920 by Mr. Flagg, the President of First State Bank and owner of a drug store, dry goods and grocery stores.

RED:              CHALLENGING
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 Beverly Dossett
                                    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.
With the power of storytelling the minds of younger generations will absorb the rich history of their ancestors…if they listen. They might even learn that the narrative of your life is not the same as the truth of your life.

Happy Reading,

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