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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

APRIL 2021 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate

“The fam’ly be loyal each to the other, always and ever.”

17 gathered at the home of Bonnie Magee to discuss this month’s historical fiction novel set in the tumultuous era of Reconstruction, 1875, Louisiana and Louisiana, 1987. Many thanks to Beverly Dossett for leading the discussion and detailing the journey of three young women in search of family amid the destruction of the post-Civil War South and of a modern-day teacher who learns of their stories and the vital connection to her student’s lives – past and present.

Welcome new members, Georgia Updegrove and Susan Davis. We hope you will join us again! Bookers is now a subgroup of Clubster and the invitations to join have been sent. For the moment I’ll be posting the upcoming events on the site but I’m not sure about the minutes. Stay tuned.

Daryl Daniels has been promoted to outpatient status as of April 7th but still returns daily for I.V. antibiotics and steroids. She “feels good and is working on regaining her strength.” Bookers is sending prayers that this trend continues and we’ll see her out putzing in her front yard soon.

Malakoff’s own bookstore, Bookish, 211 South Terry, will be celebrating their one-year anniversary and the National Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 24, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. It’s an honor to be included in the fun-filled day with free lattes and cappuccinos, give-a-ways of $100.00 gift card or free coffee for a year, an additional 20% off entire purchases all day and a presentation and meet and greet scheduled for 1:00 p.m. with yours truly discussing Life in a Box and A Kind of Hush.

Lisa Wingate based her novel on actual Lost Friends advertisements originally written by newly freed slaves searching for loved ones who had been sold away. They scribbled messages in makeshift classrooms, kitchen tables, and in church halls then these missives carried on the wings of hope were sent forth on steam trains and mail wagons, on riverboats, and in saddlebags of mail carriers. In their heyday the ads, published in a Methodist newspaper, circulated to over five-hundred preachers, eight-hundred post offices, and over four-thousand subscription holders. The spark igniting this novel came from one of her fans who also volunteered with the Historic New Orleans Collection, suggesting there was another piece of history Lisa should know about.

The novel is unfortunately poignant in our world today where human trafficking is on an unimaginable scale, but also celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit; the power of friendships sharing a common goal; how it’s possible for a genuine sisterhood to develop between two at opposite ends of the social spectrum; families lost and found, the impact of words and the power of reading. The plot could have been the familiar cliched tale of an energetic educator on a mission to save the underprivileged, but this one differs as the teacher learns as much from her students as they do from her. The parallel storylines in alternating chapters show how Hannie and Benny share scars from their past, each remarkable women taking the risks needed to improve the world for the present and future generations. “It’s when you’re honest about (your scars) that you find the people who will love you in spite of your nicks and dents. Perhaps even because of them.

This novel evokes the battle cry of those dedicated to public service, the “starfish story,” where a man is walking on the beach and sees a young boy throwing starfish back into the ocean. He’s doing so because if he doesn’t throw them back, they’ll die. The man says, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish…you can’t make a difference.” The young boy listened, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf, smiling he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

Our discussion:

Most of the critical reviews came from the pace of the story – “slow” and could have been a lot shorter especially in the “Texas” segment. We had a few who had not read the book and some that had not finished it yet. The alternating chapters in different voices appealed to most but there was some confusion trying to keep up with whose story was being told. Also, the ending was questioned as the embattled teacher within a divided community was never completed, instead a potential love affair filled the last pages. And, suddenly at the end, an entirely new character is introduced – Benny’s baby born when she was a teenager and placed for adoption. Does the authenticity of comparing the parallels of the storylines – giving a baby up for adoption to the legacy of families torn apart by slavery – ring true?

We discussed the symbolism used in the novel – the three African glass beads signify loyalty and truth with the hope that even after a long time apart, family will fill the string with beads and become whole again, in this world or in the next. The significance of three beads might be tied to a reference in the Bible, “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken;” the church where the main characters hid was their safe haven; and ladybugs as prophesies of good luck served to unify the prologue where Hannie Gossett tells her story and in the epilogue where LaJuna, the five-time-removed great granddaughter of Hannie Gossett, recites the names of the lost siblings, mother, aunt, and cousins and when they were found again. Ms. Wingate also employed the dragonfly in “Before We Were Yours, to show that anything is possible. Bugs add depth to stories!

We talked about the characters…and on that note I asked the gang to guess the number of characters in this novel with the closest winning two prizes. We ranged from 160 to 275 – the answer 113 – the winner Debbie Yarger, her prize was the honor of leading the review of next month’s Bookers’ book, and a cute pair of cozy slippers she can put on while preparing for her debut. She thought I was joking – I wasn’t…but we’ll team up to tackle this challenge. Thank you for your willingness…albeit laced with a little trickery!

We discussed how classrooms still “segregate” today as in this book noting that the kids with money or athletic talent were siphoned to a swanky prep academy, the troubled kids to an alternative school and the rest were in Benny’s classroom – “swamp rats and hicks on one side, black students on the other, and in no-man’s land in the middle, a cluster of others – Native Americans, Asians, punk rockers and nerds.” Benny Silva, first-year schoolteacher in a rural area, faced an uncooperative school board and classroom bent on creating as much havoc as possible – both had her in their grips until she found a way to inspire the class in an unconventional manner instilling a sense of pride and excitement in her students – her efforts deserving of a standing ovation. Benny and Nathan’s storyline, although both loaded with emotional baggage, was predictable, not adding much to the plot other than providing a “feel-good” “hit them with the happy-ever-after ending wand.” We thought the choice of the novella, Animal Farm, written in 1945 as the book Benny’s class was to read odd at best and wondered what possessed the author to choose that one – it was most likely the only book available for this school or was it so we’d remember it and talk about it? Mission accomplished. There were hosts of favorite characters including Granny T, LaJuna (both smart and sassy), Moses, Hannie, Aunt Sarge, Gus McKlatchy, Nathan, Elam Salter and most disliked the sheriff who harassed Benny…out of 113 this is just a snippet. We decided Gun Barrel City needs a Cluck and Oink restaurant as in the book – maybe next to WHaus…HA! Loved Judge Gossett’s library and the ingenuity of Robin Gossett using the billiard table to hide her important papers. We wondered if there was a “real” book of lost friends or just the posted ads….?

In year 11 (Sept. 2014) we read and re-enacted The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd with the central metaphor – flight and freedom – exploring sweeping social issues such as abolition and women’s rights. The novel challenges the reader to appreciate how each character found their wings – a way to break the chain of bondage without lowering their expectations or compromising their goals. It’s set in a Charleston plantation with protagonist, Sarah Grimke, the middle child of ten whose father was a Judge on South Carolina’s highest court, struggled with the inhumanity of slavery and the inequality of women but didn’t know what to do about it. Highly recommend.

On the business side:

COLOR CODING SYSTEM

WHITE:         LIGHT READ

PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING

RED:              CHALLENGING

 May 11:                     People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

                                    PINK

An Australia rare-book expert is offered a job of a lifetime – analysis and conservation of a priceless book, one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. As she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries, the reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

                                    Discussion Leader: Debbie Yarger

                                    Home of Jane Shaw

June 8(bonus month)The Second Mother, Jenny Milchman (BookTrib book)

A young woman loses her baby and after months of mourning her child and drowning her pain in alcohol, her husband wants to separate and go their own ways. She decides to start anew and takes a teaching position in a small school on a remote island in Maine.

Discussion Leader: Jane Shaw

Home of Pat Faherty

Summer Read:          Clementine, The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, Sonia Purnell

                                    PINK

A long overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman who was Winston Churchill’s closest confidante, fiercest critic, and shrewdest advisor. Later in life he claimed that victory in World War II would have been impossible without the woman who stood by his side for fifty-seven turbulent years.

Discussion Leader: Patty Evans

                                    Home of Beverly Dossett

“For the hundreds who vanished and the thousands who didn’t, may your stories not be forgotten.”

Happy Reading,

JoDee 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

MARCH 2021 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, THE DUTCH HOUSE by ANN PATCHETT

 

Home is where one starts from.” T.S. Eliot

16 Bookers descended on the home of Debbie Yarger for a little less COVID-19 restricted meeting based on many of our members receiving their vaccines and the mandatory mask mandate being lifted by Governor Abbott. We encourage anyone who is uncomfortable meeting in an indoor environment to please wear a mask. Many thanks to Melanie Prebis for reviewing and leading the discussion of this month’s selection. Well done!

Bookers welcomed new member, Lisa Dick, to the group and it was good to see Marcie Allen, Linda Hoff, Joylene Miller, and Fran Farmer back with us after an absence.

Many thanks to all who participated in A Cheery Drive By Goodbye for Cherry Fugitt, to Jean Alexander for offering the setting, and to Patricia Mosley for chauffeuring the guest of honor to her throne and back home. Although the intended drive by resulted in more of a gathering, it was wonderful to see a mix of Bookers and PWC members including Melba and Layton Holt, Aulsine and Ed DeLoach, and Rosemary Farmer. I’ve known Cherry since 2003 and in those eighteen years I’ve never seen her cry. By her own admission, that streak was broken after the parade and reading all the cards you so generously provided. She was moved by all the outpouring of love and asked me to convey to you all how special she felt and how much she is going to miss her Pinnacle family. Their new address is 4650 Long Prairie Rd. #1431, Flower Mound, Texas, 75028. Should we warn the residents to expect a flurry when Cherry and Ray arrive…HA!

More on Daryl Daniels…Barry moved into their apartment in Houston on March 15th hoping for Daryl’s release to outpatient status. On March 18th, he moved into her hospital room. She’s still being treated for a yeast infection and since her white blood counts are low, she’s receiving “boosts” to increase them. All the cards, text messages, and emails have helped her maintain a positive attitude through this difficult time and she wishes she could respond to each one but unfortunately, she just doesn’t have enough energy. Please know that each any every one of you “make a difference.” They are grateful to Bonnie Magee for organizing the blood drive and to all who were able to contribute…“30 more units will make an impact. If I (Barry) had a clue when she will be released, I would share that. They have removed all the crystal balls from her transplant floor.” Although she’s still an inpatient, Barry asks that anyone wanting to send well wishes, please address them to Daryl Daniels, 7205 Almeda Rd. #300004, Houston, Tx. 77230.

Ann Ireland is home recovering from major foot surgery…as many surgeries that she’s had in the last few years it seems like she’s on the weekly rotation at the hospital – here comes Ann…what can we operate on this week…HA! I’m sure she would appreciate a card or email to let her know we care and hope her recovery is speedy and successful. 201 Colonial Dr. Mabank, Tx. 75156.

Debbie Yarger shared a five-week study beginning Wednesday, 24th 7:00 p.m. being held at Bookish in Malakoff featuring her daughter discussing The Road Back To You, an Enneagram journey to self-discovery. Books are available for purchase at the event.

Melanie offered an overview of this novel in which the Dutch house as a major character drove the narrative as the storyteller allowing families to live there watching the dynamics change over the years and holding secrets about each of its inhabitants. The novel featured the relationship between an older sister and her brother, a mother who abandoned her children to pursue a higher calling, a distant father who was hard-working, unloving but not uncaring, servants who became surrogate parents, and an evil stepmother.  All the makings of a modern Hansel and Gretel fairy tale grappling with the realities of life, kindness and cruelty, love and hate. The New York Times says, “It takes guts to write a fairy tale these days. At a moment when everything in the world feels on the verge of falling apart, there seems to be a widespread cultural expectation (in the West, anyway) that serious art — the kind worthy of respect, in books, television, film or theater — is going to make you sweat, that it should make you sweat. Ann Patchett doesn’t want to make you sweat. She wants to make you care.” She wants us to care about the characters no matter who they are and what their circumstances are. The heroes and heroines in fairy tales face mighty challenges, but they almost always make it through in the end. In The Dutch House, all’s well that ends well. Maeve and Danny’s childhood has a fairytale-esque quality. They grow up in a wealthy household but lose everything, their mother is presumed to be dead, Andrea plays the role of the evil stepmother, and their stepsisters Nora and Bright are brought in and given preferential treatment. Like Hansel and Gretel, Maeve and Danny are forced to lean on each other and, as adults, are trying to pick up the pieces of their childhood and find a way back home. And like their fairy-tale counterparts they leave pebbles or scraps of themselves behind connecting them back to their childhoods, but what they didn’t know was these were steppingstones back to their mother.

Ann Patchett says she’s been writing the same book her whole life. You’re in one family and all of a sudden, you’re in another family, and it’s not your choice and you can’t get out. She’s the author of Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Run, State of Wonder, Commonwealth, and her latest The Dutch House published in 2019 and was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction (Colson Whitehead won for The Nickel Boys, his second after The Underground Railroad in 2017.) From our members, Bel Canto and The Magician’s Assistant rated high. Her writing style is understated, engrossing and subtle. As in all her novels, Ms. Patchett gives you time to sit with each character and hear their stories…in the car with Danny and Maeve, on the train from New York City; in the magical window in Maeve’s room.

The Dutch House provides a sober reflection on how stories we tell ourselves are shaped and whether the roles we cast people in should be considered or reconsidered later – with more maturity and perhaps more empathy. We talked about living in the past and whether any of our childhood memories are altered by the passage of time or by what we’ve learned. A poignant quote in the book from Danny summarized dwelling on misfortunes when he said, “We had made a fetish out of our misfortune, fallen in love with it.” We discussed Danny following the path set forth by his sister’s insistence to become a doctor when his real passion was real estate like his father. Love dominated the brother-sister relationship as Maeve the heroine fought every foe, sacrificing everything to assure Danny’s happiness. Personally, at times I thought their relationship was a touch too good to be true…no arguments, jealousy, no suffocation. Hate keeps people from moving forward attested by their loath for Andrea insuring they were going to live out their lives in a parked car on Van Hoebeek Street. To them their father was simply the provider of things as they knew nothing of him personally. To Danny, his mother, Elna didn’t exist, and he didn’t care to know her when she returned. Maeve was thrilled when she entered her life again and only after Maeve’s death did he accept that “the rage…healed and died. There was no place for it anymore…it was never love, “maybe familiarity.” Forgiveness is a one-way-street. It’s within your ability to forgive another person thoroughly and completely within your own heart and soul without the other person participating. Learn the lesson from the experience. The ending fostered some discussion…was it too tied up in a neat bundle…was it believable that after forty years a mother returns after aiding the poor, is found by a former nanny, and is welcomed back unconditionally. Then she returns to the same house she hated to care for her late husband’s second wife…the same one who emotionally abused the children she abandoned, then tossed them out with the garbage after their father died…hmmmm.

And, from those who listened to the audio version of the book…Tom Hanks narrated as if he were speaking to each listener individually.

On the business side:

COLOR CODING SYSTEM

WHITE:         LIGHT READ

PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING

RED:              CHALLENGING

 April 13:                   The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate

Historical novel set in the tumultuous era of Reconstruction, 1875, Louisiana. Three young women search for family amid the destruction of the post-Civil War South and a modern-day teacher learns of their story and its vital connection to her students’ lives. Based on actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War as newly freed slaves searched for loved ones who had been sold away.

PINK

Discussion Leader: Beverly Dossett

Home of Bonnie Magee

May 11:                      People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

                                    PINK

An Australia rare-book expert is offered a job of a lifetime – analysis and conservation of a priceless book, one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. As she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries, the reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

                                    Discussion Leader?

                                    Home of?

June 8(bonus month)The Second Mother, Jenny Milchman (BookTrib book)

A young woman loses her baby and after months of mourning her child and drowning her pain in alcohol, her husband wants to separate and go their own ways. She decides to start anew and takes a teaching position in a small school on a remote island in Maine.

Discussion Leader?

Home of Pat Faherty

Summer Read:          Clementine, The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, Sonia Purnell

                                    PINK

A long overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman who was Winston Churchill’s closest confidante, fiercest critic, and shrewdest advisor. Later in life he claimed that victory in World War II would have been impossible without the woman who stood by his side for fifty-seven turbulent years.

Discussion Leader: Patty Evans

                                    Home of Beverly Dossett

Home…it’s where we grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to…the ache for home lives in all of us. “It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes…everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Happy Reading,

JoDee

Sunday, February 14, 2021

FEBRUARY 2021 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again, Elizabeth Strout

 

A book that never finishes saying what it has to say is a classic.

15 Bookers met at the home of Bonnie Magee on a day that was reminiscent of the setting of the novel and its main character. Many thanks to Ann Ireland for leading the discussion of Olive, Again. When Olive Kitteridge told Elizabeth Strout she was not through with Olive yet…the author did as she was told and wrote the sequel…the continuation of the evolution of Mrs. Kitteridge. We’d like to welcome new Bookers’ member, Judy Koslo, who joined us today and brought books to share…we can tell she’s going to be a fit! Also, Jean McSpadden graced us today saying “Olive is mask-worthy.” Many thanks to Jane Shaw for volunteering to be on the selection committee!

Embedded in our hearts and tapping into the power of prayer, today in particular we are all riding that jet stream to Houston where our own “energizer bunny,” Daryl Daniels is undergoing a grueling day of pre-transplant inpatient treatment. If all goes as planned, she will celebrate her new birthday on February 16, 2021 with the SUCCESSFUL stem cell transplant. Barry has reminded us that there are no firm dates past today, however, the following is the information he just shared with us: From today until the first week of March (no mailing after February 28th) cards can be sent to Daryl Daniels, 1515 Holcomb Dr. Room G1876, Houston, Tx. 77030. After March 1, 2021 they should be addressed to her at 7205 Almeda Rd. #300004, Houston, Tx. 77230. They will be leasing a corporate apartment in the Houston Medical Center area March-May and do not expect to have mail service at this residence. They hope to return to Pinnacle in early June.

Bonnie Magee is spearheading the blood drive in honor of Daryl and it is scheduled for March 16, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Pinnacle Clubhouse. More details to follow.

Please continue to keep Janet Farhat, Cherry Fugitt and Rosemary Farmer in your healing prayers and condolences to Patsty Dehn on the loss of her brother and Beverly Dossett whose brother is critically ill.

We are all saddened to learn Janet and Bob Noblitt are leaving the area at the end of this month, moving closer to family in the Rockwall area. To say golf will miss her…Bookers will miss her… is an understatement. She’ll always be a part of us and for those who have known her for a long time, she may be out of sight, but never forgotten.

Tanya Holstead announced she is taking charge (imagine that…HA) of the Pinnacle library located on the ground floor of the club. She’ll be adding puzzles to the display case, weeding out some old books and replacing them with some of the BookTrib books. What she doesn’t use, we’ll donate to Bookish…a win, win for readers and authors!

Speaking of books, how many of you know published authors ages 6 and 4? MN Stanky’s grandsons, Stock and Spafford Martinez have written a series of 3 books. The Scientist Brothers, Birds of a Feather, book 1, The Scientist Brothers and the A B Seas, book 2, and the latest one published yesterday, The Scientist Brothers, Hugs and Kisses. Check out these budding wordsmiths on Amazon.com…we knew them when! So very special.

Great literature makes us uncomfortable because it makes us fully human. And, in the words of Virginia Woolf, “fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.” Olive Kitteridge, and Olive, Again exemplifies this in every word of every sentence. We shook our heads, laughed at ourselves, rolled our eyes, and clapped along with the absurdity of life – all in the name of an iconic character created by this Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Most read the books, many loved, some liked…no one dared raised their-I hated it hand…thanks! This book has special meaning to me personally and as an author. I shared a photo of little ole’ me and Elizabeth Strout taken at the Dallas Museum of Art, Arts and Letters Live series in 2013. My novel, Life in a Box is a culmination of this book club encouraging, prodding, and cheerleading and some inspiration and/or validation from Elizabeth Strout…both lighting the fire to put myself out on a limb and follow my dream. Bookers chose Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout as our November 2009 selection. I wrote a review of the book in the voice of Olive herself and our co-chair chose to forward it to Elizabeth who responded:

“This is one of the most wonderful things I have seen! I laughed out loud reading it, and I will keep it and cherish it forever. What a piece of writing it is; I swear Olive was writing it. I am so appreciative of the 28 women who took her into their hearts, responded so vividly and deeply  and I am especially appreciative to you for sending it along. It just warms my heart. Please give my very best wishes and heartfelt thanks to all – Sincerely, Elizabeth.”

She followed up by sending an autographed copy to me with the inscription, “With gratitude, affection, and admiration – for being such a good reader, and writer.” I came down from cloud nine, took a deep breath, and began fulfilling a dream.

So, to continue in Olive’s voice, here’s a recap of Olive Kitteridge…you’ve all heard about my dear Henry…a man whose view of life consisted of everyone standing around smiling just like the pictures in the Sears catalogue. My more realistic theory follows the seven stages described by Shakespeare…you’re born, and your livelihood is dependent on others…and at the end of life you end up right back where you started from. What happens in the middle is you figure out how to stay afloat…no rose-colored glasses for this old lady! You probably thought Henry was a saint for putting up with me…he was, but you learned, he had his own faults. The strength of our bond was tested but we both resisted those temptations that would have turned our lives upside down. You met our son, Christopher, his two wives, his stepchildren, and finally his son. I’m sorry you had to witness him unleashing a lifetime of anger at me…as he said he was not going to take responsibility for the “extreme capriciousness of my moods.” Well, I guess if you follow your therapist from one coast to the other you learn to express yourself. You explored the minds of lost souls and hoped they would be given the strength to move forward, all the while seeing how difficult it was to release the past. You heard stories of redemption, reclamation of dignity, vindictiveness, tales of confession…you celebrated those with courage enough to take a chance and were reminded of the frailty of life. You saw me melt in the face of a starving child, try to reconcile my life with Henry and take a step into the future with another man.

The final chapter in my story was entitled River. Sadly, Henry died before our grandson was born and I was feeling like a “package of vacuum-packed coffee” but determined to stick to a plan – to have a reason to get up in the morning when lying in bed would suit me dandy. Following the same routine every day was interrupted when I came across a body slumped on the path by the river…it was Jack Kennison, the same one I nearly ran over in the library parking lot. He was rich, arrogant, and surly with an openly gay daughter and a Republican to make matters worse, but we had heartache in common, both needing to hear another person’s voice which ended up with my “big, sagging body” lying next to a guy with a stomach bulging like a sack of sunflower seeds. On the surface it didn’t appear we had any mutual interests, but we were happy in our own skins, happy to be alive, and both looked forward to the dawn of each day in the sunset of our ordinary lives. Would I have chosen him under other circumstances – no and the same would go for Jack. I like to picture us as “two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, amazed at the holes we brought to the union and what pieces life takes out of you. I was baffled by the world, but I didn’t want to leave it yet. I wasn’t through pondering, questioning, rationalizing, opinionating, enjoying, learning, and trying desperately to understand. I hope you take something from my story. I hope you look at people differently. I hope you understand life is more complicated than you know. I hope you realize everyone is human and we’re all trying to do the best we can. And, above all, I hope you will try to understand people, even if you can’t stand them. If you’re ever in Crosby, come by…the baked beans and ketchup will be on the table. Everyone is welcome, even if you’re wearing an elephant pin in your lapel…you and Jack will have a grand time reminiscing about the good ole’ days. ‘Goodnight, Irene’ I have a garden to weed, and donuts to eat That’s all I have to say, the rest is none of your business.”

Olive is not gone…she’s just in the voice of Ann Ireland who picked up the ball with the sequel, Olive, Again. Ann offered bullet-point summaries of each of the 13 chapters. Jack driving an hour away to Portland to purchase a gallon of whiskey as not to run into “that woman” – Olive, the widow, and was almost arrested; the laugh-out-loud baby shower with Olive delivering the baby in the backseat of her car; 14-year old Kaylee’s hormones kick in while cleaning a neighbor’s house much to the delight of the “man of the house” who generously overpaid her and not for her cleaning expertise – like a live peep show in the comfort of his own home; a visit from Olive’s podiatrist son and his family shows the fragility of their relationship with her realizing he married his mother – one who berated his father in public just like his wife; a platonic bond forms between a daughter whose father died in a fire and his lawyer; one of Olive’s former students, Cindy, is critically ill and Olive begins to visit her. Olive is sad as she is now a better person than she used to be but Henry is not there to see it; a nostalgic walk turns a man into a hero when he saves another man’s life but he realizes he needs to quit looking back at his life but look forward to the rest of it; Olive has her first pedicure while Jack realizes he doesn’t understand himself as a person; re-enter the Burgess boys whose wives have no use for each other; Olive runs into a former student, Andrea, who is now the U.S. Poet Laureate at a coffee shop. After Olive bares her soul she invites Andrea to use the information any way she wants…and she does; the MacPhersons are truly a house divided, the couple not speaking to each other in 35 years were brought together by their daughter, a successful dominatrix – much to the shock of her parents at how she pays the rent; Olive suffers a heart attack, falls in “love” with her doctor, cares for her home-health care nurses  and is “shuffled” into an assisted living facility where she finds an unlikely companion who she worried about. The final chapter, “Friend” is poignant. Olive has always struggled to understand things – relationships, people, and why they do what they do, but in the end, she finally understands the thing that has puzzled her the most – herself. When she began typing her memories, it came down to her final entry. “I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing.” Good night Olive!

Thanks to everyone for their insights into the novels and for your respect for the author, a master of animating the ordinary. Her novels are the gold standard for literary fiction offering a view of the world that she sees.    

On the business side:

COLOR CODING SYSTEM

WHITE:         LIGHT READ

PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING

RED:              CHALLENGING

 March 23:                 Note change of date from March 9th

The Dutch House, Ann Patchett

                                    PINK

A story about the interminable bond between siblings – a brother and a sister who grow up in a fairy tale – huge house, loving father, and caring staff. The only thing missing is their mother who fled the pressure of managing the household when they were young.

Discussion Leader: Melanie Prebis

Home of: Debbie Yarger

 April 13:                    The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate

Historical novel set in the tumultuous era of Reconstruction, 1875, Louisiana. Three young women search for family amid the destruction of the post-Civil War South and a modern-day teacher learns of their story and its vital connection to her students’ lives. Based on actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War as newly freed slaves searched for loved ones who had been sold away.

PINK

Discussion Leader?

Home of?

May 11:                      People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

                                    PINK

An Australia rare-book expert is offered a job of a lifetime – analysis and conservation of a priceless book, one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. As she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries, the reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

                                    Discussion Leader?

                                    Home of?

June 8(bonus month)The Second Mother, Jenny Milchman (BookTrib book)

A young woman loses her baby and after months of mourning her child and drowning her pain in alcohol, her husband wants to separate and go their own ways. She decides to start anew and takes a teaching position in a small school on a remote island in Maine.

Discussion Leader?

Home of Pat Faherty

Summer Read:          Clementine, The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, Sonia Purnell

                                    PINK

A long overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman who was Winston Churchill’s closest confidante, fiercest critic, and shrewdest advisor. Later in life he claimed that victory in World War II would have been impossible without the woman who stood by his side for fifty-seven turbulent years.

Discussion Leader: Beverly Dossett

                                    Home of Beverly Dossett

Happy Reading,

JoDee