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Friday, September 13, 2019

SEPTEMBER 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett


Cathedrals, the architectural jewels of our collective memories, “speak a gentle peace binding us to the past even as it gives us images, a vocabulary, and a narrative that enables us to richly inhabit the present.”

We welcomed 19 Bookers back from our summer break at the home of Katherine McDonald hoping everyone is refreshed and ready to embrace some literature. As we begin our 16th year, it’s important to remember how it all began. In a text from Alabama this morning, MN reiterated one of our original thoughts when forming the book club was how it would encourage all to walk in the shoes of others, to broaden our horizons and leave our safe shell, opening our hearts, minds, and souls to new ideas. We’ve laughed with joy and cried too many times in heartache but throughout it all, our special group of friends…our special community of caring individuals…and our mutual respect and love of books has endured. Friendships are like a long steady soft rain…it’s not so harsh that it will destroy…yet not so soft that it goes unnoticed. Our friends nourish our hearts.

Several “regulars” were missing today – Melanie at UTSW after Roger’s extensive surgery to remove more of his malignant brain tumor – Patty Evans at hubby Barry’s side as he recovers from surgery – Pat Faherty with a doctor’s appointment in Dallas in hopes of receiving her “get out of jail card” to allow her to drive and begin PT.

Sheri Green is still undergoing chemotherapy but has gained some weight, is managing her pain better, and has been out and about a little more. And our “honorary Bookers’ prop handler,” Elaine Bownes, after a reoccurrence of some malignant cells, is back with monthly chemotherapy but is handling this little hiccup in her usual fighting spirit.

Our summer read, the dainty little tome of 400,000 words with twelve major characters and fourteen minor ones, 973 pages published in 1989, was reviewed by Melba Holt in September 2008 in our fifth year of Bookers (we welcomed new member Bonnie Magee at this meeting.)We voted to reread this wonderful work of historical fiction set in the 12th century when education was the responsibility of the church or only available to the very wealthy. Few could read or write, people were dependent on the church for their livelihood, and freedom was almost non-existent. The novel chronicles the lives of those building magnificent cathedrals that are standing to this day without power tools or understanding of structural engineering. If you are hooked on Mr. Follett’s fictional village of Kingsbridge, the second in the series, World Without End picks up two centuries later with another 1,000-page story starring the descendants of the original “Pillars” characters, followed by the final installment, A Column of Fire, a mere 923 pages published in 2017. You would certainly be ensconced in the historical timeframes and characters if you decide to read the trilogy. He has written a short history of the meaning of cathedrals entitled, Notre-Dame, 80 pages available on October 29, 2019…in his words,

The wonderful cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the greatest achievements of European civilization, was on fire. The sight dazed and disturbed us profoundly. I was on the edge of tears. Something priceless was dying in front of our eyes. The feeling was bewildering, as if the earth was shaking.”

The author, a very successful thriller writer and a self-professed non-believer in God, seemed the most unlikely candidate to write a novel about building a shrine to what he didn’t believe in. However, in search of ways to describe buildings and after reading a couple of architectural books, he developed a keen interest in cathedrals. The burning question for him was, why were these cathedrals built – beyond the obvious reason of the glory of God and the vanity of bishops. He knew he had to channel his enthusiasm into a novel – or three as it turned out. It took at least thirty years to build a cathedral, so this would be the spine of the novel recreating the entire life of the village and the people who lived there. It was voted the third greatest book ever written behind The Lord of the Rings and the Bible and was placed behind To Kill a Mockingbird as one of the sixty greatest novels of the last sixty years. The definition of success instantly assumed another level for Mr. Follett.

Jean McSpadden, who admittedly read the novel three times, led the discussion of “Pillars” offering her insights into this first book in Follett’s historical fiction series and arguably the best of the three. A show of hands revealed most had read and finished the novel…at least the first time. Jean offered a visual of two cathedrals, Lincoln and Cambridge and a photo of the Pope’s visit to the Pinnacle Club. She shared a view into the author’s reasoning and progression leading to the writing of the novel.  He did paint the church in a less than golden light…monks were sworn to chastity, but that did not apply to priests…bishops had mistresses, and parish priests had housekeepers. “Clerical celibacy was a law too hard to be obeyed.” A complete summary of “Pillars” might take days, but Jean succinctly took us from the sinking of the White Ship leaving King Henry of England without a legitimate heir and the succession of the throne disputed, to the “hanging” prologue where a innocent man dies for stealing a chalice from the monastery, to the revelation of who conspired with barons to sink the White Ship.

We discussed the character of some of the characters – particularly the evil William and Bishop Waleran Bigod; how poor Tom Builder seemed to just climb one hill and then get thrown off the top, a favorite character in Prior Philip, and the discovery of that Jonathan, Tom’s son, was alive. We talked about how inanimate objects like stained glass windows and tiles recording the entire Bible served as historical storytellers. We marveled at how long it took to build these magnificent structures, noting that it took over one-hundred years to build the Washington National Cathedral with George Herbert Walker Bush laying the last brick. We wondered if after writing this book, Mr. Follett had a change of perspective on his views of religion.

From the critics: 85% or 4,764 people posted positive reviews on Amazon with 15% or 826 posting critical comments…from the negative side readers (who are entitled to their opinions) they complained about the rape scenes and how Follett painted William with loving adoration, adding if you want to be horrified to the point of nausea, this book is for you. Another one described it as long, (which it is) boring, and trashy…pure filth, graphic sex – as if the reader needs an instruction manual and the overuse of the “f” word (which none of us recalled) is according to this reader – generally how the trashier people express themselves. Also, at issue was the use of the contemporary words “soul mate” used to describe an English peasant in the 12th century, and passages like, “she would be lively, he felt sure; she would wriggle and scratch” registered on the reader’s “crap-o-meter.” The cream of the crop, unfair to any author, are one-star reviews because of the quality of the print or the print was too small.


On the business side:
Many thanks to everyone who stepped up to the plate as usual to show our support for fellow Bookers’ Melanie and Pat. Also, MN sends her love and appreciation for the get-well cards after her second knee replacement on August 1.  If you have not responded to the luncheon for MN (11:00 @ the club, Friday, September 27th) and want to be included, please let me know no later than September 20th. We have 21 signed up. I will pass along your names to Jennifer and because of the numbers, we might have a limited or set menu. I’ll share more information as soon as possible.
As always, our committee has been diligently searching for our next great reads and appreciated those who input their suggestions as well. The committee, with the exception of Katherine, has endured a couple of setbacks, so our list is incomplete at this time. Here’s what we’re recommending so far. Please note below we need host home for May. Please let me know if you can help. And as I said in the meeting, I’ll be sitting by the phone when you call generously offering to be the discussion leader for any of these wonderful books!!

COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE:         LIGHT READ
PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
RED:              CHALLENGING
October 15:                 The Silent Patient by Alex Michaeldes
Debut novel. A psychological thriller featuring a famous painter married to an in-demand photographer whose life seems perfect…until one fateful night. Please use discretion in sharing the ending as it would be a big spoiler alert for those who have not read the novel.
DEEP PINK
Home of Rokhshie Malone
Discussion Leader: Rebecca Brisendine

November 12:             The Chaperone, Liane 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.
                                    PINKISH WHITE
Home of Beverly Dossett
Discussion Leader: TBD

December 10:             TBD
                                    Home of Jane Shaw

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.
PINK
                                    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.
                                    PINKISH RED
Home of Daryl Daniels
Discussion Leader: TBD

March 10:                   TBD
Home of Patty Evans
Discussion Leader: TBD

April 14:                     TBD
                                    Home of Jean Alexander
                                    Discussion Leader: TBD

May 12:                      TBD
                                    Home of TBD
                                    Discussion Leader: TBD

Summer read:             TBD

Books under consideration to fill these spots are as follows:
At Home at Mitford and/or The Mitford Series (A summer study in Grace), or Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
Hiddensee, Gregory Maguire
Christmas Quilt (# 8 in the series), Jennifer Chiaverini
Beloved, Toni Morrison (classic)
Everything You Are, Kerry Anne King
The Only Woman in the Room, Maria Benedict
The Last House Guest, Megan Miranda
The Roots of the Olive Tree, Courtney Miller Santo
Portrait of a Marriage, Pearl S. Buck (classic)
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (classic)
Arrowsmith or Main Street, Sinclair Lewis (classics)

“One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time.”
Happy Reading,
JoDee

Monday, May 20, 2019

MAY 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens


Only when you solo dance with nature will you hear the crawdads sing.

23 Bookers armed with spirits and sustenance descended on the home of Melanie Prebis to celebrate the last meeting of Bookers’15th year. We’ll resume on September 10, 2019 with another slate of books selected by our committee, Pat Faherty, Katherine McDonald, and Melanie Prebis. Many thanks for their continual pursuit of literary excellence! As you read this summer, please pass along to them any books that might be keepers for our 16th year.

Welcome to Cindy Millweard to her first Bookers’ and to recently retired long-time Bookers’ member, Jean McSpadden (who with a little vino influence volunteered to review our summer read.) We were happy to see Kittie Minick, Jane Shaw, and Joanne Bara again.



Many thanks to Cherry for getting us into the “crawdad” mood with her table setting and cherished Dauphin Island shells. Jean Alexander, aka Marsh Girl, didn’t disappoint with her characterization and visualization of the main character with one of the most poignant scenes from the novel. Kya watches her family, one at a time, slam the door on her existence, abandoning her to fend for herself in the marsh. When Hollywood takes over, this scene will likely be produced with mournful background music, panning into Kya’s face where a lone tear trickles into the corner of her downturned mouth. Maybe Jean could consult with Ms. Witherspoon on costume design and drama!

Where the Crawdads Sing is set in the early 1950’s in the depths of an isolated marsh in North Carolina. Ten-year old Kya Clark lives alone in a shack with nothing more than an old rickety boat and the determination not unlike fictional character Rocky Balboa to survive every day against mounting odds. Delia Owens’ gift to readers was her poetic, elegant, and richly metaphorical style of writing of her “natural world.” We feel the sun, “warm as a blanket,” we see a “ballet of fireflies,” watch egrets take flight like “a line of white flags against the mounting gray clouds,” and hear the “cicadas squeal against a mean sun.” Ms. Owens tells us this novel is primarily about self-reliance, survival, and how isolation affects human behavior and the setting, a coastal marsh, is itself a major character in the novel – Kya “laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” The author chose this area knowing although it was a wild place, it was conceivable that Kya could survive because collectable food was bountiful, temperatures were mild, and hiding places abundant. Kya represents all of us – what “we can be when we have to be” learning Nature’s lessons to survive. Ms. Owens drew on her own isolation experience spending twenty-three years either in extreme or partial isolation, seven of those in an African desert the size of Ireland with one other person. She instilled in her fictional character how isolation can make you feel insecure and inadequate but in the end the confidence gained from self-reliance provided the strength to thrive in man’s world.

We discussed the setting and how it shaped the novel; Kya’s experience on her one day of school, and the role rejection played in her decision not to return; the characters, Jumpin’ and Mabel, their significant impact on Kya, the role of racism during this era possibly explaining why they didn’t open their home to her; the role of poetry in the novel; Kya’s observation of fireflies and how the females change their flashes to signal different things; Kya’s two loves, Tate, the “evolved human male,” strong, manly, kind, intelligent, and caring…one who loves deeply and truly, and Chase, not much different from a “buck in rut,” flashing his “secondary sexual characteristics” to attract as many females as possible; the courtroom, defined with film-like drama – dramatic, brisk, dialogue-centric scenes void of Owens’ evocative human observations from Kya’s eyes (Owens told BookPage that she majorly reworked the book’s structure to include “a bomb under the sofa” to signal something more happens in the book – starting the novel with Chase Andrew’s dead body instead of Kya’s self-reliance in the wilderness…speculation that this adjustment perhaps was a nod to Hollywood.)

When you have a book so overwhelmingly accepted by 94% of those who read and reviewed it, it’s interesting to see what drove the other 6% to rate it from one to three stars – nonsensical that a young girl is left alone in a shack – for twenty years her boat never breaks down, she never gets sick obviously equipped with the immune system of a superhero; the courtroom antics mirrored Curley’s trial in the Three Stooges; fireflies would have been called lightening bugs in that time frame; no boy in a small town in North Carolina would have been named Tate or Chase (unless it was a family name…just saying); the book was “SO SAD” I felt emotionally manipulated; stereotyped characters – Jodie, the helpful older brother who disappears, the drunken abusive dad who isn’t all bad when he’s sober, the good boy, Tate, the bad boy, Chase, the cocky police chief and his assistant, the cocky prosecutor, nature writing meets romance writing…these 6% offered their opinion on why they didn’t like the book and after all they are entitled to…but doesn’t it leave the other 94% wondering if there were two books of the same name and same author.

On the business side:
We would greatly appreciate your consideration of hosting one of Bookers’ meetings in the upcoming year. Please let me know if you are available on the following dates: September 10, October 15, November 12, December 10, January 14, 2020, February 11, March 10, April 14, or May 12.

COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE:         LIGHT READ
PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
RED:              CHALLENGING

Summer Read:  The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
                        RED
Bookers selected this novel in September 2008 in our fifth year and voted to reread this wonderful work of historical fiction set in the 12th century when education was the responsibility of the church or only available to the very wealthy. Few could read or write, people were dependent on the church for their livelihood, and freedom was almost non-existent. The novel chronicles the lives of those building magnificent cathedrals that are standing to this day without power tools or understanding of structural engineering. Melba Holt led us through the original review, and we are looking forward to Jean’s insights.
                    Discussion Leader: Jean McSpadden

Happy Reading and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer with a good book in hand.
JoDee

APRIL 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, Sarah Bird


“Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it."

21 Bookers braved our beautiful Texas Spring weather to gather at the home of Patty Evans to discuss this month’s selection led by Katherine McDonald. A big howdy to Katherine’s sister, Debbie, visiting from the Golden State who is also an avid reader. It was wonderful to see Pat Reid …we’ve missed you and hope you will join us again. We continue to receive some encouraging information on how our friend, Sheri Green, is doing and we are all so happy she is feeling like getting out a little more! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see her at Bookers! As friends and Bookers, we strive to walk in other’s shoes and sometimes those shoes are filled with struggles. We often feel helpless, but we might dwell in silence today for those in need of some positive thoughts.

This historical fiction is based on the life of former slave, Cathy Williams, the first woman to enlist in the peacetime U.S. Army, and the only to ever serve (1866-1868) with the fabled Buffalo Soldiers. This cavalry of African Americans mainly served on the Western frontier after the Civil War, their tasks included helping to control the Native Americans of the Plains, capture cattle rustlers, protect settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and railroad crews. Their nickname, dubbed by the Native Americans, remains a mystery, but one theory claims it arose because of the soldiers’ dark curly hair resembled the fur of a buffalo and/or because they fought so valiantly and fiercely, the Indians revered them as they did the mighty buffalo.

Cathy Williams, born into bondage on a tobacco farm in Missouri was never allowed to consider herself a slave as, according to her mother, she was a captive destined by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her chance at freedom arrived in the form of Union general Phillip Henry Sheridan and at the end of the Civil War she refuses to return to servitude, making the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Buffalo Soldiers. She’s now a woman fighting for freedom, respect, and independence inside a man’s world facing monumental daily challenges to keep her secret while vowing to search for her mother, sister, and the love of her “dying soldier.”

Katherine McDonald armed with extensive research and passion walked us through the novel with her usual flair and visuals. Thank you for your thoroughness! Ms. Bird took a little-known piece of history and created a novel around it, and as Katherine said, literary license accounted for about 97% of the narrative. The story may have never been documented unless a reporter for the St. Louis Daily News interviewed Cathy in 1876 where she offered her story to the world. Incredibly it was not until Executive Order 9981 issued by President Harry S. Truman in 1948 abolished discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in the U.S. Armed Forces. We talked about Cathy’s comment that “royal blood runs purple” through her veins and how she saw herself through the lens of her family history. The realities of a soldier’s life was vividly portrayed existing on “forty miles a day on beans and hay.” Cathy envisioned herself as a captive, not a slave – the difference being a captive is imprisoned and a slave is owned as property – and if she gave into her circumstances, she would lose the strength and magical powers of her ancestry. We talked about the villains in the camp and how she effected revenge on them…personally a rattlesnake dead or alive in my bed would prompt me to abandon army life. Cathy was a trailblazer (literally) in the same vein as women like Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, who in 1842 became the first computer programmer; the black women behind the book, Hidden Figures, who helped the space race beginning in the 1930’s; and of course my favorite, Nancy Johnson who in 1843 invented the ice cream freezer. We discussed the surprise ending of the book – whether satisfactory or heartbreaking – a little of both in my opinion. Some of the critical points, offered by other reviewers, detailed a white woman’s capacity to capture the voice of a black woman without becoming cliché; the “sex” scene with the prostitute; and Cathy as a main character with so much “grit and determination” moons over a man she spent a couple of days with while he was almost comatose. Our group as a whole read and enjoyed the story and I hope those who will be attending the Books in Bloom luncheon with the author come away with some new perspectives on Cathy and her journey.

On the business side:
Please continue to recommend books to the selection committee for consideration for next year. We talked about a few of those today and I’ll send the information to them from my notes. Many thanks to Bonnie for expressing our gratitude to the committee for their excellent choices so far this year and we look forward to another wonderful slate in the coming year.

Once again Bonnie Magee is coordinating our food for the evening May meeting. The request was sent out today so please respond directly to her with your choices.

I recently introduced Bookers to BookBub for consideration of a spotlight on their blog. I told them about us, where we live, the dynamics of our community, when we meet, and a snippet of the books we loved, the ones that surprised us, the ones creating the most debate, and the ones that disappointed. I received a response from them saying “our group sounds incredible – I love your “one rule” of not saying you didn’t like the book if you didn’t read it.” He said he would keep our information on file and be in touch regarding upcoming spotlights. You can go to https://www.bookbub.com/blog/book-clubs.com to see other spotlights.

Remember Monica Shaw, author of the debut novel The Rainwater Secret, who visited us in March of 2018. She was interviewed on Good Morning Texas last month in celebration of National Women’s History Month, the theme was Visionary Women fitting right into her factual historical fiction centered around her great aunt who as part of the Medical Missionaries of Mary devoted her life to teaching leper children in Africa. She’s worked very hard promoting her book and for an indie debut author it has paid off!

Delia Owens, author of our May selection, Where the Crawdads Sing, fascinating story on YouTube. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9KKzX6j9G8 Many thanks to Pam Davis for sending me the link. We will anticipate Jean’s presentation of this wonderful book in May.

COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE:         LIGHT READ
PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
RED:              CHALLENGING
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.
PINK
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
Bonnie Magee will again coordinate the “menu.”
                        Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of Melanie Prebis     6:00 pm
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
Happy Reading,
JoDee

Friday, March 8, 2019

MARCH 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles


"All I do is pray the Lord will let me walk in the sun once more.” Stormy Weather lyrics

23 Bookers “krewe” paraded to Jean Alexander’s home on Fat Tuesday to celebrate the last day of eating rich fatty foods before the ritual fasting of Lenten season begins tomorrow. Sorry, I’m in Mardi Gras mode…actually, we braved the cold weather to celebrate this month’s selection with our debut discussion leader and bionic woman, Ann Ireland…who I’ve just learned chose to celebrate her wedding anniversary with Bookers. Happy 43rd and many more! Welcome new member, Judy Fly, and we hope she will be a regular fixture in Bookers. We continue to send good thoughts and lots of prayers to Sheri Green who has begun her new chemotherapy protocol. “Fist-pump” hugs from all of us to her!

Ms. Jiles used her poetic style to transport us back the darkest days of the Great Depression in Texas where oil was king in her historical family saga. Elizabeth Stoddard, the subtlety crafty matriarch, was blind-in-love with her handsome hubby, Jack, an oil-field roustabout, dirt-track racehorse promoter, and overall scalawag who hauled the family from one pipeline and derrick to another through devastating droughts and dust storms. Their “girls” were as different as night and day – Mayme was the stunning eldest daughter; Jeanine, the middle-child, tomboy, father’s favorite, and expert on everything from oil to horses, to windmills to roof-patching; and the youngest, bookish, Bea. It’s a coming of age story on all levels as each character must deal with the other’s flaws. Then, widowed and fatherless, the Stoddard ladies return to the mother’s dilapidated childhood farm where each one assumed a different role in their survival, their last hopes tied to a wildcat oil well and the late patriarch’s one true legacy, a dangerous racehorse named Smokey Joe. Throughout the novel, the family was often one pinto bean short of starvation but as we turned the pages the good and bad fortunes played out in sometimes heartbreaking scenes and one often asked, how much more can this family take.


In the end, father-favorite Jeanine painfully realizes what everyone else knew about her Dad, eventually finding a replacement in the arms of a man ten years her senior; Elizabeth’s gamble on the wildcat oil well paid off; Bea fulfills her dreams of writing pulpy stories for a western magazine; and Mayme is hopelessly in love with a future in her sights. The saga ends on the eve of World War II, September 1 1939…things are looking up for the Stoddard ladies…at last.

Our discussion:
This novel traveled from one end of Texas to the other and it was never more prevalent than with the visual Ann created for us by mapping the different locations featured throughout the book. Thank you for showing us in detail how much of our State the Stoddards visited. By the looks of it they must have spent a great deal of time in the truck. There were those who loved the book relishing in the descriptive scenes and sharing “oil” and “dust” stories while others felt it was a book about Texas picked by Texans…of course there are no “natives” on the selection committee. I for one did enjoy the book having transplanted from Southern California to oil-crazy Midland when I was 5 and thought Ms. Jiles did a wonderful job of putting us in the scenes and detailing the wildcatter attitude throughout all the booms and busts that go hand in hand with this business…a gambler’s mentality coupled with the mystic and lure of discovering your own percentage of the black gold lying just beneath the surface of a flat, open, desert-like landscape which draws sane-business-minded individuals into its fold. In 1973 when the Arab embargo was announced lines formed at the gas stations and crude oil prices jumped from $4 a barrel to $25. 1979 when the Shah of Iran was overthrown prices peaked at $37 per barrel. Construction boomed, oil-field wages soared; a Rolls-Royce dealership sprung up between Midland and Odessa. Six years later oil fell to $10. Now, a strong demand for oil coupled with refined hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling leads the rebirth – once again – of the Permian Basin and by 2025 the area is predicted to be the 4th largest oil producer in the world with an output of 6 million barrels a day…BOOM!

Unfortunately, the editorial oversights popped off the pages which is curious at best. How do you misspell Hitler – Adolph instead of Adolf in the book; Ross commented that he shouldn’t have let his son watch Walt Disney’s Bambi (released in 1942); Jack spoke about movie superstar Ava Gardner – she was a teenager in 1937 – not a star until 1941. Jeanine singing “Your Cheating Heart” – not written until 1952. Archie comic strips not published until 1941. “That Old Black Magic” recorded in 1942; National Velvet in the movies in 1944; Clark Gable was married to Rita Langham not Rita Langhorn; but the cream of the crop was Ross and Jeanine driving home from Lubbock to Mineral Wells, taking 84 south to Abilene for dinner but arriving in Amarillo – even directionally challenged me knows that’s not right. I assumed because this was her second novel, she might have been under deadline to produce the book, but at it turns out her first novel received the same type criticism. Hard to justify from an editorial staff of a major publisher.

Many thanks to Katherine for bringing her “royal” collection from her mother noting the importance of the radio for those who lived during the depression was it brought news from all over the world providing a needed diversion to a stressful time – explaining why a woman (her mother) living in Seagoville, Texas was enthralled with the royal family. It’s quite an impressive collection!

On the business side:
Jean Alexander announced there is one spot open for the Austin trip as Virginia Gandy had to cancel. Please contact either Jean or Virginia if you want to join the other 45 ladies on the bus.

We have a full table of 8 (Katherine, her sister, Bonnie, Beverly, Gayle R., Linda Thompson, Kittie Minick, and Jean McSpadden.) for Bookers’ Books in Bloom table benefitting the library. I hope you all enjoy the event and we will want a full accounting of how it was.  

Our Book Selection committee is working tirelessly on next year’s slate of books – please contact Pat, Katherine, or Melanie if you have a recommendation and they’ll check it out. I recommended a debut novel, My Cat Yugoslavia, - a love story set in two countries bringing together a young gay man, his mother, his very shy pet boa constrictor, and a talking cat…for those of you who read “literally” – this is a joke.

COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE:           LIGHT READ
PINK:              MODERATELY CHALLENGING
RED:               CHALLENGING
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.
PINKISH RED
Discussion Leader: Katherine Maxwell-McDonald
                        Home of Aulsine DeLoach – Backup – home of Patty Evans
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.
PINK
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
Bonnie Magee will again coordinate the “menu.”
                        Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of Melanie Prebis 
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
Happy Reading,
JoDee




Tuesday, February 5, 2019

FEBRUARY 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor



                       
 “Someday you’ll be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

19 Bookers met at the home of Beverly Dossett to discuss this month’s selection, led by Daryl Daniels in her solo debut. Evident was she has not lost any of her teacher preparation skills as we enjoyed a timeline, photographs, fairy wings and a magic wand. Very well done Daryl…thank you for your insights! From our lively discussion (which is what we want) some Bookers would have liked to use that magic wand to go poof to the fairies. One of the complaints was that the fairy segment of the story was too drawn out, preferring the contemporary timeline with Olivia in the “Old Bookstore” and of course “hunky” Ross, Hemingway the cat, and precious Iris. Kirkus Reviews however wanted more fairies, less Olivia. Cups of tea! Personally, I’m not sure if one story could exist without the other, the author creating a cast of characters so deeply intertwined with each other, it would be “magical” if either story successfully stood on its own merit…the fairy tale had been documented already so writing about it alone would not have made any headlines…and how would the present-day story hold a reader’s interest beyond the bookstore, and a budding love affair. Gaynor expertly connected the past and the present, blurring the line between what is real and what is imagined.

Hazel Gaynor’s melodious prose leaped off the pages so the reader was immersed in the setting and emotion of the story as in this example of her writing of the loss of Olivia’s grandfather, “The awful reality of his absence hit her, ripping through the shop like a brick through glass, sending broken memories of happier times skittering across the creaky floorboards to hide in dark grief-stricken corners.” Beautiful!

Although this is a true story, the question lingers why was it so believable not only to ordinary citizens of the British Isles, but to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame? We need only to look at the climate during the Great War to understand the desperation for something to hope for from those confined to the home front between 1914 and 1918. Fear, grief and sorrow dominated the family landscape as fathers left for distant battlefields while their children slept…300,000 never saw their Papas again and 160,000 wives were now widows. The government legislated unprecedented powers to intervene in people’s lives…overtaking any factory or workshop, imposing curfews and censorship, arresting anyone for “causing alarm” or discussing military matters in public. Pub hours were reduced, and beer watered down, suspicion of outsiders was high, and a woman suspected of having a venereal disease could be prosecuted and subjected to a gynecological exam for having sexual relations with a serviceman, even if he was her husband. The Daily Record summed it up by saying it was “not an uplifting spectacle to see this country descending to trivial and hysterical methods of vengeance.”  Children, vital to the war effort, often served as secret agents and pet dogs equipped with special tubes on their collars delivered messages from the British Secret Service. Pet pigeons flew long distances with news from the front lines. Goldfish even had a job – after gas attacks, the masks were washed and rinsed, and if the rinsing water killed a goldfish that was placed in it, that meant the masks still had poison on them.

Enter, two young girls, one camera, artistically drawn fairies and what started as an innocent prank sparked worldwide intrigue and a storm cloud over the heads of cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths residing in Cottingley, England. Suddenly, a war-ravaged nation had something to believe in and maybe the most important magic of all…finding parts of ourselves we thought lost forever and a way to believe in them. It was a time where people clung to anything hopeful – they wanted to believe in fairies and the spirit world…if fairies could visit from another realm, maybe their loved ones would too. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a personal reason to believe in the good in the world, as he lost his son in the war and never reconciled with the fact that he himself might have caused his death and the death of others as he was involved in writing war propaganda. It was his desperation and his credibility that led the “fairy charge.”

The other part of the novel is a present-day storyline featuring an Irish woman, Olivia Kavanagh, reeling from the death of her beloved grandfather, inheriting his failing bookshop and a manuscript titled “Notes on a Fairy Tale.” Her personal life is in shambles – she’s engaged to a man she doesn’t love, hiding from him that she is infertile, and is dealing with her Nana in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“The things we feel cannot always be seen.” They are often warm and fuzzy images from our own childhoods we experience again with our own children and grandchildren…who can forget the magic and anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. 

                                                            On the business side:
We are happy to report Ann Ireland’s shoulder surgery went well and she is already out and about. Sheri Green’s appointment with the oncologist at MD Anderson went well and she will soon receive a chemotherapy “cocktail” in Dallas, designed to knock cancer to its knees. We all wish her well and as always, she and the family remain in our thoughts and prayers and a little dusting of fairy dust can’t hurt either.

Beverly Dossett, Katherine McDonald, Linda Thompson, Kittie Minnick, and Gayle Robinson have all committed to the Books in Bloom event on April 12th. Hopefully we can recruit 3 more to fill our Bookers’ table. If anyone has anything with a “camping” theme to please contact Beverly as they plan the décor for the table.

Our book selection committee (Pat Faherty, Katherine McDonald, and Melanie Prebis) have agreed to serve again next year and we are grateful for all they have done in the past year to give Bookers a variety of selections. They ask to please let them know if you’ve come across a book that you think should be a consideration…they are always open to your ideas!

As an added note for all fans of “exotic love stories” E.L. James of 50 Shades fame will be releasing The Mister on April 16. It’s described as a “modern fairy tale.” Wonder if it will include some type of magical powers or maybe a fairy or two….

COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE:         LIGHT READ
PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
RED:              CHALLENGING
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.
                        PINK
                        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.
PINKISH RED
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.
PINK
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
                        Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of Melanie Prebis    
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

“Stories choose the right readers at the right time.”
Happy Reading,
JoDee