Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – February 2020

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book with a range between a 2.5 and 4.5.  Additionally, one member gave the book a 2.0. The average of the ratings was 3.25.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 2.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.99.

Review:
The facilitator told the members that the author has several degrees which assisted her in writing historical fiction.  Chanel Cleeton has degrees in International Relations, Global Politics, and a Juris Doctor. In addition, Cleeton grew up in Miami, Florida.  She is a second generation Cuban-American who learned to speak Spanish before she spoke English.  Since childhood, she heard stories about Cuba.  She participated in the Cuban traditions and frequently ate Cuban food.

Discussion Highlights:
This novel created a lively discussion.  The facilitator did not have to ask many questions. The discussion covered the following themes; hope and exile, family expectations, and sacrifice.  The discussion included talking about the similarities and differences between Elisa & Marisol and Pablo & Luis.  We discussed the parallels between life in modern Cuba and life in pre-revolutionary Cuba. We discussed the attraction between Elisa & Pablo and Marisol & Luis.  We discussed whether or not Elisa and Pablo’s love was fueled by the urgency of the times.

One member had recently travelled to Cuba and shared photos of her journey.  She shared her impressions of modern Cuba.  The group thanked her for sharing!

Positive Comments:
Members loved the author’s descriptions of the Cuban landscape and architecture. The facilitator told the members that Reese Witherspoon selected this novel for her book club, Hello Sunshine.  Reese Witherspoon said she felt she took a vacation when she read this book.  Many members enjoyed both the historical fiction portions and the romance portions of the novel.

Members enjoyed the heavily researched part of the book.  Many members learned a lot about Cuba in 1958-59 and present day Cuba. 

One member submitted a character list prior to the groups reading the novel and everyone was thankful for the list.  A few members were very interested in what would happen next to several minor characters.  They wished the author included this information, but understood the book would have been too long and too tidy.  One member thought the author did a great job defining the characters considering the plethora of them.

Three members enjoyed Next Year in Havana so much; they read Cleeton’s next novel, When We Left Cuba. These three members enjoyed this second novel. This novel features Beatriz Perez, a character introduced in Next Year in Havana.  Most members do not plan on recommending this novel to others and they will not be reading When We Left Cuba.

Members enjoyed the storyline and found it a painless way to learn about Cuban history. 

The facilitator thought the author was insightful in the way she created the revolutionary character using a nuance approach.

Negative Comments:
Several members thought the author included too many characters. Members found the plot very contrived, but understand this is a fictional novel and the author worked on creating a connection between the characters from both time-lines.  Several members stated they did not like the romance part of the novels.  The facilitator told the members that the author started as a romance writer and evolved her writing to include history and politics.  The author has said that she will probably always include romance in her books, as romance is very much a part of life.

Regarding the historical elements of the novel, several members thought Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire did a better job of conveying life in Cuba under Fidel Castro.  However, Waiting for Snow in Havana is a nonfiction book and therefore is probably more obligated to be accurate.  Members agreed that Next Year in Havana covered a larger timeframe.

Facilitator’s Favorite Quote:
“You never know what’s to come.  That’s the beauty of life.  If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”—Chanel Cleeton

Resources:
For books and audiobooks in our collection by Chanel Cleeton, please click here.

Visit Chanel Cleeton’s website.

Chanel Cleeton talks about her heritage and Next Year in Havana:

A photographic tour of Old Havana in Cuba in 2018:

Read-a-Likes: 

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – January 2020

Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book with a range between a 2.0 and 4.5.  Additionally, one member gave the book a 0.5 and another member rated the book at 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.16.  

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 0.5 and 4.0. Additionally, one member gave the book a zero and another member rated the book at 5.0. The average of the ratings was 2.76.

Review:
Alan Bradley was born in 1938 and learned to read at an early age.  He worked as a radio and television engineer and later helped developed the broadcasting studio at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was director for twenty-five years. He took an early retirement and began writing short stories for literary magazines. In early 2007, he entered the Debut Dagger fiction competition and won.  The fifteen submitted pages would become The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  This mystery is the first of ten, so far.  Bradley was sixty-nine when The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was published.  His story is so encouraging! It is never to late to work to complete our goals!  And, it is never too late to write our stories!

Discussion Highlights:
The groups discussed what Alan Bradley said in an interview, “I don’t think we trust children enough anymore or leave them alone enough…I recall being that age, and one of the greatest blessings was being left to myself.  You find you own interests and amusements and pursue them.”  We discussed whether kids today are given enough freedom and whether or not Flavia is given too much freedom.

We discussed the twists in the plot, our favorite scenes, and the most amusing dialogue.

Positive Comments:
Some members enjoyed the witty dialogue and delightful descriptions.  Some members loved the charming setting and interesting characters.  Members did think the author wrote wonderful descriptions.  Some members thought the writing should be tighter.  Some members were reminded of their childhood and more innocent times in history.

The facilitator read the book over the holidays in a cozy chair at home sipping hot coffee. She laughed and smiled while reading the book as time delightfully slipped away.  She found the book just what it claimed to be: a wonderful entertainment. The facilitator fondly remembered her childhood with long days spent bicycling, practicing slights of hand, playing in the forest and prairie, collecting nature samples, using a chemistry set and microscope, and plenty of time just to imagine.  She thought the book was an exceptionally pleasant read!

Negative Comments:
Many members thought the book was formulaic and totally unrealistic.  With only twenty-five pages left, one member thought it wasn’t even worth the effort to finish.  Members couldn’t swallow the premise that an eleven year old girl could have such freedom around town and access to chemical compounds.  They thought that Flavia was too young to have such an understanding of chemistry and poisons.  They said, “Who would let their eleven year old romp around the village with a potential killer on the loose.” Many members thought the story was boring; they did not want to leave more thought-provoking reads to read this dull story. Many members thought this book should be classified as a Young Adult/Teen read. Most members will not recommend this author to other people and they definitely won’t read another Flavia de Luce mystery.

Often when the ratings are so low the facilitator will justify the selection and tell the members why the book was selected.

In this case, members have requested entertaining, easy reads over the holidays. 

Additionally, this book has received many awards such as; the Barry Award for Best First Novel (2010), the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel (2010), an Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2010), the Dilys Award (2010), the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel (2010), the Agatha Award for Best First Novel (2009), the CWA Debut Dagger (2007), and a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction & Mystery/Thriller (2009)

Resources:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Alan Bradley, please click here.

Visit Alan Bradley’s website.

Penguin House Canada introduces Alan Bradley and his Flavia novels:

Listen to these interviews with Alan Bradley about how he created the delightful, spunky Flavia de Luce novels.  He talks about how he came up with the creative titles and how his Flavia is a gift from the universe.

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – December 2019

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.81.  

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a -1.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.13.

Review:
Susan Orlean is known for her top-notch research skills and the ability to weave together disparate threads into an informative, interesting, narrative nonfiction book.  She covered many topics in The Library Book; from the history of LA library system and its many departments, the building of the Central Library, the account of LA Central Library fire and the mystery surrounding the fire.  Orlean also covered the concept of a book having a soul and how the burning of books destroys a culture’s very existence and history.

Discussion Highlights:
The groups discussed the role of libraries throughout our lives. We discussed the various roles that libraries and books play in the health of a community.  We discussed the history of libraries and the various departments.  We discuss new ideas and initiatives for libraries of the future. 

In chapter 5, Orlean writes that books “take on a kind of human vitality.”  The groups attempted to answer the following question: What roles do books play in our lives and do we anthropomorphize them?  We discussed wrestling with the idea of giving books away.  Additionally, we discussed a fire’s impact on a culture and its ideas.

Positive Comments:
Many members loved the book and they have already recommended it to friends. Some members enjoyed the structure of the book and felt like the author created interest by weaving together threads of each storyline throughout the book.  Members who liked the book found it educational and informative.  They commend the author for her tremendous research.

The facilitator thought of the book as a great tribute to the good work libraries do each day. Susan Orlean says, “All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.” “This is why I wanted to write this book, to tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine, and houw that feels marvelous and execeptional.”

“It <the library> declares that all these stories matter, and so does every effort to create something that connects us to one another, and to our past and to what is still to come.”

Negative Comments:
Facilitator Preface: Some members enjoy nonfiction books, but most members like fiction books better and rarely read nonfiction books.

Many members disliked that author went back and forth in time.  They felt this led to a disconnected read and it made the reading more difficult.  Many members like stories told in a linear fashion.  They felt the story was choppy due to the back and forth structure.

All the members are strong advocates for libraries and love libraries. They were disappointed that they did not love the book because they want to promote libraries. They had high hopes for the book. They did not care about the LA Library and many thought if they story was about Chicago they might have been more engaged.  Many members said the story just didn’t grab them.  They didn’t care about solving the arson or about Harry Peak.  They didn’t like the pace or the structure.  Members thought the book was too comprehensive and the author tried to cover too many people. One member said if she had to take a quiz on the book, she would flunk.

Resources:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Susan Orlean, please click here.

Listen to the dynamic interviews below to discover how Susan Orlean came to write
The Library Book.

Susan Orlean kicks off her tour with an interview with David Ulin at the LA Central Library.

For photos of the Central Library, please take a look at the Central Library website.  The Art and Architecture of the Central Library is magnificent.

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – November 2019

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 3.0 and 4.5. The average of the ratings was 3.86.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 1.5 and 4.0. The average of the ratings was 3.47.

Review:
Sujata Massey’s novel is one in which many subgenres overlap.  The Widows of Malabar Hill combines a traditional mystery with domestic fiction, historical fiction, and legal thriller. The main character, Perveen Mistry, was inspired by Cornelia Sorabji, the first female graduate of Bombay University, the first woman to study law at Oxford University, and the first woman to practice law in India.  She was disturbed by the lack of legal representation for purdahnashins, women who were forbidden to interact with the outside male world.  Cornelia Sorabji drew attention to the injustices these women faced when their husbands died—this issue drives the plot of The Widows of Malabar Hill.

The Widows of Malabar Hill moves back and forth between 1916 and 1921.  In 1916, Perveen Mistry falls in love and marries Cyrus Sodawalla.  Due to customs at the time, she leaves her home in Bombay and moves in with her husband’s family in Calcutta.  Perveen and Cyrus are Parsi, or Persian, whose descendants were followers of the Zoroastrian religion.  In her in-law’s home, Perveen is forced to stay in an 8 x 12 foot cell once a month during binamazi.

The author writes a compelling mystery that offers rich cultural insights.

Discussion Highlights:

Positive Comments:
Most members knew very little about purdah, binamazi traditions, and the Parsi culture before reading this mystery.  Members really enjoy gaining knowledge and insight about cultures and religions different than their own.  The facilitator commented that readers were spoon-fed a lot of historical information in an interesting way—it is always exciting to learn new things without having to work hard to digest information.  Members appreciated the research the author executed in the novel. Many members enjoyed the rich details and loved hearing about the food.  They were excited when the facilitator showed them Massey’s website which includes recipes from the book. 

A few members really liked the book and plan to read her next books.  Some members and the facilitator thought the structure of the book was ideal to tell Perveen’s story and help the reader understand what created this compassionate woman.  The back and forth structure also creates interest. Members respected Perveen and her father; they appreciated their relationship. The contextual clues are so spot on, the reader does not generally need to look at the glossary provided.  Most members agreed that they gained insight into a culture and its rich history.

Negative Comments:
Many members thought the beginning was challenging. The complete title of the book is The Widows of Malabar Hill: A Mystery of 1920’s Bombay, so readers were expecting a mystery to unfold right away and when it didn’t they were disappointed.  Members did not like that the author moved back and forth from 1916 to 1921 and they felt the glossary did not help with any terminology.  Many members had difficulty with the names and one member renamed all the characters to read the book.

Further Discussion:
The group discussed the religious differences between the two families of the same faith.  We discussed the difference between modern and orthodox religiosity.

Resources:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Sujata Massey, please click here.

See the interviews below to discover how Sujata Massey became interested in the story.

Please visit Sujata Massey’s website to learn more about Cornelia Sorabji, the historical figure who was the inspiration for the Perveen Mistry character.  Additionally, Sujata Massey’s website contains photos from real places in the book and Indian recipes.

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – October 2019

Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 1.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.51.  

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.23.

Review:
For the past seven years during the fall, the book clubs have read selections from the Suburban Mosaic, an organization that “seeks to confront issues of racial and social justice and promote cross-cultural understanding through literature.” (http://www.suburbanmosaicbooks.org/

This 2018-2019 season, Suburban Mosaic selected the nonfiction book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal-practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.  One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinkmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.  Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming-of-age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.  Just Mercy is soon to be a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

Last year, during the 2018-2019 book club season, the facilitator selected The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, and Varina by Charles Frazier. (See previous posts for more information about these books)  During these clubs, the facilitator and other members brought to light some of the work that Bryan Stevenson has done at the Equal Justice Initiative.  In an attempt to expose the members to different material, the selector chose An American Marriage as a fiction substitute for Just Mercy.  Tayari Jones attempts to cover different ground by showing readers how mass incarceration affects the family unit, specifically a marriage.

Discussion Highlights:
Club members discussed the title and the cover art. We discussed whether or not the title represents the novel and what about the novel makes it a particularly “American.” Several members thought the author did an excellent job portraying the state of marriage in modern day America.  The novel shows the various states of marriage and the author also shows a couple deciding not to marry, but live in “communion.” The author describes the different stages of romance through various characters—the readers are exposed to first dates, engagements, marriage, divorce, second and third marriages, love affairs, etc. The author did an excellent job in attempting to describe love and marriage—a nearly impossible feat.  The members thought Tayari Jones wrote a well-written, thought-provoking novel that has readers talking about important topics. 

The facilitator told the group members that other book clubs have gotten into fights defending the actions of one of the three main characters.  Book club members have taken sides about what they thought each character should or should not have done. One all male book club disputed the actions between Andre and Roy.  Many in this group felt Andre broke the “bro code” by having relations with Celestial, who was married to his best friend, Roy. 

The group members at the Rolling Meadows Library treated each other very considerately and respectfully.  We talked about the three alternating perspectives in the novel—Celestial, Roy, and Andre. We talked about which perspective we responded more positively towards.  The members felt Tayari Jones wrote vivid three-dimensional characters, which is why readers are responding strongly to the different characters she brought to life.

Celestial’s view of love: (pp.138)
“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.  Roy came into my life at the time when I needed a man like him.  Would I have galloped into this love affair if I had never left Atlanta?  I don’t know. But how you feel love and understand love are two different things.  Now, so many years down the road, I recognize that I was alone and adrift and that he was lonely in the way that only a ladies man can be.  He reminded me of Atlanta, and I reminded him of the same. All these were reasons why we were drawn to each other, but standing with him outside of Maroons, we were past reason.  Human emotion is beyond comprehension, smooth and uninterrupted, like an orb made of blown glass.”

Tayari Jones attempts to show how marriage is like a tree (the family unit) and the bride and groom are like a sapling.  Marriage attempts to bond two different families into one unit—the next generation, “But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch.  You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.” (pp. 4)

Unfortunately, Roy’s prison term ramps up the already present friction between Celestial and Roy and it becomes evident that: “Our marriage was a sapling graft that didn’t have time to take.” (pp.284)

We discussed the structure of the novel, which at times is told through the exchange of letters.  Many members enjoyed this structure. Some members wished the letters were dated; others members felt the author made a good choice in not dating the letters because this allowed for the lengthy passage of time with regards to the incarceration. In the interviews below, the author chose letter writing to eliminate some of the mundane aspects of prison life and to protect the reader from the violent aspects of prison life.  The author wanted her novel to have wide readership, and she felt a dark, gritty prison read would not have wide appeal. She hopes more people will read her book, enjoy talking about the love triangle and will begin to ponder the effects mass incarceration has on the wider community.

In an interview, Tayari Jones did she said, “I don’t see how our prison system is working for anyone—not the people who have committed crimes, not the victims, not the tax payers.  Nobody is winning here.” We discussed whether or not the novel illustrated this point and whether or not our opinions on the American prison system changed after reading An American Marriage.  Many members felt that they did not learn anything new about the prison system, but agree with Tayari Jones’s view.

We talked about Celestial’s business and the symbolism behind the baby dolls she creates.

Without including any spoilers, we talked about the incredibly important person Roy meets while in prison.  Several members thought this was an interesting plot device and other members felt it was too contrived. Even the author was surprised that Roy met this person.  Tayari Jones does not write with an outline; she likens her style of writing to this metaphor: she is the driver in a car with the characters in her novels. As they travel along in the car, her characters make decisions and she lets them, but sometimes she has to take control of various situations. Members enjoyed Tayari Jones’s writing style and would definitely read another book by the author.  A few members disliked the book because it was too contrived and written like a “Lifetime Movie”.

We talked about the two major twists at the end of the novel.  Most members felt the author did a great job of tying up the loose ends.  Although it is not a fairy tale ending—the novel ended in a hopeful manner giving each character dignity.

Resources:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Tayari Jones, please click here.

Tayari Jones speaks about the inspiration behind An American Marriage:

Tayari Jones talks about letter writing, her love of The Odyssey, and mass incarceration:

Tayari Jones talks about her love of bookstores; she says with every book you can visit a different world and meet new people.   Tayari Jones talks about one of her favorite authors, Toni Morrison. Tayari Jones admires Toni Morrison so much that she has soil from Toni Morrison’s homeland in a jar in her office.

Read-a-Likes:

Members highly recommended watching the film If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the novel by James Baldwin.

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – September 2019

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0 with two members giving the book a 3.5. The average of the ratings was 4.62.  Two members did not like the humor and thought nothing could be funny when you consider the trauma Eleanor suffered.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0 with one member giving the book a 3.0. The average of the ratings was 4.53.

Review:
In the seven years the facilitator has been conducting these clubs, this book received the highest favorable ratings. The author masterfully wove pathos and humor together, which is a very difficult task. Members have been recommending this novel to everyone.  Everyone rooted for Eleanor and we were not disappointed. Terrific life lessons were presented in the novel, such as; kindness creating a ripple effect in the community and kindness working its own kind of magic.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Club members like that Honeyman developed a good friendship between Eleanor and Raymond. 

We discussed the qualities in Raymond that allow Eleanor to feel comfortable with him which created an atmosphere for her to open up. They were thrilled that Honeyman did not end the novel with a romantic Hollywood ending instead Honeyman allows the relationship to develop naturally, displaying how the two main characters support each other.

  • Honeyman makes a point to show how small acts of kindness have a ripple effect. Raymond insists that Eleanor help Sammy, an old man who has fallen in the street, and at first Eleanor is put off and judgmental, but this is the beginning of her growth. This simple task of helping another changed her life. In the Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members shared small acts of kindness that were significant to them.  The book points out that not all scars are visible and that kindness works wonders.
  • The novel sheds light on mental illness, depression, survivor guilt and how judgmental people can be. It highlights emotional abuse, physical abuse, and child neglect.  The group discussed Mummy and the effects she had on Eleanor. We discussed why Eleanor continued her weekly phone calls with Mummy.
  • We discuss the meaning of the title.
  • Members discussed the trauma Eleanor experienced as a child and how she easily developed a teenage crush on the musician, Johnnie.  
  • The clubs spent a lot of time discussing the final plot twist. Everyone was surprised by the ending and this evoked even more sympathy and understanding for Eleanor.  The members discussed Honeyman’s skillful writing and her use of red herrings in the novel to create suspense. As members read the novel, they thought Eleanor’s Mummy was either in prison or a mental institution or possibly it was a voice in Eleanor’s head.  Honeyman wrote the novel in the first person, so Eleanor is an unreliable narrator which helps to create further mystery and suspense. Readers tried to figure out what might be going on with Eleanor. Was she on the spectrum? Did she have OCD? Did she hear voices? 
  • The author wanted to braid two related ideas together.  The first was the idea of loneliness and the other strand was that of social awkwardness. “I realized that I wanted to tell a story about someone like this, or, rather, someone who’d ended up like this, living a small life. A lonely person, a slightly awkward person, and someone in whom loneliness and social awkwardness had become entwined and self-perpetuating.  I wanted to tell the story of how this had happened to her, and of what happened to her next, and this became the story of Eleanor Oliphant.” The author explores reasons that explain a person’s awkwardness. “Might there perhaps be something in their background or childhood experiences, some life event that had helped to shape them in this particular way?” We discussed whether or not the author was successful in her purpose and we also discussed the question of nature versus nurture. We discussed whether or not, Eleanor would be socially awkward if she had not had a traumatic childhood.
  • We discussed some of the funniest moments in the novel.  Due to the fact that Eleanor had an abusive childhood, two members did not find anything funny about the novel. Because Eleanor is blunt and has few filters she exhibits moments of astute social commentary, so we discussed these moments.  We discussed what factors contribute to her unconventional personality.
  • We discussed the main theme of the novel, which seemed to be: “I suppose one of the reasons we’re able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.” The book has a wonderful joyful message which is why it is resonating with so many readers.
  • We discussed how Glenn the cat is a metaphor for the change Eleanor experiences and how the simple act of caring for others nurtures us and a healthy cycle is created in society.

Resources:

Gail Honeyman sends a thank you to libraries and librarians:
Interesting Podcast, Gail Honeyman shares in-depth about the UK newspaper article about loneliness in young people and how she incorporated this information into her character, Eleanor.

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Books and Bagels – March 2019

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Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group on The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Rating:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.79.

Rationale for Selection:
“The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations. Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.”

“Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is one of the bestselling and most influential authors in the world. His books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries, and been translated into 80 languages.”

“Originally written in Portuguese, The Alchemist holds the record as the most translated book by a living author, published in 80 languages including Xhosa, Vietnamese, Hebrew, and Persian.”

“The book spent more than six years on the New York Times bestseller list.”

“THE GREAT AMERICAN READ was an eight-part series that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey)” and The Alchemist was on this list.

Last year, members voted for which novel they would like to read in March. They could choose The Woman in the Window or The Alchemist.  The Alchemist was the overwhelming winner for Books and Bagels using an anonymous paper ballot.

Review:
The discussion was fantastic! Members stayed longer to continue to discuss their thoughts on The Alchemist.  Members had various points of view and different interpretations about the novel. Both the facilitator and one member, unbeknownst to each other, likened the discussion to the poem, The Blind Men and The Elephant:

I.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant 
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation 
Might satisfy his mind.

II.
The First approached the Elephant, 
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, 
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me!—but the Elephant 
Is very like a wall!”

III.
The Second, feeling of the tusk, 
Cried: “Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? 
To me ‘t is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant 
Is very like a spear!”

IV.
The Third approached the animal, 
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, 
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant 
Is very like a snake!”

V.
The Fourth reached out his eager hand, 
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like 
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘T is clear enough the Elephant 
Is very like a tree!”

VI.
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, 
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; 
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant 
Is very like a fan!”

VII.
The Sixth no sooner had begun 
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail 
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant 
Is very like a rope!”

VIII.
And so these men of Indostan 
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion 
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, 
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL.
So, oft in theologic wars 
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance 
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Needless to say, we all got something very different out of the novel.  Three members loved The Bible references and two of these members plan to recommend The Alchemist to their bible study groups.  One member felt it was an interesting religious self-help book.  One member thought it was a deeply philosophical book. One member thought it was a fairy story and another member thought it was a fairy tale.  Many members felt it was a parable or fable about finding your personal destiny with which the universe conspires to help. A few members thought it addressed metaphysical principles, New Age principles, and Western esotericism.  One member thought the book had inspiring principles which would be better served by a younger reading audience. One member is still waiting to be inspired. One member felt that many other self-help books do a much better job addressing the principles covered in the book.  One member, just didn’t get it. One member enjoyed the book, but was disappointed in the ending.
(Spoiler Alert!) She was surprised that Santiago found real gold at the end; she felt that the true treasure obtained was love and enthusiasm for living. The facilitator told the group that this novel is beloved in many different countries by a wide variety of religious beliefs—we later discussed why this might be the case.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Most members in the discussion group read the 25th Anniversary edition of The Alchemist.  The facilitator read the 20th Anniversary edition which included A Reader’s Guide, a Map of Santiago’s Journey, and An Interview with Paulo Coelho. The facilitator used the questions in A Reader’s Guide to conduct the discussion and highly recommends the 20th Anniversary edition for book facilitation purposes. The discussion highlights revolved around the questions presented in the 20th Anniversary edition.
  • The group discussed the Prologue and the alternative story of Narcissus which gives the reader clues as to the themes and relationships the reader should watch for in the Santiago story.  The group agreed that there is an element of narcissism in the pursuit of one’s Personal Legend.
  • We discussed the natural elements in the story and connections we as humans have with nature.  We talked about the healing properties of nature. We discussed Stanford University’s mindfulness studies and how nature and mindfulness can be used to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • We discussed the one-tenth payment asked for by the gypsy woman and the old man.  We discussed the difference between the payments and the meaning of the up-front payment.  We discussed the sacrifices that Santiago makes in order to pursue his dream, additionally, we talked about how those sacrifices can teach us other skills and attributes along the way.  As we move through barriers and dangers we acquire wonderful traits (great treasures) such as determination, courage, confidence, and unconditional love.
  • We discussed the old man’s premise that people believe “the world’s greatest lie—that we all lose control of our own lives and must then be controlled by fate.”  We talked about how people in pursuit of their dreams are so often knocked down that they come to believe life is all luck and fate; they give up control and stop trying to pursue their destiny.  Santiago throughout the story is constantly asked to give up things he has acquired to pursue his destiny. At one point, Santiago has the choice of having a comfortable life with Fatima and being an honored counselor at the oasis or continuing to pursue his dream.  The Alchemist assists him by telling him what would happen to him four years down the road if he chooses this comfortable path. The Alchemist assures him that “true love” (unconditional love) will wait as he pursues his dream. When Santiago finally chooses to pursue his destiny “he immediately felt peace in his heart.” (p. 121)
  • The group discussed who they thought the old man, Melchizedek, and the Alchemist were and if they were the same being.  We agreed that they were symbolic of strangers/mysterious people who enter our lives and offer us help and guidance. As we pursue our quest, we are all assisted by strangers on our journey.
  • Paulo Coelho once said “alchemy is all about pursuing our spiritual quest in the physical world as it was given to us.  It is the art of transmuting the reality into something sacred, of mixing the sacred and the profane.” The facilitator asked the following question from the list of questions in the back of the book, “With this in mind, can you define your Personal Legend?”  The facilitator followed up with this question by stating that it is fine if no one wants to answer the question, but the facilitator thought the group should be aware that this was one of the major points the author was attempting to make. One member talked about a conference she attended for retired people and the speaker asked members to make two columns on a sheet of paper; on one column, they attendees listed their dreams and in the second column, attendees listed how those dreams were achieved.  The purpose of the exercise was to see that often our dreams are realized, but not always in the ways we expect.
  • We talked about which is more important, the dream or its fulfillment.
  • We compared and contrasted the Englishman’s search for the alchemist to Santiago’s search for a treasure.  Much of the contrast deals with the difference between learning about the physical world & its interactions and spiritual pursuits.
  • In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes about a universal language and so, the group briefly discussed what the author implies.  The Universal Language is part of the Soul of the World, requiring no spoken words and is a part of pure love.
  • Everyone agreed it is possible to attain more than one treasure in their personal quest of their ultimate calling.  
  • We discussed the intimacy between the spiritual and material worlds and the connections between alchemy and evolution.  Coelho uses alchemy as an analogy to show how the physical and spiritual world are connected. Just as raw metal (lead) is purified and transformed into a pure metal (gold); the human heart is also transformed/purified into “pure love” and a pure faith. (p. 150-151)
  • We discussed the story the alchemist tells Santiago about a Roman citizen who was visited in a dream by an angel telling him that his son’s words would be remembered for generations to come.  We talked about the lesson Coelho is teaching us; dreams aren’t always what they seem and we may interpreted the dream differently than the actual reality of how the dream is fulfilled.
  • We discussed the ending.  Earlier the alchemist told Santiago, “When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”  We talked about how this simple lesson saved Santiago’s life. Members shared their like and dislike of the conclusion of the fable—we basically had two camps; members who enjoyed the ending and members who disliked the ending.

Resources:

To view Paulo Coelho’s blog, click here.


Oprah Winfrey interviews Paulo Coelho


Documentary about Paulo Coelho


Start at 1:03 to get a summary of Paulo Coelho’s top 10 Rules for Success.
These rules resonated with the members in the discussion group. 1) Don’t Be a Part-Time Dreamer, 2) Live In the Moment, 3) Discover Yourself, 4) Pay Attention to Life, 5) Take Risks, 6) Find Your Personal Legend, 7) Nurture Innocence, 8) Find Enthusiasm, 9) Treasure Everything, 10) Dive Into the Universe

For books and movie in our collection by Paulo Coelho, please click here.

Read-a-Likes:

The Alchemist

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – December 2018

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 3.5 and 5.0 with one member giving the book a 2.5. The average of the ratings was 3.79.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.33.

Review:
The novel was 502 pages long, so sadly during the holiday season not all members were able to finish the novel.  Some members thought that the book demanded a lot of time and that there were too many characters and the book was too long. The facilitator promised a shorter book for the 2019-2020 book club season.

Many members enjoyed the cozy British mystery compared to the contemporary mystery.  Members found that the cozy British mystery reminded them of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes novels.  Members definitely would recommend this novel to people who enjoy cozy mysteries written in the vein of Christie.  One member, who has read all of Christie’s books, thought Horowitz followed the pattern and pitch of Christie, but Magpie Murders was his own style—she found this very intriguing. One member felt the book in a way offered a tutorial on murder mysteries.

Overall, members who were able to read the novel in bigger chunks seemed to be more satisfied with novel.  Members found the book very cleverly written and that it generated good discussion even for members who do not read mysteries.  On the whole, members were satisfied with the ending and no one was able to solve the mystery in its entirety.

Two members had read the book previously as it received high recommendations from Book Pages.  These members thought the book was a cut above and very cerebral.  They thought the book accurately portrayed the English community and that the descriptions of the characters were vivid.  One member thought about whether or not the book could have been published as two books.  The members resolved her own inquiry, by stating that she believed for the novel to work it need to be published as two mysteries in one book.

Several members were frustrated that Horowitz led them so far afield and indeed, he pulled scenarios out of the bag to throw readers off the track.  Nevertheless, Horowitz attempts to calm the reader’s frustration by inserting statements in the novel to encourage the reader to continue.  On p. 145 (cozy mystery) Atticus Pund wrote in his masterwork, The Landscape of Criminal Investigation: “One can think of the truth as eine vertiefung—a sort of deep valley which may not be visible from a distance but which will come upon you quite suddenly.  There are many ways to arrive there. A line of questioning that turns out to be irrelevant still has the power to bring you nearer to your goal.  There are no wasted journeys in the detection a crime.”

Finally, several members who are not fans of mysteries really enjoyed the novel.  They enjoyed trying to solve the puzzles and felt this was a great brain exercise.

Discussion Highlights:

  • In Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz gives occasional commentary comparing literary fiction and popular fiction and the artist’s endeavor in a commercial world. The facilitator posed some general questions regarding these topics. The facilitator created these questions to cover the overall questions about why mysteries are so successful in the publishing world.
  • Using characters, Anthony Horowitz talks about the public’s need for mysteries. He speaks to the obsession the public has for murder mysteries.

The group was asked to comment on these sections of the book:

p. 70 – Susan Ryeland, editor of Cloverleaf books
“…It’s strange when you think about it. There are hundreds and hundreds of murders in books and television. It would be hard for narrative fiction to survive without them.  And yet there are almost none in real life…Why is it that we have such a need for murder mystery and what is it that attracts us—the crime or the solution?  Do we have some primal need of bloodshed because our own lives are so safe, so comfortable?”

p. 159 Detective Inspector Richard Locke
“All these murders on TV…Every night…People have some sort of fixation. And what really annoys me is that it’s nothing like the truth…There are only three motives. Sex, anger and money…And you know how we catch them? We don’t ask them clever questions and work out that they don’t have an alibi, that they weren’t actually where they were meant to be. We catch them on CCTV.  Half the time, they leave their DNA all over the crime scene.  Or they confess. Maybe one day you should publish the truth although I’m telling you, nobody would want to read it.”

The facilitator further responded from the book.  On pages 183-184, Susan Ryeland speaks to the power of mysteries.

The group was asked to offer commentary about this statement from the book:

“In a world of full of uncertainties, is it not inherently satisfying to come to the last page with every i dotted and every t crossed?  …We are surrounded by tensions and ambiguities, which we spend half our life trying to resolve, and we’ll probably be on our own deathbed when we reach that moment when everything makes sense.  Just about every whodunnit provides that pleasure.  It is the reason for their existence.”

The facilitator addressed the comments made in Magpie Murders about the value of mysteries.

Andreas, Ancient Greek scholar, debates Susan regarding the literary value of mysteries on pp. 164-165.

Andreas said, “’I read them because you worked on them and obviously I cared about       you.  But I thought they were crap.’I was shocked.  I didn’t know what to say.

‘They made a lot of money.’

‘Cigarettes make a lot of money.  Toilet paper makes a lot of money.  It doesn’t mean            they’re worth anything.’

‘You can’t say that.’

‘Why not? Alan Conway was laughing at you, Susan.  He was laughing at everyone.  I           know about writing. I teach Homer…He knew what those books were—and he knew        when he was putting them together.  They’re badly written trash!’

‘I don’t agree.  They’re very well written.  Millions of people enjoyed them.’

‘They’re worth nothing! Eighty thousand words to prove that they butler did it?’

‘You’re just being snobbish.’

‘And you’re defending something that you always knew had no value at all.’”

Then the facilitator asked the group whether mysteries have any lasting value to our society.

Melissa Conway, Alan’s ex-wife talks to Susan about her role in getting Alan to write detective fiction.  Melissa loved Alan’s literary work, but it wasn’t getting published.  She convinced Alan to write mysteries because he always had a fascination with tricks and trompe l’oeils.  Melissa helped him to write his first mystery, Atticus Pund Investigates and as his mysteries became publishing sensations, Alan changed and was no longer fulfilled.  Alan hated his main character, the noble, Atticus Pund.  Melissa states on page 198, “Of course, it wasn’t as good as his other work.  It was lighter and completely pointless, but I thought it was beautifully written…”

The facilitator asked the group if they read mysteries or watch mysteries, if so, why do they enjoy about them.

  • The group discussed clues that were hidden in plain sight and how skillful Horowitz was in burying those clues.
  • The group discussed at length the many red-herrings Horowitz used to lead the reader astray.
  • We discussed how the author ratcheted up the suspense.
  • We discussed at what point in the book the members began to unravel the mystery.
  • Finally, we discussed the skill necessary to write this novel. We compared and contrasted the Golden Age mystery set in the 1950’s with the Contemporary mystery.  We compared the language, tone, style, pace, and typeface used. We discussed the use of character counterparts in each novel.  We discussed the significance of the anagram.  Also, members stated they would like to know the meaning behind the cover of Magpie Murders.

Resources:

Anthony Horowitz, the author, cleverly uses two different typefaces to assist the reader in distinguishing between the two mysteries. The Cozy Mystery pages are numbered at the bottom of each page and the Contemporary Mystery pages are numbered at the top of each page.

1) Cozy Mystery set in 1950’s (pp. 3-212 and near very end of entire book—Chapter entitled, A Secret Never to be Told (pp. 217-241))

2) Contemporary Mystery—very beginning of book (pp.1-4) continues in middle of book (pp. 5-232) and epilogue entitled, Agios Nikolaos, Crete (pp. 233-236)

(pages correspond to Regular Type Hardcover copy)

Characters in Cozy Mystery:

Sir Magnus Pye: Lord of Pye Hall
Lady Frances Pye: Magnus’s wife
Jack Dartford: Lady Frances Pye’s lover
Frederick (Freddy) Pye: Magnus and Frances’ son
Clarissa Pye: spinster sister of Magnus and local schoolteacher
Dr. Redwing: Local Doctor
Arthur: Artist husband of Dr. Redwing
Dr. Edgar Rennard: Dr. Redwing’s father who has dementia
Mary Blakiston: housekeeper at Pye Hall
Matthew Blakiston: Mary’s estranged husband
Tom Blakiston: one of Mary and Matthew’s sons
Robert Blakiston: one of Mary and Matthew’s sons
Joy Sanderling: Robert’s fiancé
Neville Brent: groundskeeper at Pye Hall
Diana Weaver: local cleaning lady
Jeffrey Weaver: elderly gravedigger
Rev. Robert Osborne: local vicar
Henrietta Osborne: Vicar’s wife
Johnny and Gemma Whitehead: owners of local antique shop
Arthur Reeve: recently burglarized and medal collection missing
Detective Inspector Raymond Chubb: local policeman
Atticus Pund: Poirot-like character for this mystery
James Fraser: Atticus’s sidekick

Characters in Contemporary Murder Mystery (counterparts from Cozy mystery in parentheses):

Susan Ryeland (Atticus Pund): editor, Cloverleaf books
Andreas Pataks: Susan’s professor boyfriend
Charles Clover (Robert Blakiston): CEO and founder of Cloverleaf books
Jemina Humphries: Charles Clover’s secretary
Alan Conway (Sir Magnus Pye): author of Magpie Murders
Sajid Khan and wife: Alan’s lawyer and friend
Rev. Tom Robeson (Rev. Robin Osborne): local vicar
Mark Redmond (Matthew Blakiston): TV and Film producer of Red Herring Productions/possible developing The Atticus Adventures
John White (Johnny Whitehead): hedgefund manager and Alan’s neighbor
Claire Jenkins (Clarissa Pye): Alan’s sister
James Taylor (James Fraser): Alan’s boyfriend
Melissa Conway (Lady Frances Pye): Alan’s ex-wife
Frederick/Freddy Conway (Frederick/Freddy Pye): Alan and Melissa’s son
Detective Superintendent Richard Locke (Detective Inspector Raymond Chubb): detective who helped Melissa and Alan with research for mystery novels

https://www.anthonyhorowitz.com/

 

Read-a-Likes:

Magpie Murders

Anthony Horowitz is well known for creating and writing Foyle’s War and his wife,
Jane Green, is the producer.
Horowitz has also written many screenplays for Midsomer Murders.

For books and DVDs in our collection by Anthony Horowitz, please click here.

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – November 2018

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Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 3.5 and 4.0 with one member giving the book a 2.75. The average of the ratings was 3.75.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 1.0 and 4.0. The average of the ratings was 2.53.

Review:
As always, the discussion was stimulating and interesting.  Several members increased their ratings based on the discussion.  The members see value in book discussions as they play a role in helping the individual see a variety of viewpoints that they would not have discovered during their individual reading.  This was definitely the case during this discussion.

The evaluation of the novel revolved around two camps. One group of members really disliked the novel.  They got lost with the shifting points of view.  Overall, members found the book depressing and would not recommend it to others.  However, those that disliked the story kept reading because they wanted to find out what happened to Lydia. Some members found the book a chore to read, but they loved the discussion.

Another group of members were impressed with the talented writing of Celeste Ng.  They were surprised that this was a debut novel as her prose is both mature and moving. The members found the family dysfunction disturbing, but compelling and haunting.  The material was complex and the group felt empathy for the entire family and yet, they found the mother and family completely selfish and self-absorbed.

The facilitator mentioned that she enjoys human behavior and patterns that exists in human interactions.  She enjoys trying to figure out the ways people are misunderstood.  She likes to explore why miscommunications often happen.  She thought the author superbly explored this main dynamic.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The groups discussed the sibling relationships within the story.  We discussed why Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James, her parents.  Marilyn pressures Lydia to study hard to obtain the goal of becoming a doctor and James pressures Lydia to be social and popular.  We discussed the reasons why her parents apply this pressure and how this attention affects her.  We discussed how this attention affects her siblings Nathan and Hannah, and how they are often overlooked.
  • We discussed how James and Marilyn’s childhoods informed their parenting style.  James struggled with his identity throughout his life and this affected his relationship with his family.  We talked about the ways James could have coped with his identity crisis.  We talked about the influence parents can have on their children.  We discussed communication patterns in this family and how improvements in communication can improve navigation for a new generation of young people.
  • We discussed what we wished the characters would have shared with each other and how these interactions could have changed the outcome of the novel.
  • On pp. 89-93 James watches as his son Nathan is teased at the pool.  We discussed the “Marco Polo” pool scene and talked about how we felt about James’s reaction.  We discussed how it feels to be an outsider and how parents’ can help children cope.
  • The book is set in Ohio in 1977, so it touches upon the role of stay-at-home mothers and the notion that that motherhood and keeping a home was more satisfying that and important than having a career.  We talked about how the story might have been different if it was set in present day Ohio.  We discussed whether or not women today can have it all—meaning both children and careers.
  • We discussed the role of Jack—a minor character in the story.
  • We discussed the shifts in points of view and we discussed the structure of the novel.
  • (Spoiler Alert) We discussed what the possible outcomes would be for each member of the family if Lydia had reached the dock.
  • We talked about the title and to whom the “I” and “you” refer.

Resources:

https://www.celesteng.com/about/

Worth watching in its entirety, Celeste Ng is a dynamic speaker.

For books in our collection by Celeste Ng, please click here.

For readers interested in current authors who use omniscient narrator technique, Celeste Ng highly recommends:

Jacket (6)

Jacket (7)

Jacket (8)

Read-a-Likes:

Everything I Never Told You

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – October 2018

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 3.5 and 4.5 with one member giving the book a 3.0 and another member rating the book at 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.03.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 3.0 and 4.0, with one member giving the book a 2.0 and one member giving the book a 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.69.

Several members gave the book a higher rating because the discussion was so poignant.

Review:
Overall members enjoyed this read and learned a lot about the immigrant experience. Members were conflicted about parts of the book. Many members had a hard time getting into the book.  Some members liked the first half better and some members liked the second half better. Some members liked the way the book ended and some members strongly disliked the way the book ended.  Overall, members were thankful that the story was not a Hollywood ending. Based on September’s book club read (a Hollywood ending), one member did not want to read the last 10 or so pages, she was worried that the author was going to wrap-up the book and all the characters into a nice neat little package—so, finally, when the member read the end, she was happily surprised that it was not a tidy ending.  The ending is complex and rang true to real life, in that, issues and people are multi-faceted without simple solutions. Most members agreed with this member’s assessment.

Some members thought the book was well-written and others thought the book needed editing.  One member thought that maybe the author had fallen in love with the sound of her own voice.  Although, members thought the author did a good job of developing sympathetic characters; the book was still too long.

Members appreciated the research the author did to bring readers the story.  Members enjoyed learning about both cultures. Members thought this was a timely book and they enjoyed exploring multiple sides to an issue.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The groups discussed how the novel explores motherhood from the main character’s perspectives and from minor character’s perspectives.  Although, the title is Lucky Boy, the author states, “This story, this fight for a boy—it wasn’t about the boy.  It was about his mothers.” The author created sympathy for both Kavya and Soli, by spending so much time developing their characters.  We discussed the key differences between Soli’s and Kavya’s approach to motherhood. We discussed which woman we most related to.
  • Soli travels to America riding on La Bestia, while Kavya’s family arrived by more traditional means.  So, we discussed the novel’s portrayal of privileged versus unprivileged immigration. We briefly discussed Soli’s treatment in immigrant detention.
  • When Rishi is asked if he wants a child, he thinks “Children had seemed like a project planted permanently in the future.  A certainty about which he never thought he’d be asked. Had anyone asked his own father if he’d wanted a baby?” We discussed how the novel portrays fatherhood and whether it is different than motherhood.
  • The group discussed how the novel portrays class stratification.  We also talked about whether the classic idea of the American dream is still attainable.
  • The story was set on the fictional Weebies campus in Silicon Valley and we discussed how the setting shaped the novel.
  • The facilitator asked the group, how they felt about the ending and whether, or not, they were surprised.  (Spoiler alert) We talked about Kavya’s decision to fight to keep Iggy. We talked about whether or not Soli should have made a different choice.
  • We discussed the title and if, indeed, Ignacio was a lucky boy.

Resources:
Each year the clubs read the Suburban Mosaic selection.  The Suburban Mosaic is a Community Reading Program for suburban communities in Cook and Lake County with the mission of fostering cultural understanding through literature.
The participating organizations are: Des Plaines Public Library, Elk Grove Village Public Library, Lincolnwood Public Library, Mount Prospect Public Library, Palatine Public Library, Prospect Heights Public Library, Rolling Meadows Public Library, Schaumburg Twp. District Library, School Districts 15, 23, 25, 26, 54, 57, and 63, District 214 Community Education, Harper College, National-Louis University, and
the Daily Herald Newspaper.

Lucky Boy
was the adult selection for 2017-2018.

For further information, please see flyer below:

suburban-mosaic-2017-june21-page-001

suburban-mosaic-2017-june21-page-002

Read-a-Likes:

Lucky Boy