After an email poll, the majority of book club members who responded would prefer to wait until the book club can meet in person. So, we’ll not meet on Zoom or in person until at least mid- to late-Summer.

The novels most frequently nominated to add to the schedule are “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah and “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. We’ll discuss those two novels in that order when we resume meeting in person. Happy reading and we look forward to resuming our discussions in-person sometime in 2021.

The All Good Books Group will meet this evening, Thursday, March 18, 2021, at 7:00 PM on Zoom using our usual weblink. We’ll discuss Fredrik Backman’s novel “Anxious People.” We hope you can join us to discuss some of these questions.

  1. The book starts with the narrator talking about “idiots.” Though it’s easy to declare someone an idiot, it’s also true how difficult being a human is. What’s the narrator saying about human nature? When you read the word ‘idiot’ what comes to mind? Do you routinely encounter “idiots?”
  2. At the onset of the story, it’s about a bank robber and a hostage drama. Why does the “bank robber” decide to rob a bank? How experienced is the bank robber? What does the bank robber’s choices say about desperation and how it can limit our vision?
  3. The story is told in a nonlinear fashion with the hostage storyline, multiple events on a bridge and numerous background stories. How are these storylines connected?
  4. How does the story involve Jim and Jack? Who are they? Are they main characters or peripheral to the storyline? How is Nadia involved?
  5. How does the bridge storyline impact Jack’s life and career choices? Nadia’s life choices and career?
  6. We learn about Jim and Jack’s family through the non-linear nature of the novel. How does their family history factor into decisions they make about the bank robber?
  7. How would you react if you were a hostage?
  8. How did the people held hostage react? What do we learn about each character during the hostage situation? What did you learn about grief, fear and loneliness, the inability of couples to communicate and why people react to those forces?
  9. While searching for an apartment are the characters really searching for something else?
  10. How did your perception of the characters change as you read more of the novel? Which character “spoke to you the most?” Why?
  11. At the conclusion of the story, the narrator states, “The truth is that this was a story about many different things, but most of all about idiots. Because we’re doing the best we can, we really are. We’re trying to be grown-up and love each other…. We’re looking for something to cling on to, something to fight for, something to look forward to. We’re doing all we can to teach our children how to swim. We have all of this in common, yet most of us remain strangers, we never know what we do to each other, how your life is affected by mine.” What does that observation mean to you and do you agree?
  12. Would you recommend the novel to your reader friends? How would you classify it? How would you describe it to potential readers?

Thank you to Heather Caliendo whose discussion questions (bookclubchat.com/books/book-club-questions-for-anxious-people-by-fredrik-backman/) inspired many of these questions.

At last evening’s All Good Books group meeting we decided to read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman for our next meeting on Thursday, March 18, 2021, on Zoom at 7 PM.

We talked about some of the books on the recent survey (see the results below, percentages represent the percent of respondents selecting that book) but also discussed books members are currently reading. Here’s the list:

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
  • Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penney (cloak and dagger murder mystery)
  • Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World by Chris Wallace
  • The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands by Jon Billman  (stories of missing persons in America’s wilderness)
  • Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries Series Book 1) by Jacquline Winspear

From the survey results:

  • A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, by Adam Rutherford, 510 pages 37.50%
  • A Good Neighborhood: A Novel, by Therese Anne Fowler, 311 pages 25.00%
  • American Dirt (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Jeanine Cummins, 400 pages 62.50%
  • Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman, 349 pages 12.50%
  • Beach Read, by Emily Henry, 380 pages 12.50%
  • Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel, by Diane Chamblain, 411 pages 25.00%
  • Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam, 253 pages 12.50%
  • The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah, 450 pages, Release date: February 2 87.50%
  • The Last Flight: A Novel, by Julie Clark, 290 pages 12.50%
  • The Lost and Found Bookshop, by Susan Wiggs, 365 pages 50.00%
  • The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, 299 pages 62.50%
  • The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles, 364 pages, Release date: February 9 37.50%
  • The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn, Release date: March 9 25.00%
  • Things I Want My Daughters to Know: A Novel, by Elizabeth Noble, 402 pages 25.00%
  • This Close to Okay, by Leesa Cross-Smith, 321 pages, Release date: February 2

There was also one write-in suggestion: Eli’s Promise by Ronald Balson

Happy reading everyone!

At the suggestion of several members, the All Good Books group will take on a new format beginning this month. While we’ll discuss Kristin Hannah’s novel, “The Great Alone,” we’ll also open the meeting for “book reports” by anyone attending.

If you’ve read a book that you loved or disliked, come prepared to share your comments about the book.  For the foreseeable future, we won’t schedule books to read months in advance, instead, we’ll go month to month based on recommendations by members.

So, if you’ve been reading something you’d like to share with the group, please plan to attend on Zoom at 7:00 PM this Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Zoom link used for all Mission Road Congregation meetings will also be used for the book club.

The All Good Books club will discuss “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The book club currently meets on Zoom.

“The Great Alone is a story of survival; the main characters must survive in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness and survive an abusive and volatile family situation. Ernst, the father, is a deeply flawed man. He prefers the company of survivalist and doomsdayer “Mad Earl” to that of the more optimistic townspeople. Cora, the mother, clings to the memory of the man he was before his time as a Vietnam War POW.

“Thirteen-year-old daughter Leni is caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, and has little choice but to go along, hoping that the move to Alaska will promise a better future.

“Author Hannah paints a vivid and memorable image of a family and a community making a living and surviving out in the wilderness. The small community she depicts is sparse, but vibrant, providing warmth and softening the edges of the harsh Alaskan landscape.”

Start reading now and join us on the 18th to discuss “The Great Alone.

The All Good Books group will meet to discuss “The Overstory” by Richard Powers on Thursday, January 21, 2021, at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

Possible discussion questions for the session are listed below. They are all derived from the PBS New Hour website at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/discussion-questions-for-the-overstory.

  1. Why do you think Richard Powers chose the title “The Overstory”?
  2. What was your experience with trees as a child, and what has it been as an adult? Have trees shaped your life in any meaningful way? Do you have a favorite tree?
  3. Adam initially builds his career on studying the faults in human brains, such as confirmation bias and the conflation of correlation with causality. Meanwhile, Douglas is convinced that humans’ greatest flaw is mistaking agreement for truth. What questions does this book ask about human failings?
  4. What does Powers mean when he describes humans as “trapped in blinkered bodies”?
  5. What do you make of the voices Olivia hears, and her sense of conviction that “the most wondrous products of four billion years of life” need our help?
  6. Which character’s story do you identify with the most, and why?
  7. It is a difficult moment for Douglas when he learns that all of his years of planting trees have only allowed companies to increase its annual allowable cut. How did this book make you think differently, if at all, about clear-cutting? Do you see it happening in your own community?
  8. What are you learning about trees that you didn’t know before? Did some of Patricia’s research surprise you, either about the “giving trees” or the ways dead trees contribute to forests? Did any of it change the way you see trees?
  9. Patricia describes trees and humans as being “at war” over land and water and the atmosphere, and that she can see “which side will lose by winning.” What does she mean by that?
  10. The book is divided into four parts: “Roots,” “Trunk,” “Crown,” and “Seeds.” What is the significance of each section? Were you surprised when the stories began to intertwine?
  11. Our book club just finished reading “We the Corporations,” a book about the ways corporations have gained many of the same rights as individuals. In “The Overstory,” Ray is moved and upset by a legal argument that suggests trees should also share those rights. Do you agree?
  12. Were you surprised by the lengths that Adam, Olivia, Nicholas, Mimi and Douglas went to try to wake people up to the destruction of forests? What did you think of their tactics?
  13. What have you read in the news lately that mirrors the stories in “The Overstory”? How is “The Overstory” playing out in real life in your own community?
  14. What is the significance of the worlds Neelay creates within his game, “Mastery”?
  15. What was your opinion of “direct action” as a means of effective activism before the book? What is your opinion after reading it? Do you think it should play a role in addressing the destruction of our planet?
  16. Toward the end of the book, Dorothy is arrested for her determination to let her yard grow wild. Did this book change how you see your own backyard?
  17. As the book closes, Mimi seems to say that the world as it has been is ending and a new one will begin. Does that ring true to you? How does that make you feel?
  18. Richard Powers writes: “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” Do you agree? Did any part of this story change your mind?

The All Good Books group will meet on Zoom this Thursday evening, November 19, 2020 at 7:00 PM. To discuss “The Lending Library” by Aliza Fogelson.

Possible discussion questions include:

  1. How would you describe “The Lending Library” to a friend and would you recommend the novel?
  2. Have you read any of the books mentioned in “The Lending Library?” Are there any books mentioned that you’d like to read or have read?
  3. Dodie, the main character through whose voice much of the novel is narrated, seems to have numerous “irons in the fire.” What are they? Is she juggling too much or is that a realistic depiction of a young woman her age?
  4. How would you describe the relationship between Dodie, Maddie and Coco?
  5. Describe Maddie’s birthday meal with Dodie. What does it reveal about the two?
  6. Who is Benton and how does he tie in with the plot? Who are Kendra and Geraldine? What role did they play in the novel?
  7. Who are Sullivan and Elizabeth? What was their big disagreement about? What advice would you have given if you were their friend or parent?
  8. Who is Elmira? Does she play a significant role in the novel? She’s re-reading “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” Have you read the book? Is there significance to its mention in the novel?
  9. Bridge to Terabithia” is mentioned in the novel. Why? Have you read the novel? What significance does it hold for the characters in “The Lending Library?”
  10. Who is Shep? What’s his story within the story?
  11. Who’s the most interesting character in the novel?
  12. Did you feel the characters in the novel were privileged, average, relatable, fanciful, realistic or stereotypical?
  13. Are there passages you underlined in the novel or re-read? Were there scenes that stuck with you? Please share.
  14. Describe the three sister’s meeting with “Not Dad.” How did you react to the meeting?
  15. Were you pleased, surprised, anxious or ho hum about the ending? Did you race to the ending or saunter along until you reached it?
  16. What is or has been your personal relationship to books and libraries?

The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, November 19, 2020 to discuss The Lending Library by Aliza Fogelson. The meeting will be held on Zoom and access information shared later.

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 7 PM to discuss Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. The meeting will be held on Zoom. Thank you to all who agreed to this one week postponement!

The first twelve questions that follow are from the end matter in Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. The remaining questions are home-grown, but first here’s a list of prominent characters:

  • Charlie St. Clair, 19-year-old pregnant schoolgirl in 1947, takes on the alias of Mrs. Donald McGowan.
  • Rose Fournier (Charlie’s cousin) 21 years old in 1947, good with numbers, pregnant by her boyfriend Etienne.
  • Tante (aunt) Jeanne, infirm, mother of Rose.
  • Eve Gardiner, stutters, recruited in WWI to spy for England. In 1915 uses the code name Marguerite Le François, came from a troubled home, unfaithful father, spendthrift mother, always arguing.
  • René Bordelon, collaborator and profiteer takes on alias of René du Malassis.
  • Finn Kilgore, Gardiner’s man of all work. In 1947, he’s 29 or 30 years old, drives a Lagonde, an ex-convict.
  • Captain Cameron, in 1915 recruits spies for the Alice Network.
  • Alice (Lili) Dubois, Eve’s contact in the spy network. Her real name is Louise de Bettignies.
  • Violette Lameron, also a spy in the Alice network (appears in both 1917 & 1947 in the novel). Her real name is Léonie van Houtte.

Discussion Questions:

  1. ​Female friendship is a constant theme throughout The Alice Network. Charlie St. Clair and Eve Gardiner begin as antagonists, whereas Eve and Louise de Bettignies (Lili) are friends from the start. How does each friendship grow and change over the course of events?
  2. ​The young Eve introduced in 1915 is very different from the older Eve seen through Charlie’s eyes in 1947. How and when did you see the young Eve begin to change into her older self? What was the catalyst of those changes?
  3. ​Lili tells Eve, “To tell the truth, much of this special work we do is quite boring.” Did the realities of spy work surprise you, compared to the more glamorous version presented by Hollywood? How do you think you would have fared working for the historical Alice Network?
  4. ​René Bordelon is denigrated by his peers as a war profiteer and an informer. He sees himself as a practical businessman, pointing out that he is not to blame for making money off the invaders, or for tragedies like Oradour-sur-Glane that happened on German orders. Did you see him as a villain or an opportunist? Do you think he earned his final fate?
  5. ​Eve loves Captain Cameron and hates René Bordelon—but her relationship with René is longer, darker, and more complex. How is her hatred for him complicated by intimacy? How does his realization of Eve’s true identity change him? How do you think they continued to think and feel about each other during their thirty years’ separation, and how did that affect their eventual climax?
  6. ​Finn Kilgore and Captain Cameron are parallels for each other: both Scotsmen and ex-soldiers with war wounds and prison terms in their pasts, acting as support systems for the women they love who go into danger. How are the two men different as well as alike? How does Finn succeed where Cameron fails?
  7. ​The disappearance of Charlie’s cousin Rose Fournier provides the story’s driving search. Did her eventual fate surprise you? Had you ever heard of Oradour-sur-Glane? How did Rose’s fate change the goal of the search?
  8. ​Everyone in The Alice Network suffers some form of emotional damage from war: Charlie’s depression after losing her marine brother to suicide, Eve’s torture-induced nightmares, Finn’s concentration-camp memories and resulting anger issues, Cameron’s guilt over losing his recruits. How do they each cope with their war wounds? How do they help each other heal? How is PTSD handled in Eve’s day as compared to Charlie’s day—and as compared to now?
  9. ​Charlie dreads the stigma of being a “bad girl” pregnant out of wedlock, and Eve fears shame and dismissal as a horizontale if it is learned she slept with a source for information. Discuss the sexual double standards each woman faced. How have our sexual standards for women changed since 1915 and 1947?
  10. ​Charlie decides to keep her baby, and Eve decides to have an abortion. Why did each woman make the choice she did?
  11. ​Charlie argues that René should be brought to legal justice, and Eve argues for vigilante justice. Who do you think is right? How did it affect the ending? How do you think the outcome will bind Eve and Charlie and Finn in the future, since they cannot share their adventure with anyone else?
  12. ​“There are two kinds of flowers when it comes to women. The kind that sit safe in a beautiful vase, or the kind that survive in any conditions . . . even in evil.” The theme of the fleurs du mal carries from Lili to Eve—how does Eve pass it on to Charlie? When do you see Charlie becoming a fleur du mal in her own right? How has knowing Eve changed Charlie’s life, and vice versa?
  13. Did you look up Edith Piaf and listen to any of her music? If so, have you heard it before.
  14. The novel starts in May 1947 but reverts to May 1915 through March 1916; jumping back and forth between the two time periods. Why, what happens in those time periods? And why is the story told out of chronological order?
  15. What is Charlie St. Cloud’s “Little Problem?”
  16. Why does Charlie take on the alias of Mrs. Donald McGowan? What issues cause this deception? How did you reaction to subsequent references to “Donald?”
  17. After reading “The Alice Network” in times of war, could you be a spy?
  18. Who said, “The army doesn’t want me anymore. I did my part and the war’s over, so now they’ll pin some b-bits of tin on me and tell me to bugger off back to the file room. Well, they can keep their damned tin scraps” and why?
  19. Some characters appear throughout the novel who are based on historical figures, such as Edith Cavell (a nurse) and Léon Trulin (18-year-old). Who are they and why are they important to the novel?
  20. Did you look up “fleur du mal?” What does it mean? Who is described by that phrase in the novel and does it apply?
  21. The poem “Le Mort Joyeux” or “The Joyful Corpse” is mentioned in the novel. Did you look up the verses? What do you think it refers to? Who’s the author?
  22. Did you read the Author’s Notes at end of the novel? Did any of the information stick in your memory? How much of the novel and which of the characters are historically based?
  23. Who would you recommend this 500-page novel to? Who would you not recommend it to?
  24. If you completed the novel, would you have done so if it were not assigned for a book club discussion?

I thought you might find this link and article interesting. See https://www.bookbub.com/blog/best-book-club-books-of-the-decade

Not surprisingly, we’ve read ten of them for our All Good Books book club!

Don’t forget to start reading “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn for our book club meeting on Thursday, October 15, 2020, at 7 PM on Zoom.