The All Good Books group will meet this Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 7 PM to discuss Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. We’ll meet in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). All are invited.

The following discussion questions are from the publisher’s website. If you haven’t finished the novel, beware: some spoilers follow.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. At the beginning of the novel, Madeline is enraged over Ziggy not being invited to Amabella’s birthday party. Why do you think Madeline becomes so angry about such a seemingly small injustice? Do you think Madeline is the kind of person who just looks for a fight, or do you think she was justified in feeling so upset? And do you think that by tackling both ends of the spectrum —from schoolyard bullying and parents behaving badly in the playground  to displays of domestic violence in all its incarnations—that the author is trying to say something about the bullying that happens out in the open every day?
  2. There is a lot of discussion about women and their looks.  On the beach Jane’s mom shows that she has rather poor body image.  Jane observes that women over 40 are constantly talking about their age.  And Madeline says, “She didn’t want to admit, even to herself, just how much the aging of her face really did genuinely depress her. She wanted to be above such superficial concerns. She wanted to be depressed about the state of the world….” [p. 82] Do you think this obsession with looks is specific to women, particularly women of a certain age?   Why or why not?
  3. There are a lot of scenes in which the characters say they wish they could be violent: Jane says she wants to throw Ziggy into the wall when he has a tirade in the bathtub, that she would hit Renata if she was in front of her, and then she stops just short of kicking Harper.  Do you think the author is trying to show the reader Perry’s side and have us sympathize with him? Or, rather, that feeling violent is a natural impulse but one that people learn to suppress?
  4. When Ziggy has to do his family tree, Madeline comments, “Why try to slot fractured families into neat little boxes in this day and age?” [p. 184] A lot of Madeline’s storyline is about the complications that arise from the merging of new modern families. What kind of problems exist among families and extended families now that didn’t when you were a child?
  5. When Jane recounts what happened the night she got pregnant, she focuses on what the man said rather than on what he did.  Why does Jane feel more violated by two words – fat and ugly—than by the actual assault?   Jane seems to think the answer is “Because we live in a beauty-obsessed society where the most important thing a woman can do is make herself attractive to men.” [p. 196] Do you agree?
  6. The power of secrets is a theme throughout the novel. Jane remembers, “She hadn’t told anyone. She’d swallowed it whole and pretended it meant nothing, and therefore it had come to mean everything.” [p. 220] Do you think this is a universal truth, that the more you keep something secret, the more power it takes on?
  7. Gwen, the babysitter, seems to be the only one to suspect what is going on with Celeste and Perry.  Celeste then realizes she’s never heard Gwen talk about a husband or a partner. Do you think the author intended to intimate that perhaps Gwen had had an abusive husband or partner and that she left him?  And in light of what happens at the end with Bonnie, do you think it’s only people who have personally experienced abuse who pick up on the signs?
  8. At one point Jane thinks she and Ziggy will have to leave Pirriwee because “rich, beautiful people weren’t asked to leave anywhere.” [p. 362] Do you think different rules apply to rich people? Do you think being rich allowed Perry to get away with things longer than would have been likely if he hadn’t had money?
  9. Bonnie says, “We see. We f**king see!” [p. 421] Were you surprised to learn about Bonnie’s history?  Were you surprised to discover that all along Max had been seeing what Perry was doing to Celeste?
  10. What did you make of the interview snippets to the reporter? Do you think the author used them almost like a Greek chorus to make a point?
  11. Madeline muses, “Maybe it was actually an unspoken instant agreement between four women on the balcony: No woman should pay for the accidental death of that particular man.  Maybe it was an involuntary, atavistic response to thousands of years of violence against women.  Maybe it was for every rape, every brutal backhanded slap, every other Perry that had come before this one.” [p. 430] And then Madeline thinks, “ Sometimes doing the wrong thing was also right.” Do you agree with this statement?  Do you agree with what the women decided to do?  Do you think there’s a stronger bond between women than there is between men?  Were you surprised that women who ostensibly didn’t like one another—Madeline and Bonnie, Madeline and Renata—ended up coming together to help one another out?
  12.  At one point in the book, Susi says that, in Australia, one woman dies every week because of domestic violence.  In the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.  Every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten.  Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than that caused by car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.  Are you surprised by these statistics? Why or why not?  Clearly, the author chose Celeste—the picture-perfect mom and/ wife as well as an educated lawyer—to be the victim of domestic violence in order to make a point.  Do you think it’s plausible that someone like her would fall victim to abuse such as this? 
  13. Madeline comments that “there were so many levels of evil in the world.” [p. 433] Discuss the implications of this statement in light of the novel and the novel’s different storylines.
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The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ – Mission Road Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty.

Discussion questions for the novel will be posted here soon.

The schedule of upcoming books for discussion is always available at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com/meeting-dates-books/.

This will be the 198th book the All Good Books group has discussed since October 1999!

The All Good Books discussion group will discuss Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World, This Thursday, March 21, 2019 at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). The meeting begins at 7 PM in the Church Library.

The following are some possible discussion questions for the group.

  1. Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?
  2. Name an incident in the book that added to your knowledge of history.
  3. Do you agree with the assertion made by the book’s title? Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World?
  4. How would you describe the book? As a roller coaster ride, a slow-moving train, a haunted house, a nighttime journey through a corn maze with only a flashlight, or a long but interesting Sunday morning sermon?
  5. Did the book change your opinion of Joe Kennedy? Of Rose Kennedy? Or change your opinion of the Kennedy brothers (Jack, Bobby and Ted)?
  6. Do you think the book does a service or disservice to the Kennedy family? Explain.
  7. Is the Kennedy mystic enhanced by Eileen McNamara‘s book or eroded by it? Why?
  8. On page 187, the author explains Cloward and Ohlin’s “opportunity theory” of juvenile delinquency. It holds that “social conditions, more than individual pathology, triggered delinquent behavior.” The author continues, “For Eunice, it was the deprivation in which they lived, the dysfunction with which they were surrounded, the economic and educational opportunities they were denied that bore the greater responsibility for their crimes.” Do you agree or disagree?
  9. What are your thoughts about the relationship between Eunice and her husband Sargent Shriver? How would you describe their marriage?
  10. Would you want Eunice Shriver as your mother? Would you want Rose Kennedy as your mother?
  11. The Kennedys operated on a “culture of silence.” Explain what that means. Does your family have a culture of silence? What are the benefits or disadvantages?
  12. Would you have been willing to work for Eunice Shriver? Consider the quote from page 275: “Working for Eunice meant always being on call. In an era before cell phones, Steven M. Eidelman, who did two tours as executive director of the Kennedy Foundation, bought an exercise bicycle after she complained she could not reach him when he was out jogging. Erika Hagensen, who filled the post during Steve’s interregnum, stopped taking meetings outside the office, inviting people from the Hill or federal agencies to share a brown bag lunch at her desk, so Eunice could always find her. Renee Dease, who worked for her for almost thirty years, kept her Saturday nights free in case Eunice needed her to pass hors d’oeuvres at a party.”
  13. What did Eunice mean by “Get on to yourself?”
  14. What’s your view of the Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister’s statement that, “…I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

If you’re interested in a summary or review of some topics from Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World, check out the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&reload=9&v=YcEricS_Wus
The video features Eileen McNamara, the author of Eunice, from an April 2018 interview on stage at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Remember, we’re meeting at 7 PM on Thursday, March 21, 2019, at the Community of Christ church at 7843 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS to discuss Eunice.

I earlier listed the meeting erroneously as March 17, which is not a Thursday! Sorry.

The All Good Books group will not meet in February but will resume meeting in March. We’ll discuss Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara at the next meeting on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).

Discussion questions for the biography will be posted on this site in February.

The schedule of upcoming books for discussion is always available at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com/meeting-dates-books/.

The All Good Books group will discuss With Love, Wherever You Are
by Dandi Daley Mackall at our next meeting on Thursday, January 17, 2019.

As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

Here are some discussion questions that appear in the back of the book as published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Discussion Questions

  1. A pivotal experience in her childhood made Helen resolve she’d grow up to be a nurse, while Frank followed his father’s footsteps into medicine. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What experiences or family influences shaped your vocation?
  2. When do you think Frank actually fell in love with Helen? When did Helen admit that she’d fallen in love with Frank?
  3. Faced with the prospect of being separated by the war, Frank and Helen made a swift decision to marry. Would you have been among the friends who cheered them on or those who asked if they’d lost their minds? Why?
  4. Both before and after their wedding, Helen and Frank had moments of doubt about their marriage, especially about how well they truly knew each other. What things would you list as essential to know about another person before marrying? What kinds of things can be learned over time?
  5. Having only letters to connect them for weeks and even months left Helen and Frank vulnerable to misunderstandings. Once, as she endured long days with no word from Frank, Helen filled in her own assumptions about what he was thinking and feeling, only to learn that he hadn’t received her letters at all. In Helen’s place, would you have jumped to the same conclusions? Can you think of a time when you constructed your own story about another person during a gap in communication? How much of what you believed was the truth?
  6. Frank showed his jealousy a couple of times, most notably over Colonel Pugh and the trip to Paris. Helen also admitted her jealousy over Nurse Becky and Marie, the young French patient in Marseille. How did they handle moments of jealousy? Have you ever been jealous—of a spouse, a friend, a family member? How did you handle it?
  7. What characteristics would you say are necessary for an enduring marriage? Which of these did you see Frank and Helen exhibiting, or learning, throughout the story? Where did they still need to grow?
  8. Faced with the prospects of battles and bombings, Frank wondered, “What was it that made one man buck up, another act heroically, and another give in to terror?” How would you answer his question?
  9. Frank came to find comfort and courage from a verse of Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” How do you respond to fear?
  10. Frank was quick to tell others that Dotty and Jack were the heroes in his family—not him. Why do you think he was reluctant to take on a “hero” label? How would you define a hero, and who has been one in your life?
  11. For much of the story, Helen lived by the motto “God helps those who help themselves.” But when she’s forced to acknowledge how much is out of her control, Naomi advises her that a better motto might be “God helps most when you admit you can’t do it on your own.” Which motto do you believe and live by?
  12. This novel is fiction, but based on the experiences and letters of the real-life Frank and Helen Daley. How much do you know about your parents’ or grandparents’ histories? Can you think of any family stories that would make good fiction? If you were to write those stories, where might you have to use your imagination to fill in gaps or flesh out the details?
  13. In her note to readers, the author makes a distinction between some true and invented pieces of this story—for example, Dotty’s story adheres to the facts, but in real life, Bill Chitwood wasn’t blinded, and Major Bradford didn’t exist. As a reader, did it matter to you to learn that some of the characters were invented or their stories changed? Why or why not?
  14. During World War II, Japanese and German citizens living in the US fell under cruel suspicion, and overseas, Helen faces some of the same prejudice because of her ability to speak to wounded German soldiers. In her place, how would you have responded to such suspicion? Would you have had difficulty caring for enemy soldiers?
  15. Helen and Frank were part of what’s been called “the Greatest Generation.” What qualities have earned them this title? What names have you heard for your generation? Do you think the perception of your generation is justified?
  16. Helen and Frank wrote to each other as many as three times a day, but slow and waylaid mail often meant long gaps in communication. Censorship made it hard to freely say all they might have wanted to. How different might their story have been if they’d had access to today’s instant communication? What difficulties due to their separation would have remained the same? With our new technology and the ability to stay in touch virtually all over the globe, do you think we’ve lost anything?

The All Good Books group will discuss With Love, Wherever You Are
by Dandi Daley Mackall at our next meeting on Thursday, January 17, 2019. No meeting is planned for December 2018.

Description: Everyone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.

As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

Discussion questions will be posted in December.