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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.”

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.

KillersThe All Good Books group will discuss Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann at our next meeting on Thursday, November 15, 2018. As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

The following discussion questions are drawn from the publisher’s site (https://bit.ly/2qzeRVZ):

  1. What do the contemporary media reports on the wealth and lifestyle of the Osage reflect about white perceptions of Native Americans (pp. 6–7; pp. 76–77)? In what way do they lay a foundation for the way the murders and mysterious deaths were treated by law enforcement?
  2. What was your first impression of William Hale (p. 17)? How does Grann bring to life his strengths and appeal, as well as the darker side of his nature? What qualities does he share with people who achieve power and influence today?
  3. How did you respond to the description of law enforcement in America during the 1920s (p. 19)? What elements most shocked or surprised you? What made the situation in Osage County particularly chaotic? What effect did this have on the investigations into the deaths of Anna Brown and Charles Whitehorn?
  4. What does Grann’s account of the relationship between the United States government and Native Americans contribute to your understanding of the country’s history (pp. 37–44)? How did government policies affect individuals like Mollie and her family? What does Grann capture in his description of Lizzie’s death: “Lizzie’s spirit had been claimed by Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, and by Wah’Kon-Tah, the Great Mystery” (p. 36)?
  5. Discuss the circumstances that distinguished the Osage from other Native American tribes, including the actions taken by tribal leaders early in the century; the influx of white settlers and oil prospectors; the granting of headrights; and the guardianship system (pp. 78–80).
  6. What is the significance of the murder of Barney McBride, the oilman who went to Washington to seek help for the Osage (p. 68) and of W.W. Vaughan, the attorney who worked with private detectives investigating the murders (p. 93–4)?
  7. What does Grann’s portrait convey about J. Edgar Hoover (p. 107)? What traits stand out and what do they foretell about Hoover’s future as director of the FBI?
  8. In what ways does Tom White combine the qualities of the Old West and of the modern bureaucratic system Hoover is trying to create? How does this influence the steps he takes in investigating the murders? How do the various views of White, including the stories of his childhood and his work as a Texas Ranger (pp. 137–153), shape your impressions of him? Would you define him as the hero of the book?
  9. How were manufactured evidence, suborned testimony, and false confessions used to divert the FBI investigation? What role did independently hired private eyes and informants play in the search for the truth?
  10. The crimes in Osage County involved many levels of deception and betrayal. In addition to the actual conspirators, who else either directly profited from the crimes or was silently complicit in them? In what ways did accepted mores encourage the corruption that plagued the investigation?
  11. What role did new methods of criminal investigation play in uncovering the guilty parties? In addition to introducing up-to-date forensic science, how did Hoover use the case to transform the Bureau of Investigation and simultaneously enhance his own image?
  12. During Hale’s trial, a member of the Osage tribe said, “It is a question in my mind whether this jury is considering a murder case or not. The question for them to decide is whether a white man killing an Osage is murder—or merely cruelty to animals” (p. 215). Why does this observation resonate beyond the immediate circumstances?
  13. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Killers of the Flower Moon is the marital and familial connections between murderers and their victims. What explains Ernest Burkhart’s actions even as he remained married to and had children with Mollie? How does Grann bring to life the particular horror of crimes committed within a family and a close-knit community?
  14. What does the evidence Grann uncovered when he visited Osage County in 2012 reveal about the lasting legacy of the “Reign of Terror”?
  15. Killers of the Flower Moon combines the fast pace of a true-life murder mystery with the scope and detail of a narrative history. How does Grann integrate these different aspects of the book?
  16. We are familiar with many American crimes and criminals during the early twentieth century from movies, books, and television shows. Why do you think the story of the Osage murders hasn’t received similar attention?
  17. Are there recent examples of racial prejudice and injustice that parallel those described in Killers of the Flower Moon? What has changed about the approach taken by law enforcement? About the attitudes expressed by the white community in the face of racial or religious discrimination? In what ways have things remained the same?

A cast of characters from the book follows. This list is also drawn from the publisher’s website.

Cast of Characters

The Family
Mollie Burkhart, a wealthy Osage woman whose family was targeted

Anna Brown, Mollie’s oldest sister, a divorcee who spent a lot of time in the reservation’s rowdy boomtowns

Lizzie, Mollie’s mother, deeply attached to Osage traditions even as the world around her changed; she suffered a slow, inexplicable death

Rita, Mollie’s sister, and her husband, Bill Smith

Ernest Burkhart, Mollie’s white husband, the father of her three children, and her official financial guardian

Bryan Burkhart, Ernest’s younger brother

William Hale, Ernest’s uncle, a self-made man of great wealth and staggering power; revered by many people as “King of the Osage Hills”

Margie Burkhart, the granddaughter of Mollie and Ernest Burkhart; she shared her father’s memories of the “Reign of Terror” with Grann as well as stories about Mollie’s and Ernest’s lives in later years

The Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover, the twenty-nine-year-old newly appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation; he saw the Osage cases as a way to redeem the bureau’s bad reputation and advance his own career

Tom White, an old-style frontier lawman and former Texas Ranger who was put in charge of the investigation

John Wren, recruited by White, he was then one of the few American Indians (perhaps the only one) in the bureau

Other Characters
Barney McBride, a white oilman who sought help for the Osage

W.W. Vaughan, a lawyer who worked closely with private detectives trying to solve the Osage cases

James and David Shoun, local doctors (and brothers)

Scott Mathis, owner of the Big Hill Trading Company and a close friend of both Mollie Burkhart and William Hale; he managed Lizzie’s and Anna’s financial affairs and administered Anna’s estate

James Bighart, the legendary chief of the Osage who negotiated the prescient treaty with the government to retain mineral rights for the tribe

George Bighart, James’s nephew who gave information to W.W. Vaughan

Henry Roan, briefly married to Mollie when they were young; he borrowed heavily from William Hale and made Hale the beneficiary of his insurance policy

Additional discussion questions are available from the PBS NewsHour/New York Times book club (https://nyti.ms/2zBPMxA) as listed below.

  1. Before starting “Killers of the Flower Moon,” had you ever heard of the Osage murders? If so, how did you learn about them, and what did you know? Do you think this history should be taught in schools?
  2. Grann begins the book with a line describing the flowers spread over the Oklahoma hills where the Osage Indian nation resided — and how those flowers break and die in May. How does this line set the tone for, and introduce the subject of, the rest of the book?
  3. The first character we meet is Mollie Burkhart, whose family becomes a main target of the Osage murders. How does Grann signal to us early on what the murderer may be after?
  4. Grann describes the discovery of oil on Osage land as a “cursed blessing.” How do you think it’s a blessing, and how is it a curse?
  5. How trustworthy do you find the different authorities that appear throughout the book to investigate the murders? Authorities such as William Hale, who Grann initially describes as a “powerful local advocate for law and order,” as well as the frontier lawmen, the brothers who conduct autopsies of the bodies, the local sheriff and, later, the F.B.I.?
  6. As you reach the halfway point of the book, who do you believe is responsible for the killings? Why?
  7. Osage “headrights” — or the money received by members of the tribe, or by white guardians, from mineral royalties — soon become central to the book. Grann writes: “Although some white guardians and administrators tried to act in the best interests of the tribe, countless others used the system to swindle the very people they were ostensibly protecting.” Which sectors of society abused these guardianships? How was this able to happen?
  8. Why do you think the F.B.I. pursued the case of the Osage murders? What did you learn about the birth of the agency?
  9. At this point in your reading, what do you think these murders say about America’s history with Native American people?
  10. As the F.B.I. solved the case, what was the mythology of the bureau that J. Edgar Hoover was trying to create? What parts of the agency’s investigation of the Osage Murders were left out of the story?
  11. Grann begins the third section of the book with the words: “So much is gone now,” including oil fields and boomtowns. But he also writes that the Osage nation has recovered in the decades since the murders, and today is a vibrant nation that’s 20,000 people strong. What do you think Grann wants us to take away from this?
  12. Grann ends the book with a quote from the Bible about Cain and Abel: “The blood cries out from the ground.” Why do you think he chose to close the book this way?
Killers

During last week’s book club meeting we talked about some of the contributors to America’s World War II war effort. Two online sources were mentioned: the first is an article on Vera Davis in the Martin City Telegraph. In it, she discusses her experiences as a “Rosie the Riveter.” The article can be found at https://bit.ly/2PId5MZ

The second online source is an audio recording of Marilyn Gairn’s Father focusing on his prisoner of war experiences. The audio recording can be found at  https://bit.ly/2CsSmZW
The link goes to the Oral history interview with Martin L. Parisot – Collections Search – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I really enjoyed our discussion last evening and look forward to discussing Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann on Thursday, November 15, 2018. As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road) at 7 PM.

All-Girl Filling Stations Last ReunionThe October meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will occur on Thursday, October 18, 2018, at 7 PM. The group will meet in the Church Library and discuss ” The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg. Everyone is invited!

Thanks to the Mount Prospect Public Library for the following discussion questions!

  1. How did you like the book? What about it left a lasting impression on you?
  2. What, if any, were your favorite moments? How about least favorite moments?
  3. After learning she was adopted Sookie said, “I’m an entirely different person than I was, even a few minutes ago. Everything has changed.” Sookie goes from identifying as a Southern Methodist English person to now identifying as Polish and Catholic. Why do people generally try to identify themselves in such short descriptors?
  4. How has how we identify ourselves changed or not changed over the years?
  5. Why was Lenore so obsessed with what side of the family Sookie’s traits came from?
  6. What are Sookie’s similarities to Lenore? Differences?
  7. Is Lenore a realistic character?
  8. Why didn’t Sookie tell Lenore she was adopted?
  9. If you were Sookie, would you have told Lenore you knew you were adopted? Why or why not?
  10. If Sookie never learned about her adoption, would her vision of Lenore ever change?
  11. How did Sookie’s relationship with her kids differ from Sookie’s relationship with her mom?
  12. A lot of this book focuses on how Sookie feels about her mother. How did Sookie feel about her father? How do you feel about her father?
  13. How were the men treated in this book? (Buck, Earle, Sookie’s father)
  14. We don’t really see much of Winks. What was his role in the book? Did you like the letters?
  15. Were you surprised to learn about the WASPs? Why are they not more known in history?
  16. How did the WASP’s storyline impact your reading of Sookie’s storyline?
  17. How did Sookie view Lenore differently by the end of the book?
  18. What, if any, are the similarities between Lenore and Fritzi?
  19. What do you think about the relationship between the psychiatrist and Sookie?
  20. What makes this book Southern?
  21. A lot of people said they didn’t like this book because they disliked the characters. Can you like a book and not like the characters? In what situations is that the case or not the case? Where do you draw the line for yourself?
  22. Were you mad that Fritzi lied about Sookie’s mother’s death? Why did she lie?
  23. Did reading The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion leave you changed in any fashion?
  24. If you had to describe this book in just one word, what would it be?

Questions copyright 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.