Archives for category: Novels

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 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.

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.

Between SistersThe September meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will occur this Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 7:00 PM (the location has changed to Snider’s home due to resurfacing the church parking lot. Contact Jonathan Bacon or John Snider if you need directions). The group will meet and discuss “Between Sisters” by Kristin Hannah. This is the third Kristin Hannah book the group has discussed (“The Nightingale” and “Magic Hour”).

Potential discussion questions (provided by the publisher) are available online at https://kristinhannah.com/books/between-sisters/book-clubs/ and listed below. Keep up to date by following the book club’s blog/website here at allbooksclub.wordpress.com.

We hope you can join us this Thursday.

  1. In the opening scene of the novel, Meghann Dontess is talking to her therapist, but clearly Meghann has little or no interest in really addressing the pain in her past.  Why does she see a psychiatrist?  What does it say about her character that she spends time and money in pursuit of emotional well being, but refuses to actually answer the questions posed by Dr. Bloom?
  2. Meghann and Claire obviously grew up in a very dysfunctional home environment.  Each has in large part fashioned a life based on the lessons learned from their inattentive/unloving mother.  How are the sisters alike in their choices?  How are they different?
  3. Meghann often uses sex to dull the pain of her loneliness.  But sex with strangers generally leaves her feeling more alienated and dissatisfied with her life.  Why is she so afraid of intimacy?  Why does she really have these random encounters with men?
  4. In many ways, Between Sisters is a novel about the disappointments that come with love.   As a hotshot divorce attorney, Meghann is particularly entwined with the daily aftermath of a love gone bad.  She believes she is protecting her heart by steering clear of love, but is she?  Or is she more damaged by her inability to love at all?  In one scene, a client finally says to her, “What happened to you?”   Meghann answers that it requires emotional armor of a sort to do her job.  Is that the truth, though?  How is that question—what happened to you—the centerpiece of the novel?  The question that each character must ultimately face and answer.
  5. Claire is obviously scarred by her mother’s neglect and abandonment.  Why is Claire more able to rebound from these wounds?  Does she blame Meghann for leaving her in the first place or for never really coming back?  Did Meghann make the right decision all those years ago?  Would you have done the same thing in that situation?
  6. Joe and Meghann both claim to be unable to truly feel their own emotions.  Is that true?  Or are they both too able to feel loss?  How are they alike in the way they handle pain?
  7. Meghann is a deeply flawed and wounded character.  Would she agree with this assessment?  If not, why not?  And if her flaws are a product of an unhappy childhood, why is Claire so different?  How much do The bluesers contribute to Claire’s happiness with her own life?  Discuss the pivotal role of female friendship in our lives.  Do you think it becomes even more important as we get older?
  8. At the beginning of the novel, Meghann may be unhappy and aware of that unhappiness, but she is a force to be reckoned with in the legal world.  How does her career as a divorce attorney play into her world view and sustain her fear of intimacy?  It’s clear that as she begins to “break apart,” her ability to practice family law is one of the first things to go.  Why is that?
  9. What is your opinion of Meghann?  She is certainly judgmental and hard headed and critical of people and their emotions.  How much of her cynicism is real?  How much of it is a defense mechanism?  Why is she so afraid of her own emotions?  Do you know anyone like her?
  10. How much of the sisters’  personalities were shaped by their shared and separate past?  Who would Meghann have become if Sam had taken her in and made her a part of his family?  Did she give Sam a chance or was she looking for an excuse to leave?
  11. What drew you to each character?  With which character did you sympathize?  Did your opinions change over the course of the story?
  12. The medical crisis is ultimately the catalyst for change in the novel.   As is often true, terrible times can bring out both the best and the worst in people.  In many ways it can be said that Meghann became her best self during the tragedy with her sister and ultimately even helped to save Claire.  But how did the crisis—and Claire—save Meghann?
  13. Claire’s battle with cancer brings the sisters opposing personalities into sharp focus.  Each must grapple with faith and hope and the possible loss of both.  How does this struggle change each character?  How does the idea of death bring Meghann and Claire closer together?  How does it push them apart?
  14. In Between Sisters there is a deeply symbiotic relationship between the characters and the place in which they live.  Each sister is defined to a great extent by where she lives.  Meghann learns to adapt to, and even love, Claire’s hometown.  Could Claire ever be as happy in Meghann’s world?
  15. How will Claire’s life change with Bobby’s success?
  16. After a lifetime of responsible, rational decisions, Claire falls in love with Bobby in one evening.  Or does she?  Does she really believe in love at first sight?  Do you?
  17. Was Claire right not to tell Bobby about her illness?  Did you understand her decision?  About this choice to protect her husband, Claire says to her father, “You can sacrifice for them.  Isn’t that what love is?”  What does this scene tell you about Claire’s idea of love?
  18. What is Mama really like?  When she sees Claire in the hospital, Mama’s accent disappears and she won’t let Meghann touch her.  What do these little choices reveal about Mama?  Do you believe she loved her daughters?  Was she capable of love?  And how did their mother’s view of love shape the girls sense of worth?
  19. Joe is carrying a heavy burden and has been for several years.  The death of his wife—and his part in it—has eroded a part of his soul.  Do you think Claire is right when she says, “She shouldn’t have asked it of you?” If Diana truly loved Joe, would she have asked such a thing of him, knowing the cost?  And should Joe have done it?  Do you consider euthanasia an act of mercy or murder?
  20. Were you surprised by the ending of the novel?  Was it organic to the story, or did you feel it was too easy?  What would have happened to Meghann and Joe and Ali if Claire had been less fortunate?

 

Between SistersNext meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will occur on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 7 PM. The group will meet in the Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) Church Library and discuss “Between Sisters” by Kristin Hannah. You can keep up to date on club activities by following the book club’s blog/website here (allbooksclub.wordpress.com).

Discussion Questions will be posted soon.

kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.inddThe All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library to discuss Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly (Random House Publishing Group). The church is located at 7842 Mission Road in Prairie Village, Kansas.

The following 15 discussion questions are suggested by the publisher, plus we’ve added a few more at the end of the list.

  1. In what ways do you think the alternating points of view help to enrich the narrative? Was there ever a time you when you wished there was only one narrator? Why or why not?
  2. The primary settings of this novel are starkly different—Caroline’s glamorous New York world of benefits and cultural events, and the bleak reality of life in a concentration camp. In what ways did the contrast between these two settings affect your reading experience?
  3. Caroline’s relationship with Paul is complicated, taboo even. Was there ever a time when you didn’t agree with a choice Caroline makes with regards to Paul? When and why?
  4. As Caroline becomes more and more invested in her work with the French Families Fund, and eventually with the Rabbits, did you feel that she changes in any way? If so, how were those changes apparent through her interactions with others?
  5. Throughout their time in Ravensbrück, Kasia and the other prisoners find subtle, and not so subtle, ways to demonstrate their resistance. Discuss the variety of actions they take. Which of them did you find to be most powerful? Most moving? Most effective?
  6. When Kasia learns that they were hunting Rabbits, she thinks, “Just don’t feel anything. If you are to live, you cannot feel.” Do you agree with this statement? What do you think it says about the nature of survival? Is it relevant to any other characters in the book, not just the prisoners?
  7. Did you find Herta to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
  8. When Vilmer Hartman comes to visit Ravensbrück, he shows concern for Herta’s mental state. What do you think this reveals about her character? Had you previously thought about any of the points he makes?
  9. Though the Nazis made sure the German people only got their news from one media point of view, Herta’s father continues to read as many newspapers as he can. How does this relate to media usage today?
  10. Did you feel that Halina’s ring is an important symbol in the book? How does Herta feel about the ring? Why does she keep it?
  11. Throughout the novel, in and out of Ravensbrück, the characters experience harrowing, difficult situations. Is there one that you found more memorable than the others? Why do you think the author chose to include it?
  12. If you had to come up with a single message or lesson to represent each of the main characters’ experiences—Caroline’s, Kasia’s, and Herta’s—what would it be and why?
  13. Many of the themes explored in Lilac Girls—human rights, political resistance, survival—are a direct result of the historical World War II setting. How are those themes relevant to current events today?
  14. Lilac Girls also touches on a number of interpersonal themes, including female friendship, mother-daughter relationships, love, infidelity, mental health, and more. How do these themes impact the characters’ lives?
  15. What do you think the author hoped her readers would take away from this reading experience?
  16. What event in the novel affected you the most? Why?
  17. Parts of the novel are very difficult to read because of the events that demonstrate the inhumanity and abusiveness of the Nazis. Why did you keep reading?
  18. How do Kasia and Zuzanna (the sisters) change from the beginning of the novel to the end? Do their personalities and their relationships to each other change?
  19. There are several sayings interspersed throughout the novel. Some are quotes and others are aphorisms. Did you underline or remember any specific ones?
  20. An Automat is mentioned several times in the novel. What is it? Did you have to look it up? Are there parallels between the Automat and today’s restaurants?
  21. Why do you think the novel is called “Lilac Girls?”