The All Good Books group will meet online using Zoom tomorrow, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at 7 PM. Information on how to access Zoom will be sent separately.  The following are questions that we can use to generate discussion if necessary. I look forward to chatting with you on Zoom tomorrow evening!

  1. How would you describe each of the main characters? Alice Van Cleve, Bennett Van Cleve, Geoffrey Van Cleve, Annie, Isabelle Brady, Mrs. Brady, Sven Gustavsson, Frank O’Hare, Margery O’Hare, Sophia, William, Beth Pinker, Kathleen Bligh.
  2. On the first day with Isabelle (Izzy on the circuit, Alice thinks, “Perhaps it would be easier if the girl weren’t so sullen: her mood seemed to cast a pall over the morning, and even the glorious sunshine and soft breeze couldn’t alleviate it.” Have you ever known someone whose attitude darkens the whole day? How do you handle that?” See page 53.
  3. On page 58, Margery looks at Alice and says, “This is what people don’t see, wrapped up in their cities, with the noise and the smoke, and their tiny boxes for houses. Up there you can breathe. You can’t hear the town talking and talking. No eyes on you, ’cept God’s. It’s just you and the trees and the birds and the river and the sky and freedom….Out there, it’s good for the soul.” If you’re a city dweller, how do you respond to nature? If you live in a rural area, is your view different or the same as Margery’s?
  4. What’s your reaction to the descriptive passages in the novel, such as on page 63 where the author writes, “As they rode, Margery talked to Alice of milkweed and goldenrod, pointing out Jack-in-the-pulpit and the tiny fragile flowers of touch-me-nots, so that once where Alice had just seen a sea of green, she had pulled back a veil to reveal a whole new dimension.” Too much, too little, just enough description? Does it add to the novel or interfere with the plot line?
  5. How would you respond to the Louisa May Alcott’s quote on page 65 that “…marriage, they say, halves one’s rights and doubles one’s duties.”
  6. Why is Margery resistant to marrying Sven? See page 66.
  7. On page 68, sundowners are labeled as such because “They’re good old boys in daylight hours, but come nightfall when they get to drinking, they’re basically a pair of fists looking for a target.” Do we have sundowners today?
  8. “Mountain people, Margery had instructed her, were proud. Many of them didn’t feel comfortable receiving without giving something back. (page 74). Are city folks like that too?
  9. On page 82 Margery thought, “A certain kind of man looked at God’s own land, she thought, as she drew closer, and instead of beauty and wonder, all he saw was dollar signs.” Any such examples today?
  10. The quote from the Farm Journal (page 91 of the novel) states” My mother didn’t hold with twenty-four-hour-old pies, except mince. She would get up an hour earlier in order to bake a pie before breakfast but she would not bake any kind of custard or fruit pie, even pumpkin, the day before it was to be used, and if she had my father wouldn’t have eaten it.” Is that typical of “fathers” when you were growing up? How about now?
  11. Page 91 refers to a “raconteur.” What is a raconteur? Ever known one?
  12. Why isn’t Alice getting pregnant? What’s your theory? See pages 93-95.
  13. The mine conditions are described on page 116. Were you aware of the depression era mine conditions? Why did miners keep working in such a dangerous environment?
  14. The author describes hog-slaughtering time (page 120). What was your reaction to that mining town event?
  15. Why would Sophia say, “I’m not crazy about places where there are crowds” (on page 123).
  16. Sophia states (page 125) “Life is complicated. Which is why finding a little joy where you can is important.” Do you agree?
  17. Why do you think the author started chapter 8 (page 137) with the Steinbeck quote? “Out of a thousand centuries they drew the ancient admiration…that a man on a horse is spiritually as well as physically bigger than a man on foot.”
  18. Henry Porteus states (page 138) regarding the library, “There are reports of wives no longer keeping house because they are too busy reading fancy magazines or cheap romances. There are children picking up disruptive ideas from comic books. We’re struggling to control what influences are coming into our homes.” Why has each generation had proponents of book censorship? Do you believe a library should restrict the materials it offers to patrons?
  19. What does the dispute over hiring Sophia in the Library and subsequent town meeting say about the role of women and people of color in the novel? See pages 137-143.
  20. Are there differences between funeral practices in the depression era mining community described (pages 143-146) and how funerals or wakes occur in today’s society? Have such practices changed over your lifetime?
  21. Why was Margery so scared that she started carrying a Colt .45 pistol (page 169)?
  22. On page 173 considers the life of Mrs. Van Cleve; “Every day Alice was reminded of a life that had been almost solely focused on the inside of these walls, on tiny, meaningless tasks, tasks Alice felt increasingly strongly that no adult woman should view as the sum total of her day’s activities: dolls, embroidery, the dusting and precise rearranging of totems that no man noticed anyway. Until she had gone, after which they had become a shrine to a woman they now insisted they idolized.” Is there anything wrong with a life dedicated to four walls and a family?
  23. How did you react to Alice’s mother’s letter stating she was not welcome to return home? Why did she react that way? Would there ever be a case where you would not let a family member return home? Why? Do you think Alice should have had the opportunity to return home?
  24. On page 187, Margery tells Alice “There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet. But you are never trapped, Alice. You hear me? There is always a way around.” Do you agree? Explain. Did Margery follow her own advice?
  25. On page 197, Margery says, “You know the worst thing about a man hitting you?” “Ain’t the hurt. It’s that in that instant you realize the truth of what it is to be a woman. That it don’t matter how smart you are, how much better at arguing, how much better than them, period. It’s when you realize they can always just shut you up with a fist. Just like that.” How does that describe women’s rights today?
  26. Who was Selena to Fred (page 201)? What did she do?
  27. When Mr. Van Cleeve’s sends a message to Alice with $50 he says, “This was always a fruitful measure with my dear late Dolores and I trust you will view it equally favorably. We can all let bygones be bygones.” What was your reaction?
  28. What does the novel say about rumors (page 214)?
  29. On page 219, Pastor Macintosh comes to persuade Alice to return home. Why does she say, “I do so enjoy our Bible studies!” What did you think of the Pastor’s arguments?
  30. The author states (page 228), “Alice had discovered how, for a woman at least, it was much easier to feel anger on behalf of someone you cared about, to access that cold burn, to want to make someone suffer if they had hurt someone you loved.” What makes it easier for Alice to fight for someone she loves than for herself?
  31. On page 240, the author describes the mood of Alice and Fred as, “Time flew, and each ended the night full and happy, with the rare glow that comes from knowing your very being has been understood by somebody else, and that there might just be someone out there who will only ever see the best in you.” Have you ever experienced that sentiment?
  32. What’s the significance of the Faulkner quote from As I Lay Dying, on page 243? What does the following quote foreshadow? “That’s the one trouble with this country: everything, weather, all, hangs on too long. Like our rivers, our land: opaque, slow, violent; shaping and creating the life of man in its implacable and brooding image.”
  33. On page 270, the end of Mrs. Brady’s disagreement with her husband concludes with this thought; “deflated a little in victory, [she] felt a sudden tenderness for her husband and, after a moment, reached out a conciliatory hand. And it was like this, as the light broke, that the maid found them an hour and a half later, still fully dressed, and snoring on the huge mahogany bed, their hands entwined between them.” There’s a saying that you should never go to bed angry (with a spouse or partner), do you believe that? Do you practice it?
  34. The quote from The Women Was Too Tough by Virginia Culin Roberts states (page 283), “Men expected women to be calm, collected, cooperative, and chaste. Eccentric conduct was frowned upon, and any female who got too far out of line could be in serious trouble.” Do you believe that quote reflects what men in the 1930s thought about women? What about today?
  35. Fred called Alice out of the cabin to view a field of fireflies. What’s so special about fireflies? See page 308.
  36. How did you react to Margery’s request that Sven take Virginia and never return to Baileyville (page 328)? Would you have taken that action?
  37. Any reaction to the clerk’s announcement that “Women…would be allowed to leave [the courthouse] several minutes before the men at lunchtime and at the end of the day in order to prepare meals?
  38. Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
  39. Would you recommend the novel to someone else? Any stipulations on who you would recommend it to and who not?
  40. How would you summarize the important issues, if any, raised by the novel?

The All Good Books discussion group will meet online today, April 16, 2020, using Zoom at 7 PM. We’ll discuss Elizabeth Berg’s novel, The Confession Club.

Some potential discussion questions covering the first portion of the book follow (sorry, I didn’t find any discussion questions posted online and ran out of time to complete questions for the remainder of the novel).

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you compare “The Confession Club” with the other two Mason, Missouri novels by Elizabeth Berg (“The Story of Arthur Truluv” and “Night of Miracles”)?
  2. Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
  3. Which confession from the novel was the most significant?
  4. Why did John leave Chicago?
  5. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be homeless? What are your thoughts?
  6. Iris driving back from getting “black cake” recipe supplies thinks, “All hope is in the early morning.” What does that mean to you?
  7. Explain why you think Joanie, a librarian, defaces a book she’s reading? She says, “you all know how I used to feel about people defacing books, but listen: It made it my book. It was me being me. I beat the hell out of that book, and it’s now the one that I love the best.”
  8. In her confession, Joanie quotes Samuel Pepys, “Saw a wedding in the church. It was strange to see what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition.” What does that mean to you? Why does Joanie quote it?
  9. When first introduced to the Confession Club, Joanie says, “Talking about things you’re ashamed of is nothing to be ashamed of.” To which Maddy replies, “…anyway, isn’t listening to things like that what good friends do for one another all the time?” Do you agree? Do you have friends you can tell anything to?
  10. What does “kissing the glass” mean and would you do it?
  11. “The things people throw away! Iris thinks. She’d like to go to the dump, too. She does have an eye for what’s worth salvaging, or her consignment store never would have done so well. She can spin the word vintage with the best of them. And she has always had a great deal of appreciation for the odd adventure.” Do you enjoy salvaging at flea markets, antique shops and consignment shops? What’s something you found that you were really excited about?
  12. Growing up we’re you taught that “Girls didn’t go after boys. Girls waited”? What does it mean and was that true when you were dating? Is it true now?
  13. Iris has “heard often enough that one should not give money to the homeless, that one should instead direct them to a shelter where they might get help. But a woman she worked with who routinely gave money to people on the street said something else. ‘Isn’t it hard enough for them to even ask?’ she said. ‘Do I really need to tell them what to do with their lives when I know absolutely nothing about them? I just feel an obligation to try to help in some way. What else can I do to help someone?’” Do you agree? Have you given money or meals to the homeless or referred them to shelters? Which do you think is best?
  14. In the novel, is a statement that “If there was anything Maddy learned after Arthur and Lucille took her in as a pregnant teenager, it was that families don’t have to be biological. She finds it hard to let go of the notion that you should matter to your father, though.” How did you react to that statement?
  15. In a conversation with Maddy, Iris says, “I’ve learned that blaming doesn’t get you far. Self-reflection helps. Trying to change helps, too. But it’s hard, Maddy, I’ll give you that. It’s hard, but I think it’s worth it to try. Sometimes little successes here and there can all of a sudden…I don’t know…consolidate, I guess, and you see that you really are a different person.” What were the circumstances of the conversation? Do your life experiences suggest that Iris is correct?
  16. In the novel, Maddy expresses concern that “if she spends too long with people, she will be found out.” What do you think she means and why does she have that fear?
  17. Iris envies Nola for “her default setting of goodwill toward man, beast, or weather.” Why does that approach to life seem so easy for children and so difficult as we age?
  18. Maddy reflects at one point on a conversation with Arthur while fishing about why people care what other people think. Arthur calls it a design flaw. What do you think?
  19. After a time of self-doubt, Maddy thinks “You can’t ask your children to save you. But they do it anyway.” Do you agree? How do our children save us?
  20. Why does John think that falling in love with Iris is bad news?
  21. Gretchen says “We’re all mean to our mothers. It’s a daughter’s duty.” Is that true? Why?
  22. Dodie suggests to Gretchen that she divorce her sons. Why and have you ever “divorce” someone mentally?
  23. Ollie cautions John about going back to someone he’s hurt in the past to make amends. She says, “I had a good friend practically fall apart when her husband came back to see her to make ‘amends.’ There she was all fine in a new relationship, and here he comes, waltzing back into her life, looking real good, all cleaned up, and it just threw her for a loop….He comes in and says, ‘I’m sorry,’ and that makes him feel all good about himself and then he leaves again….” What do you think about someone reentering someone’s life just to clear their conscience?
  24. How would you react if a close friend asked you to assist with his/her suicide? Would their age or health or pain level alter your response?
  25. What was your reaction to the novel’s ending? Expected? Was it a surprise? Were you disappointed? Or pleased?
  26. Which of the following best describes the novel? A roller coaster ride? A gentle float trip down a calm river? Walking through a corn maze? A Sunday afternoon drive down a known road? Running through a mine field with no mine detector?
  27. Would you recommend the book to a friend? If so, why or why not?

The next All Good Books discussion group meeting will be held online using Zoom. We’ll meet online at 7:00 PM on Thursday, April 16, 2020.

This page will be updated as we get closer.

The All Good Books discussion group will meet this Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). We’ll discuss Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

The following are some discussion questions drawn from Book Club Babble (except the last two) at that we can use to kick-start the discussion. We hope to see you all on Thursday!

  1. Can you picture yourself being friends with Eleanor?
  2. Without any female friends or relatives to relate to, where does Eleanor derive her concept of what it means to be a woman?
  3. This story begs the question of nature versus nurture. Obviously, Eleanor wasn’t brought up in a loving, thoughtful environment that gave her tools on how to deal with the world. But is there any evidence that she might still have been socially awkward even had she been born to “normal” parents?
  4. The men and women at Eleanor’s workplace don’t make an effort to be compassionate and understanding of her. In fact, the way they act towards her is reminiscent of immature middle-schoolers. Why don’t some people have a better acceptance of those who stand out because they are different?
  5. When Eleanor talks to her mother once a week despite the past and present emotional abuse her mother inflicts on her do you wonder why she continues to do so?
  6. Do you think Eleanor needs to make peace with her past or forget about it to move on?
  7. What are the first signs that Eleanor is starting to see life from a hopeful perspective?
  8. Eleanor has no social reference from which to interact with others. Yet, she suddenly decides she can have a meaningful personal encounter with a rockstar. How does her chosen “project” change the direction of her life?
  9. When Raymond shows an interest in Eleanor do you find yourself rooting for him? Why? What is interesting about their interaction?
  10. What are some other pivotal experiences that cause Eleanor to grow?
  11. Does the surprise twist at the end change your opinion of Eleanor and her perceived state of mental health or lack of it throughout the book?
  12. Did “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” leave you feeling uplifted and hopeful or concerned and doubtful?
  13. Have you ever known anyone like Eleanor? How did you relate to them?
  14. Would you recommend the book to your friends? Why or why not?

Because I have no voice, I’m canceling Thursday evening’s All Good Books Club meeting. We’ll shift all the novels for discussion one-month later.
That means we’ll discuss “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at 7 PM in the Church Library (Community of Christ, Mission Road Congregation).

My apologies for this postponement. I’ll try not to ever get sick again! 🙂
If you know anyone who attends and doesn’t use Facebook or get email from the book club, please alert them to the cancellation.

On Thursday, January 9, 2020, the All Good Books group will discuss Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Notice the meeting date is one week earlier than our normal third Thursday meeting date.

The group meets at the Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) in Church Library starting at 7 PM. Everyone is welcome.

Note: The book club does not meet in December.

The following discussion questions are drawn from (see

1. Tara Westover’s memoir recounts her life as the daughter of Mormon survivalist parents who leaves rural Idaho to pursue an education. What do you think she’s referring to with the title Educated? And what statement do you think the book makes on education at large?

2. Westover’s quest for an education is a dramatic rebellion by her father’s standards. How does her rebellion differ from that of her older brother Tyler, if at all?

3. Do you think being the youngest child in the family impacted Westover ultimately leaving her family? Would it have made a difference if she’d been the oldest child?

4. Why is it significant that Westover didn’t know the word “holocaust” and had no knowledge of race issues in the United States?

5. Which family member had the biggest influence on Westover’s quest for a different life? Which non-family members were influential on her life?

6. Westover’s life changes dramatically thanks to an encouraging professor at Brigham Young University. How might her life be different if she hadn’t applied for the study abroad program at Cambridge University?

7. Westover eventually finds her voice and realizes it’s just as powerful as the people who have influenced her life. What is voice, and how important is it that every child be encouraged to find their own?

8. What impact does Westover’s pursuit of formal education have on her parents and family?

9. How does education change Westover’s view of her childhood? How does she come to terms with how she was raised once she knows the value of education?

10. Westover makes great efforts to ensure the story is as objective as possible, including footnotes where accounts of an event differ, or comparing her diary entries to her memory. As a reader, how important is objectivity in this story, and more largely, in memoirs in general?

11. At 30, Westover is still relatively close in age to the events that occur in this book. How do you think the memoir would be different were it written when Tara was significantly older and more distanced from this time in her life? In what ways would it alter your interpretation of these experiences?

RESCHEDULED: The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 7 PM to discuss “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. The book club will meet in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Mission, Kansas). All are invited to attend.

Discussion questions for the novel are available at

The Thursday, September 19, 2019 All Good Books group meeting will discuss “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. We’ll meet at 7 pm in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas).

Some possible discussion questions on the novel follow:

  1. Would you recommend “Where the Crawdads Sing” to a fellow reader? Why and how would you describe it (romance, coming of age, murder mystery)?
  2. On the first page of the novel, the narrator states, “A swamp knows all about death, and doesn’t necessarily define it as tragedy, certainly not a sin.” What’s the general and specific meaning of that passage?
  3. What was Kya’s greatest concern and handicap? Why?
  4. Early in the reading of the novel, did you consider the death of one of the characters an accident or murder? If the latter, who did you initially suspect was the murderer? Did your prime suspect change as you read the novel?
  5. Why was it important for the narrator to tell the reader Kya’s history (childhood) as well as the history of the marsh people?
  6. In what ways was Tate, Kya’s hero? Her betrayer?
  7. Tate’s dad, Scupper, told him that “the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.” Do you agree? How would you add or subtract from that definition?
  8. Why was Pa abusive to his wife and children? What event in his life did the narrator suggest contributed to his violent anger? What’s your reaction to Pa’s response to the event?
  9. As Kya learns to read, she encounters a sentence that reads “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” Her response to the sentence is spoken in a whisper, “I wadn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” What does she mean and what meaning do you think she found in the sentence?
  10. Describe the relationship between Kya and Chase? What was Chase’s motivation to be with Kya? Why did he always wear the shell necklace around his neck?
  11. Amanda Hamilton’s poetry is sprinkled throughout the novel. What was significant about Hamilton’s poetry?
  12. The final Hamilton poem in the novel is “The Firefly.” What is it’s significance?
  13. What is the meaning of the novel’s title? Where is the place where the crawdads sing?
  14. How important is “nature” to the structure, meaning and plot of the novel? 
  15. Are the characters and storyline in the novel believable? Realistic?
  16. Were you happy with the ending of the story?

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss Kevin Kwan’s “China Rich Girlfriend” the second novel in his Crazy Rich Asian’s trilogy.

All are invited, whether you’ve read the book or not.

Discussion questions (#1-9 below) are drawn from the LitLovers website and may be useful in generating discussion. I’ve also added a few more question (#10 and beyond).

  1. Consider the book’s title: what does “China rich” mean? How is it different (or is it…?) from “Singapore rich” where Crazy Rich Asians (CRA) takes place?
  2. Like the previous book, China Rich Girlfriend is filled with jaw-dropping opulence. Which incident, or which character, dropped your jaw more than others?
  3. In what way do Rachel and Nick serve as (somewhat) objective observers into this world of crazy conspicuous consumption? To what degree are their values different from the characters who live in Asia? Do they exude a sense of superiority over the others?
  4. Poor Rachel has her trouble with secondary mothers: Eleanor, her future mother-in-law, and Shaoyen, her step-mother. Both make life difficult for Rachel. How do their attitudes change and are those changes genuine?
  5. Talk about the ins & outs of Rachel’s relationship with her half-brother Carlton.
  6. What do you make of Kitty Pong, her social climbing and attempts to fit in with the Straits Chinese? Is she a sympathetic character?
  7. How have events transformed Astrid’s husband, Michael? Is he due a “comeuppance?”
  8. Overall, what do you think of these characters? Is Kevin Kwan presenting them critically, satirically, lovingly, humorously? All or none of those?
  9. Is there a take-away from this novel and, if you’ve read Crazy Rich Asians, from that novel as well? If so, what? Or are these books simply one of those guilty pleasures that one loves to indulge in?
  10. What do you think is the attraction of the Crazy Rich Asians series? What attracted you to read the book?
  11. Did you imagine that there were people in China, Hong Kong and Singapore with the wealth depicted in the story?
  12. How would you describe Eleanor, Nick‘s mother? Does she change over the course of the first two novels? How?
  13. What are the advantages and drawbacks of marrying into wealth like Kitty Pong or Rachel Chu? Are the trade-offs worth it? would you make different choices in their shoes?
  14. Does Rachel change over the course of the first two books in the series? How?
  15. Are you intrigued to read the third novel? Why or why not? What questions for you remain unanswered?
  16. Which of the first two books did you enjoy more? Why?

The All Good Books book club will discuss Elizabeth Berg’s Night of Miracles on Thursday, July 18, 2019. The meeting will be held in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas) at 7 PM. All are invited to attend.

Sequel to The Story of Arthur Truluv.

Discussion questions are available on the publisher’s website.

The publisher’s description of the book follows:

Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off one big decision she sorely regrets.

When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community–just when they need it the most.

We hope you can join us for this book club discussion.