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The All Good Books group will meet tonight (Thursday, November 9, 2017) to discuss both “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin and “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts. We’ll meet in the Church Library at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7:00 PM. Everyone is welcome!

Possible discussion questions for “The Westing Game” are posted online at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-westing-game-discussion-questions/
Possible discussion questions for “The Obsession” are listed below:
  1. At the age of almost 12 years old, could you have done what Naomi did?
  2. Wayne, the Sheriff’s Deputy, gives Naomi some juicy fruit gum (page 18) “And she would always, from that morning on, associate the gum with simple kindness.” Is there a smell or product that reassures you or brings to mind an event in your life, either pleasant or unpleasant?
  3. What’s your impression of Naomi’s Mom, Susan? Are you sympathetic or disgusted by her reactions to her husband’s crime (page 26)? Do you understand her reactions or are they incomprehensible?
  4. On page 140, Naomi says to Xander, “People don’t always know people close to them the way they think they do.” Do you believe the family of a criminal, like Thomas David Bowes, can truly be unaware of his crimes? Do you believe his wife, friends and fellow church members were unaware?
  5. There often seems to be, in popular literature and film, a character who is deeply, radically religious and has a dark, secret life that is anything but “Christian.” Do you believe that characterization is fair? Or realistic? Or possible?
  6. Do you believe a “killer gene” exists? Are some people wired from birth to be cruel, sadistic and/or murderers?
  7. There seems to be a theme throughout the novel, that people (society) never consider or are sympathetic to the plight of a criminal’s family. Is that accurate or justified? Have you ever considered the criminal’s family and if so, in what light?
  8. On page 52, the author describes Naomi this way: “She loved movies, and truth be told she liked movies like Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings more than the love stories her girlfriends sighed over. She liked movies where people had to do something, overcome something. Even if it meant getting bitten by a radioactive spider to do and overcome.” What kind of movies do you enjoy and seek out?
  9. On page 54-57, Mason and Naomi are discussing their father. How would you describe Thomas David Bowes?
  10. On page 58, the author states, “Living with Susan was like carrying around something delicate. You watched every step so you didn’t stumble, drop the delicate so it shattered.” Have you ever met someone like that? Why do you think Susan was so “fragile?”
  11. When talking about Susan’s secret visits to her husband in jail, Harry ( in conversation with Naomi) says “We’re going to stop lying to each other. I knew your mother was lying about going to the prison, about keeping in contact. I knew, and I kept it from Seth. I didn’t tell him because it would upset him. And that’s a lie. Omission is a lie.” Do you believe honesty is the best policy, always? Is an omission a lie?
  12. On page 79, a quote from Robert Frost states “Ends and beginnings—there are no such things. There are only middles.” What does that mean?
  13. On page 233, is a quote by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Where there is a great deal of light, the shadows are deeper.” What does that mean?
  14. Naomi states on page 240, “I’d say the person in the original image knows what’s true and what’s manipulated. That’s the thing about words and images. Once the words are on the page, the image printed, it becomes what’s true.” What does that mean? Do you agree?
  15. Was there a time during your reading of “The Obsession” that you considered various characters as Naomi’s stalker and the murder/rapist? Xander? Mason? Kevin? Sam Winston, the local Sheriff? John James Mooney (realtor) Anyone else?
  16. What was your favorite part of the book? Did you view it as a thriller? A romance novel? A murder mystery? Something else?
  17. There’s a great deal of focus in the novel on Naomi fixing up the old house. Any thoughts on the inclusion of so much remodeling and refinishing in the novel?
  18. Were you surprised by the ending of the novel? Was it satisfying? Too abrupt? Unexpected? Predictable?
  19. What is “The Obsession” of the novel’s title?
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The next meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will be on Thursday, November 9, 2017. We’ll discuss The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Obsession by Nora Roberts. The group will meet at 7 PM in the Church Library at the Community of Christ, Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas).

The following questions are offered as possible kick starters for the discussion of Ellen Rankin’s The Westing Game, first published in 1978. Questions for The Obsession will be posted later.

  1. One reviewer claimed that The Westing Game met the criteria for an excellent murder mystery because it included an unusual plot, “a nutso bunch of characters” and “more unexpected twists than you can count.” Agree or disagree? Explain why.
  2. The novel has been taught for over 30 years in elementary and middle schools while it also appealed to adults. Why do you think that’s the case? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
  3. Many mystery novels provide only a single point of view. The Westing Game provided insight into the thoughts of most of the characters. Did that make the novel more interesting? More confusing? Would it have been better if you only had one point of view (a narrator or one participant)?
  4. On page 4, the author says the tenants in Sunset Towers include, “A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.” Which characters in the novel are identified by each label?
  5. On page 29, Sam Westing’s will reads, “My life was taken from me—by one of you!” What did he mean? Who took away his life?
  6. On page 31, Mr. Hoo says, “The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.” What does that mean to you?
  7. The novel includes 26 characters: Turtle Wexler, Angela Wexler, Grace Windsor Wexler, Theo Theodorakis, Chris Theodorakis, George Theodorakis, Catherine Theodorakis, Sandy (Alexander) McSouthers, Dr. Denton Deere, Otis Amber, Berthe Erica Crowe, Sydelle Pulaski, Flora Baumbach, Mr. Hoo, Madame Hoo, Sam Westing, Barney Northrup, Julian R. Eastman, Ed Plum, Sikes, Rosalie Baumbach, Violet Westing, Mr. Schultz, Shirley Staver, Alice Deere, Judge J.J. Ford.What do you know about each of them? Is there something about each person’s name that you found significant or symbolic?
  8. Why do you think Sam Westing (and the author) paired up specific heirs to compose the 8 teams at the reading of the will? The teams were: Madame Hoo and Jake Wexler, Turtle Wexler and Flora Baumbach, Chris Theodorakis and Dr. Denton Deere, Sandy McSouthers and J. J. Ford, Grace Wexler and Mr. Hoo, Berthe Crowe and Otis Amber, Theo Theodorakis and Doug Hoo, Sydelle Pulaski and Angela Wexler.
  9. Were there clues you picked up early in the book that helped solve the mystery? What were they?
  10. Why do you think Angela develops a rash on her ring finger?
  11. Why do you think the bomber set off the (first three) bombs?
  12. Did the Westing Game have anything to do with chess? Who was playing chess in the Game Room with Theo?
  13. Did “twins” have anything to do with the Westing Game?
  14. On page 68, why did Mrs. Wexler and Flora Baumbach indicate Turtle’s real name was, respectively, Tabitha-Ruth and Alice?
  15. Why do you think Judge J.J. Ford gave the entire $10,000 to Sandy the doorman? Does she ever realize what she’s done?
  16. On page 92, what does Grace mean by “English-speaking ears?” What issue does her behavior raise?
  17. On page 94, why do you think Sandy describes Mrs. Westing differently than Judge Ford remembers her (after meeting her briefly years earlier)? Judge Ford recalls that, “Mrs. Westing was white. Very white.” What does she mean?
  18. On page 99, Turtle tells Angela, “I didn’t look at your notes or clues, honest.” And then the author notes, “But she had removed the incriminating evidence.” What was the evidence?
  19. Why does Judge Ford consider Sam Westing a manipulative, mean man? Why does Sandy disagree?
  20. Are there secrets held by each of the 16 heirs that we haven’t discussed?
  21. On page 149, the will repeats, “It is not what you have, it’s what you don’t have that counts.” What was missing from the clues?
  22. How did Turtle’s habit of kicking people figure into solving the murder of Sam Westing?
  23. How did you react to the novel’s conclusion? Was it anticipated? A Surprise? Satisfying? Disappointing?
  24. Would you recommend The Westing Game to a pre-teen? To a teenager? To a young adult? To an adult? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?

Please come and join the discussion.

The All Good Books group will meet tonight at 7:00 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.

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There are suggested discussion questions in an earlier post (see https://goo.gl/Hc7K6u).
 

We’ll have coffee ready, so come and enjoy the book club chat!

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, May 12, 2016 to discuss Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS 66208).

Below are some possible discussion questions for our meeting:

  1. If you underlined or highlighted portions of the novel, share one of your favorite quotes.
  2. What events in the novel define Ove for you? How would you describe his worldview and work ethic? Do you know anyone like Ove?
  3. How would you describe Ove and Sonja’s relationship?
  4. Who are the Pregnant Foreign Lady, the Lanky One and their children? How did they meet Ove?
  5. Why do you think Ove’s three worst words are “batteries not included?”
  6. What do you think the narrator means by the following quote? “He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”
  7. In describing Ove’s relationship with his father, the narrator says “They never had much, but they always had enough.” What does that mean to you? Have you heard that phrase before?
  8. Ove’s father, in one of the few topics he would talk about, said, “Engines give you what you deserve….If you treat them with respect they’ll give you freedom; if you behave like an ass they’ll take it from you.” How do you interpret that message?
  9. Ove’s father said, “We’re not the sort of people who tell tales about what others do.” What is the story behind the quote and how did it affect the person Ove became?
  10. Do you agree with Ove “men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say?”
  11. Discuss Ove’s opinions about quality, exchangeability, pride and expertise. Hint: he referred to “the unreserved celebration of mediocrity” and that “one should not go through life as if everything was exchangeable.”
  12. What role does the cat play in the novel? And what does Ove mean when he says, “I’m not running a cat repair company?”
  13. Why was it important that Ove feed the bird only every other day?
  14. Why do you think Sonja was attracted to Ove?
  15. Why did Ove have a hatred for the “men in white shirts?” Who are the “men in white shirts?”
  16. Why did Ove hate buses and decide to drive Parvaneh to the hospital rather than let her take a bus?
  17. Why does Nasanin always draw Ove with colored crayons while everyone else is drawn in black? Who is Nasanin?
  18. Why did Ove and Rune, who once were friends, become adversaries? What role did Rune’s purchase of a sporty BMW have in the separation?
  19. What does the narrator mean by the following quote? “Both men, once as close as men of that sort could be, stare at each other. One of them a man who refuses to forget the past, and one who can’t remember it at all.”
  20. How does Sonja find healing after the accident?
  21. What does the author mean by “all people at root are time optimists?”
  22. How is “loving someone…like moving into a house?” as Sonja used to say.
  23. What does the author mean by “broadly speaking there are two kinds of people. Those who understand how extremely useful white cables can be, and those who don’t?”
  24. Do you agree, “The greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone?”
  25. Why is Ove, as Parvaneh says, “UTTERLY LOUSY at dying?”
  26. What are your feelings about Ove’s final note to Parvaneh?
  27. Was the ending of the book expected? Emotional? Incomplete? Satisfying?
  28. Would you recommend A Man Called Ove to your friends to read? Why or why not?

Come join us on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 7 PM.

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM is the next meeting of the All Good Books club. We’ll discuss “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrick Backman.

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

Here are some suggested discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe Elsa?
  2. How would you describe Elsa’s grandmother, Granny?
  3. Who is Britt-Marie and Kent and what relationship are they to Alf? Who is Lennart and Maud and how are they related to the other tenants? Who is the boy with the syndrome and his Mum? Who is the Monster (Wolfheart)? Who is Sam and is there a relationship between Sam and any of the other residents? Who is the woman in the black skirt? Who is Halfie? Who is wurse, Audi and Renault? What’s the relationship between Mum, Dad, George and Lisette?
  4. What do you remember about the Land-of-Almost-Awake? How do you travel to the land?
  5. What is the word jar? Who uses it and why?
  6. Is there a character that you personally identified with or who reminded you of someone you know? Tell us why.
  7. Is Elsa a believable almost 8-year old? Explain.
  8. What happened on the day Elsa was born? What philosophical question does her birth and the corresponding event raise?
  9. Who are in the photos on Granny’s ceiling?
  10. Is there a scene in the novel that had an emotional impact for you? Describe and explain why.
  11. Do you agree that the novel is part fairy tale and part adult story? Would you give it to a pre-teen to read? Why or why not?
  12. What do you view as the important themes of the novel?
  13. In a conversation on the phone, Elsa hears Granny say, ““I don’t want Elsa to know that I am going to die because all seven-year-olds deserve superheroes, Marcel. And one of their superpowers ought to be that they can’t get cancer.” Why are superpowers referenced and emphasized throughout the novel? Who has which superpowers?
  14. Granny says, ““It’s a grandmother’s prerogative never to have to show her worst sides to her grandchild, Elsa. Never to have to talk about what she was like before she became a grandmother.” Why does Granny say this and do you agree?
  15. Have you ever wanted to ask someone, like a parent or relative, a question and never got around to it until it was too late? How is that question related to the novel?
  16. What does the following quote mean? “Because not all monsters look like monsters. There are some that carry their monstrosity inside.”
  17. Would you like a grandmother like Granny? Why or why not?
  18. What is Granny sorry about?
  19. Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
  20. Would you recommend this book to someone else to read? Why or why not?
My_GrandmotherThe next meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will on Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM to discuss “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrick Backman. The group meets at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation in the Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).
You can always find information on the book club’s schedule, here, on their website at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com.

The All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 7 PM to discuss “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan. We will meet at the Community of Christ congregation in Prairie Village at the corner of 79th Street and Mission Road, in the church library.

To generate some pre-thinking for our discussion, please consider the following questions.

  1. Would you consider Fiona Maye a fair and impartial judge? Do you agree with her ruling in the case of Mark and Matthew? What about her decision regarding  Adam Henry? What, if anything, would you have done differently?
  2. Describe your impressions of Jack Maye. Do you understand his motivation throughout the novel? Would you have forgiven him?
  3. At one point, Fiona reflects on the case of Adam Henry, “It was not her business or mission to save him, but to decide what was reasonable and lawful.” Do you agree that is the role of a judge?
  4. What is your reaction to Fiona’s reminiscence regarding Matthew and Mark when she thinks: “Blind luck, to arrive in the world with your properly formed parts in the right place, to be born to parents who were loving, not cruel, or to escape, by geographical or social accident, war or poverty. And therefore to find it so much easier to be virtuous.” Thoughts?
  5. “Welfare, happiness, well-being must embrace the philosophical concept of the good life,” writes the author. What defines the good life for you?
  6. In Fiona’s thoughts she comments, “the archbishop preferred Mark to die along with Matthew in order not to interfere with God’s purpose. That churchmen should want to obliterate the potential of a meaningful life in order to hold a theological line did not surprise or concern her. The law itself had similar problems when it allowed doctors to suffocate, dehydrate or starve certain hopeless patients to death, but would not permit the instant relief of a fatal injection.” Do you see parallels in Fiona’s two examples? Is the issue black and white on preserving life? If not, what are the conditions or extenuating circumstances that should be considered?
  7. In some passages, like the following, the author is very descriptive. Is it too much? Did you enjoy the use of detail in language? Comment on the novel as an art form. “They entered a glassed-in atrium the height of the entire building. Mature native trees, rather starved, pushed hopefully upward from the concourse, from among the cheerful chairs and tables of competing coffee and sandwich concessions. Higher up, then even higher, other trees rose from concrete platforms cantilevered into the curving walls. The remotest plants were shrubs silhouetted against the glass roof three hundred feet up. The two women went across the pale parquet, past an information center and an exhibition of unwell children’s art. The long straight run of an escalator brought them to a mezzanine, where a bookshop, florist, newsagent, gift shop and business center were ranged around a fountain. New Age music, airy and unmodulating, merged with the sound of tinkling water. The model was, of course, the modern airport. With altered destinations. At this level there was little sign of illness, none of medical equipment. The patients were finely spread between visitors and staff. Here and there were people in dressing gowns, looking rakish.”
  8. Did you feel the pain of Fiona in her personal crisis with Jack? How did it affect her role as judge? Or did it? If you had been Fiona, would you have acted differently as a wife or spouse? As a judge?
  9. If you were Adam Henry’s parents, what would you have done? How would you feel about Fiona’s judgment?
  10. What was the meaning of the kiss?
  11. How would you describe this book? A walk in the park? A doctoral thesis? A love story? Enlightening? Boring? A roller coaster ride? A legal thriller? An artwork in words?
  12. Would you recommend the book to other readers? To other book clubs?