Archives for posts with tag: books

This evening’s meeting has been postponed to October 20, 2022, at 7 PM because many of our regular members are unavailable to meet this evening. All book titles will be moved forward one month to accommodate.

The All Good Books club will meet in person (at 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) or online using the Zoom web link (https://tinyurl.com/lastBoat) to discuss Helen Zia’s novel Last Boat Out of Shanghai.

The discussion will occur (now) on Thursday, October 20, 2022, at 7 PM CDT.

The book recounts the real-life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China’s 1949 Communist revolution. Marge Trinkl will facilitate the discussion. Join us in person or online!

If you’re now planning ahead for November, the book club will meet on November 17, 2022, at 7 PM to discuss Enough about Me by Richard Lui.

The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, August 18, 2022, at 7:00 PM to discuss The Duchess by Wendy Holden. The meeting will also be accessible on Zoom using this web link: https://tinyurl.com/AllGoodBooksDuchess

Eloise Snider will facilitate the discussion and all are welcome.

Here’s the Publisher’s summary of the historical novel:

It was a love so strong, a king renounced his kingdom—all for that woman. Or was she just an escape route for a monarch who never wanted to rule? Bestselling author Wendy Holden takes an intimate look at one of the most notorious scandals of the 20th century.

  1. A middle-aged foreigner comes to London with average looks, no money and no connections. Wallis’s first months in the city are lonely, dull and depressing. With no friends of her own she follows the glamorous set in magazines and goes to watch society weddings. Her stuffy husband Ernest’s idea of fun, meanwhile, is touring historic monuments.

When an unexpected encounter leads to a house party with the Prince of Wales, Wallis’s star begins to rise. Her secret weapon is her American pep and honesty. For the prince she is a breath of fresh air. As her friendship with him grows, their relationship deepens into love. Wallis is plunged into a world of unimaginable luxury and privilege, enjoying weekends together at his private palace on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Wallis knows the fun and excitement can’t last. The prince will have to marry and she will return to Ernest. The sudden death of George V seems to make this inevitable; the Prince of Wales is now King Edward VIII. When, to her shock and amazement, he refuses to give her up–or recognize that they are facing impossible odds–her fairy tale becomes a nightmare. The royal family close ranks to shut her out and Ernest gives an ultimatum.

Wallis finds herself trapped when Edward insists on abdicating his throne. She can’t escape the overwhelming public outrage and villainized, she becomes the woman everyone blames—the face of the most dramatic royal scandal of the twentieth century.

The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at 7:00 PM to discuss “Keep Sharp” by Sanjay Gupta (Tom Jowett will introduce the discussion). All meetings are held in the Church Library of the Mission Road Congregation of Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).

The book club meeting will also be available on Zoom using the following web link: https://tinyurl.com/AllGoodBooks

This is a joint activity by the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation and the Johnson County Community College Retirees Association. All are welcome!

The All Good Books group will meet on the following dates for the rest of the year and discuss the books listed. All meetings are held in the Church Library of the Mission Road Congregation of Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS)

7:00 PM, June 16, 2022: How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith (Jane Landrum will introduce the book)

7:00 PM, July 21, 2022: Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta (Tom Jowett will introduce the book)

7:00 PM, August 18, 2022: The Duchess by Wendy Holden (Eloise Snider will introduce the book)

7:00 PM, September 15, 2022: The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia (Marge Trinkl will introduce the book)

7:00 PM, October 20, 2022: Enough about Me by Richard Lui (Jonathan Bacon will introduce the book)

7:00 PM, November 17, 2022: The Lost and Found Book Shop by Susan Wiggs (TBD)

December: No book club, December Break

The All Good Books group will resume meeting (after a long hiatus due to COVID) on May 19, 2022, at 7:00 PM in the Church Library of the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). Jane Landrum is the new facilitator for the group with Jonathan Bacon assisting.

For the first meeting, everyone is invited to share a book report, a quote, or an interesting idea from the best, most recent book you’ve read.

Bring a friend, and come prepared to just talk about books for an hour or so and learn what everyone else has been reading!

Book club members (during our hiatus) have suggested several book titles that might be good reading and excellent discussion material. The titles are listed below with links to Goodreads (for descriptions).

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Dear Grace by Clare Swatman

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi (couldn’t find on Goodreads, so this link is to Amazon)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Radical Kindness by by Angela C. Santomero

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Happy reading!

The All Good Books group will meet on Zoom this Thursday evening, November 19, 2020 at 7:00 PM. To discuss “The Lending Library” by Aliza Fogelson.

Possible discussion questions include:

  1. How would you describe “The Lending Library” to a friend and would you recommend the novel?
  2. Have you read any of the books mentioned in “The Lending Library?” Are there any books mentioned that you’d like to read or have read?
  3. Dodie, the main character through whose voice much of the novel is narrated, seems to have numerous “irons in the fire.” What are they? Is she juggling too much or is that a realistic depiction of a young woman her age?
  4. How would you describe the relationship between Dodie, Maddie and Coco?
  5. Describe Maddie’s birthday meal with Dodie. What does it reveal about the two?
  6. Who is Benton and how does he tie in with the plot? Who are Kendra and Geraldine? What role did they play in the novel?
  7. Who are Sullivan and Elizabeth? What was their big disagreement about? What advice would you have given if you were their friend or parent?
  8. Who is Elmira? Does she play a significant role in the novel? She’s re-reading “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” Have you read the book? Is there significance to its mention in the novel?
  9. Bridge to Terabithia” is mentioned in the novel. Why? Have you read the novel? What significance does it hold for the characters in “The Lending Library?”
  10. Who is Shep? What’s his story within the story?
  11. Who’s the most interesting character in the novel?
  12. Did you feel the characters in the novel were privileged, average, relatable, fanciful, realistic or stereotypical?
  13. Are there passages you underlined in the novel or re-read? Were there scenes that stuck with you? Please share.
  14. Describe the three sister’s meeting with “Not Dad.” How did you react to the meeting?
  15. Were you pleased, surprised, anxious or ho hum about the ending? Did you race to the ending or saunter along until you reached it?
  16. What is or has been your personal relationship to books and libraries?

The All Good Books group will meet using Zoom at 7 PM this Thursday, July 16, 2020 to discuss The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce. It’s the sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Here’s a brief list of characters in the Queenie novel. Twenty-four possible discussion questions follow.

  • Queenie Hennessy: writer of letters to Harold Fry
  • Harold Fry: the walker whose story is told in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
  • David Fry: He likes unexpected adventure, very smart. “His intelligence is like a knife” (page 118).
  • Napier: Harold and Queenie’s boss at the brewery.
  • Finty – rubs off foil seals to see if she has won a vacation or prize or free vouchers for dining. Coordinates the party for the arrival of Harold Fry.
  • Mr. Neville Henderson – won’t do crossword puzzles, because he may not be around for the answers. “The knuckles poked out and his sleeves hung loose as if Mr. Henderson had no more substance than a coat hanger inside a dogtooth jacket. His mouth was so blue, the lips looked bruised.” He stole a Purcell record and likes Queenie. His wife Mary, hired his best friend as her divorce lawyer. They “took him to the cleaners.”
  • Barbara: Has two glass eyes, Albert Bates once loved her.
  • The Pearly King: receives packages but almost never opens them. Says a lot of women loved him, hope they don’t all come to visit. Has an artificial arm. Never told his family he was in hospice.
  • Sister Philomena: very spiritual nun at the hospice.
  • Sister Lucy: youngest nun, naive, most active of nuns in helping patients, kind, puzzles puzzle her, no idea of distance from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
  • Sister Catherine: nosey but always helps Mr. Henderson even when he doesn’t want help. Brought the word of Harold’s phone call to residents of the hospice. She brings in the mail bag each day.
  • Sister Mary Inconnu: (Inconnu means “an unknown person or thing”). Types the letters to Harold for Queenie.
  • The Lonely Gentleman: shows up in the Harold Fry story and on page 58.

Possible Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you describe “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” to a friend to encourage them to read it? Would you encourage them to read it?
  2. Are there specific passages that you underlined in the book? If so, what are they? Why do they have significance for you?
  3. How do you imagine the novel be received and interpreted by a teenager? By someone in mid-life? Or by a senior?
  4. Does your view of Queenie and Harold change as you read “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy?” How?
  5. Can “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” stand on its own? Would it be understood without the reader first reading “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?”
  6. On page 56 Queenie says, “I don’t know why some of these memories must remain so crystal clear. I recall one sliver and the whole picture comes rushing back, while other things, for instance, other things I would like to remember, are completely unavailable.” Why do you think that happens? Do you have a similar experience?
  7. Why was Mr. Henderson so upset with Sister Catherine? See page 72.
  8. Queenie’s mother told her (page 74), “There is no such thing as love at first sight. People get together because the time is right.” Do you agree?
  9. What is bindweed and why does Queenie compare Napier to it? See page 78.
  10. Does your view of Mr. Napier change at all in the second novel?
  11. What is a rockery and how does it connect with Queenie’s statement on page 94, “I’d made my sea garden to atone for the terrible wrong I had done to a man I loved, I said. Sometimes you have to do something with your pain because otherwise it will swallow you.” Do you agree?
  12. What is the color of Harold’s suit and why does the author keep referring to it (as on page 102)?
  13. What is the meaning of the lesson of the peach on page 108?
  14. “Waiting” is one of the themes in the book. What did you learn about “waiting” in the book and from life?
  15. When Sister Lucy unveils the Harold Fry corner on page 122, Mr. Henderson responds, “Good grief…this is worse than Huis Clos.” To what is he referring? Did you look it up?
  16. Sister Lucy is always removing pieces from the puzzle. Why does she keep dissembling the puzzle?
  17. Who had the more difficult pilgrimage, Harold Fry or Queenie Hennessy?
  18. On page 168 Sister Inconnu says, “The sky and the sun are always there. It’s the clouds that come and go. Stop holding on to yourself, and look at the world around you…. Those days are over too. So the only thing left for you to do now is to stop trying to fix the problem.” What’s the message in that exchange?
  19. On page 173-176, Queenie relates the story of the day when the car sputters, she and Harold are lost on the highway and must walk back to Kingsbridge. Why does she describe that as a perfect day?
  20. Queenie says (on page 200), “When you know a thing is wrong, you have to work very hard to stick with it.” What does she mean, and do you agree?
  21. On page 263 Queenie reminisces that “my mind was caught up in thinking of ways to keep it safe. I was wrong, though, about the threat coming from wind or gulls. Five years ago, something else got it.” To what is she referring? Who “got it?” And what’s the life lesson?
  22. Sister Mary Inconnu at one point (page 309) says, “Dear oh dear. We really should sit and laugh at trees more often.” What was that episode about?
  23. Share your opinion: were Queenie’s letters to Harold written in Morse code or shorthand? Explain your opinion.
  24. Besides “waiting” are there other themes throughout the book? Other lessons learned?

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

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

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

Discussion Questions

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

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?