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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 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!

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 7 PM to discuss Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. The meeting will be held on Zoom. Thank you to all who agreed to this one week postponement!

The first twelve questions that follow are from the end matter in Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. The remaining questions are home-grown, but first here’s a list of prominent characters:

  • Charlie St. Clair, 19-year-old pregnant schoolgirl in 1947, takes on the alias of Mrs. Donald McGowan.
  • Rose Fournier (Charlie’s cousin) 21 years old in 1947, good with numbers, pregnant by her boyfriend Etienne.
  • Tante (aunt) Jeanne, infirm, mother of Rose.
  • Eve Gardiner, stutters, recruited in WWI to spy for England. In 1915 uses the code name Marguerite Le François, came from a troubled home, unfaithful father, spendthrift mother, always arguing.
  • René Bordelon, collaborator and profiteer takes on alias of René du Malassis.
  • Finn Kilgore, Gardiner’s man of all work. In 1947, he’s 29 or 30 years old, drives a Lagonde, an ex-convict.
  • Captain Cameron, in 1915 recruits spies for the Alice Network.
  • Alice (Lili) Dubois, Eve’s contact in the spy network. Her real name is Louise de Bettignies.
  • Violette Lameron, also a spy in the Alice network (appears in both 1917 & 1947 in the novel). Her real name is Léonie van Houtte.

Discussion Questions:

  1. ​Female friendship is a constant theme throughout The Alice Network. Charlie St. Clair and Eve Gardiner begin as antagonists, whereas Eve and Louise de Bettignies (Lili) are friends from the start. How does each friendship grow and change over the course of events?
  2. ​The young Eve introduced in 1915 is very different from the older Eve seen through Charlie’s eyes in 1947. How and when did you see the young Eve begin to change into her older self? What was the catalyst of those changes?
  3. ​Lili tells Eve, “To tell the truth, much of this special work we do is quite boring.” Did the realities of spy work surprise you, compared to the more glamorous version presented by Hollywood? How do you think you would have fared working for the historical Alice Network?
  4. ​René Bordelon is denigrated by his peers as a war profiteer and an informer. He sees himself as a practical businessman, pointing out that he is not to blame for making money off the invaders, or for tragedies like Oradour-sur-Glane that happened on German orders. Did you see him as a villain or an opportunist? Do you think he earned his final fate?
  5. ​Eve loves Captain Cameron and hates René Bordelon—but her relationship with René is longer, darker, and more complex. How is her hatred for him complicated by intimacy? How does his realization of Eve’s true identity change him? How do you think they continued to think and feel about each other during their thirty years’ separation, and how did that affect their eventual climax?
  6. ​Finn Kilgore and Captain Cameron are parallels for each other: both Scotsmen and ex-soldiers with war wounds and prison terms in their pasts, acting as support systems for the women they love who go into danger. How are the two men different as well as alike? How does Finn succeed where Cameron fails?
  7. ​The disappearance of Charlie’s cousin Rose Fournier provides the story’s driving search. Did her eventual fate surprise you? Had you ever heard of Oradour-sur-Glane? How did Rose’s fate change the goal of the search?
  8. ​Everyone in The Alice Network suffers some form of emotional damage from war: Charlie’s depression after losing her marine brother to suicide, Eve’s torture-induced nightmares, Finn’s concentration-camp memories and resulting anger issues, Cameron’s guilt over losing his recruits. How do they each cope with their war wounds? How do they help each other heal? How is PTSD handled in Eve’s day as compared to Charlie’s day—and as compared to now?
  9. ​Charlie dreads the stigma of being a “bad girl” pregnant out of wedlock, and Eve fears shame and dismissal as a horizontale if it is learned she slept with a source for information. Discuss the sexual double standards each woman faced. How have our sexual standards for women changed since 1915 and 1947?
  10. ​Charlie decides to keep her baby, and Eve decides to have an abortion. Why did each woman make the choice she did?
  11. ​Charlie argues that René should be brought to legal justice, and Eve argues for vigilante justice. Who do you think is right? How did it affect the ending? How do you think the outcome will bind Eve and Charlie and Finn in the future, since they cannot share their adventure with anyone else?
  12. ​“There are two kinds of flowers when it comes to women. The kind that sit safe in a beautiful vase, or the kind that survive in any conditions . . . even in evil.” The theme of the fleurs du mal carries from Lili to Eve—how does Eve pass it on to Charlie? When do you see Charlie becoming a fleur du mal in her own right? How has knowing Eve changed Charlie’s life, and vice versa?
  13. Did you look up Edith Piaf and listen to any of her music? If so, have you heard it before.
  14. The novel starts in May 1947 but reverts to May 1915 through March 1916; jumping back and forth between the two time periods. Why, what happens in those time periods? And why is the story told out of chronological order?
  15. What is Charlie St. Cloud’s “Little Problem?”
  16. Why does Charlie take on the alias of Mrs. Donald McGowan? What issues cause this deception? How did you reaction to subsequent references to “Donald?”
  17. After reading “The Alice Network” in times of war, could you be a spy?
  18. Who said, “The army doesn’t want me anymore. I did my part and the war’s over, so now they’ll pin some b-bits of tin on me and tell me to bugger off back to the file room. Well, they can keep their damned tin scraps” and why?
  19. Some characters appear throughout the novel who are based on historical figures, such as Edith Cavell (a nurse) and Léon Trulin (18-year-old). Who are they and why are they important to the novel?
  20. Did you look up “fleur du mal?” What does it mean? Who is described by that phrase in the novel and does it apply?
  21. The poem “Le Mort Joyeux” or “The Joyful Corpse” is mentioned in the novel. Did you look up the verses? What do you think it refers to? Who’s the author?
  22. Did you read the Author’s Notes at end of the novel? Did any of the information stick in your memory? How much of the novel and which of the characters are historically based?
  23. Who would you recommend this 500-page novel to? Who would you not recommend it to?
  24. If you completed the novel, would you have done so if it were not assigned for a book club discussion?

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 https://www.readinggroupguides.com/reviews/little-fires-everywhere/guide.

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 group will not meet in February but will resume meeting in March. We’ll discuss Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara at the next meeting on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).

Discussion questions for the biography will be posted on this site in February.

The schedule of upcoming books for discussion is always available at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com/meeting-dates-books/.

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

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

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

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

Cast of Characters

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

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

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

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

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

Bryan Burkhart, Ernest’s younger brother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James and David Shoun, local doctors (and brothers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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