Archives for posts with tag: divorce

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

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

We hope you can join us this Thursday.

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

 

Advertisements

Mrs_SaintThe All Good Books group will meet at 7 PM on Thursday, July 19, 2018, to discuss “Mrs. Saint and the Defectives” by Julie Lawson Timmer. Discussion questions are available below. This date is a reschedule of a previously cancelled book club meeting date.

Please join us at the Mission Road Community of Christ congregation located at 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas. We’ll meet in the Church Library.

Discussion Questions for “Mrs. Saint and the Defectives” by Julie Lawson Timmer

  1. Some of the main characters in the novel include Markie, Kyle, Jesse, Clayton, Lydia and Mrs. Saint. What is the relationship between those five characters and how would you describe them?
  2. On page 36, Markie ponders how her teenage son “even on his grumpiest days” can “scrounge up some cheer” (such as a smile) for his grandparents and/or Mrs. Saint. Why are teenagers like that?
  3. Markie is convinced (on page 44) that “She had caused it all by doing one terrible thing: she had looked the other way.” Explain. Do you agree?
  4. On page 52, Markie observes “Romance and passion and long talks into the night can carry the day when there are no bills to pay, no jobs to hold down, no middle-of-the-night feedings, no debates about attachment parenting and discipline techniques.” Do you think this is why many marriages flounder? What makes the difference between a marriage that succeeds and one that breaks or just endures?
  5. As Markie and Kyle settle in their new bungalow, they meet an entourage of neighbors. About one of them Mrs. Saint says “She is a faith healer, Ronda. Or so it is what she says. Which I do not know about this, honestly. Magic and special powers for things, I am not so sure. She likes to send luck to people by making totems such as this. Of course, no one of us can say that when the good thing happens, this was because of the totem rather than a person’s own hard work and the fate of the world. And when the good thing does not happen, well, she of course cannot explain.” What are your personal views about fate, magic, chance, “asking the universe (God) for what you need” (that is, answered and unanswered prayers) and whether “What will be, will be?”
  6. On page 89, Mrs. Saint refers to the people she’s helping (Frederic, Bruce, Lola, Ronda, Patty) as defectives. Why does she use that term? What does she mean? How does Markie respond?
  7. When Mrs. Saint asks Markie, “What is your way of helping people?” How did she respond? How would you respond?
  8. On page 119, Markie considers her aloneness and offers this reflction: “The thing about setting your life up so you could be completely alone was that you ended up completely alone.” Why do we sometimes seek “something” and then regret getting it?
  9. Who is Gregory? What do you think of his relationship with Markie?
  10. On page 182, Markie’s manager refers to his staff as “my direct and dotted-line reports.” What do you think of his use of this terminology?
  11. Her manager also invited Markie to “Share a meal.” He explained, “We all bring our own lunches, and I have everyone walk around the room, find someone they don’t know very well, and broker a trade. You know, my pickle for your pudding cup, half my bologna for half your turkey and Swiss. Like back in grade school! Great intermingling exercise! Really lets you get to know your coworkers more intimately.” What’s your reaction to this “exercise” and his management style?
  12. What surprises Markie about Patty when she finally gets to know her (page 249)?
  13. Who said “It’s not how we got here…Or even that we are here. It’s where we go from here.” What does that comment mean to you?
  14. Who is more stubborn, Mrs. Saint or Markie? Defend your position.
  15. Who is Simone and what is her relationship to Angeline (Mrs. Saint)? What is their story?
  16. On page 306, Simone states, “I should not have come here to grant my sister forgiveness. I should have come here to ask for hers. I have judged her all these years for refusing to lead a life that is true to who she is, to what our family was. For refusing to honor them. And all this time, she has been honoring them far better than I.” What does she mean? Why is it often so hard to forgive? Why is it so often easy to criticize others for failing to do what we fail to do?

 

This week’s meeting has been postponed. We’re working on a new date later in April, 2018 to discuss The Rosie Project.

The next meeting of the All Good Books group has been rescheduled to Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). The group will discuss two books (choose what you wish to read, one or both): The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer. Discussion questions for the Atwood book are posted at https://goo.gl/yRXCLz. Discussion questions for the Timmer book are posted below.

Discussion Questions for “Mrs. Saint and the Defectives” by Julie Lawson Timmer

  1. Some of the main characters in the novel include Markie, Kyle, Jesse, Clayton, Lydia and Mrs. Saint. What is the relationship between those five characters and how would you describe them?
  2. On page 36, Markie ponders how her teenage son “even on his grumpiest days” can “scrounge up some cheer” (such as a smile) for his grandparents and/or Mrs. Saint. Why are teenagers like that?
  3. Markie is convinced (on page 44) that “She had caused it all by doing one terrible thing: she had looked the other way.” Explain. Do you agree?
  4. On page 52, Markie observes “Romance and passion and long talks into the night can carry the day when there are no bills to pay, no jobs to hold down, no middle-of-the-night feedings, no debates about attachment parenting and discipline techniques.” Do you think this is why many marriages flounder? What makes the difference between a marriage that succeeds and one that breaks or just endures?
  5. As Markie and Kyle settle in their new bungalow, they meet an entourage of neighbors. About one of them Mrs. Saint says “She is a faith healer, Ronda. Or so it is what she says. Which I do not know about this, honestly. Magic and special powers for things, I am not so sure. She likes to send luck to people by making totems such as this. Of course, no one of us can say that when the good thing happens, this was because of the totem rather than a person’s own hard work and the fate of the world. And when the good thing does not happen, well, she of course cannot explain.” What are your personal views about fate, magic, chance, “asking the universe (God) for what you need” (that is, answered and unanswered prayers) and whether “What will be, will be?”
  6. On page 89, Mrs. Saint refers to the people she’s helping (Frederic, Bruce, Lola, Ronda, Patty) as defectives. Why does she use that term? What does she mean? How does Markie respond?
  7. When Mrs. Saint asks Markie, “What is your way of helping people?” How did she respond? How would you respond?
  8. On page 119, Markie considers her aloneness and offers this reflction: “The thing about setting your life up so you could be completely alone was that you ended up completely alone.” Why do we sometimes seek “something” and then regret getting it?
  9. Who is Gregory? What do you think of his relationship with Markie?
  10. On page 182, Markie’s manager refers to his staff as “my direct and dotted-line reports.” What do you think of his use of this terminology?
  11. Her manager also invited Markie to “Share a meal.” He explained, “We all bring our own lunches, and I have everyone walk around the room, find someone they don’t know very well, and broker a trade. You know, my pickle for your pudding cup, half my bologna for half your turkey and Swiss. Like back in grade school! Great intermingling exercise! Really lets you get to know your coworkers more intimately.” What’s your reaction to this “exercise” and his management style?
  12. What surprises Markie about Patty when she finally gets to know her (page 249)?
  13. Who said “It’s not how we got here…Or even that we are here. It’s where we go from here.” What does that comment mean to you?
  14. Who is more stubborn, Mrs. Saint or Markie? Defend your position.
  15. Who is Simone and what is her relationship to Angeline (Mrs. Saint)? What is their story?
  16. On page 306, Simone states, “I should not have come here to grant my sister forgiveness. I should have come here to ask for hers. I have judged her all these years for refusing to lead a life that is true to who she is, to what our family was. For refusing to honor them. And all this time, she has been honoring them far better than I.” What does she mean? Why is it often so hard to forgive? Why is it so often easy to criticize others for failing to do what we fail to do?

 

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?