Archives for posts with tag: Faith

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?

 

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kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.inddThe All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 7 PM to discuss “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly. Discussion questions will be posted soon.

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.”

The book club meets at the Mission Road Congregation of the Community of Christ, 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS. Come and join the discussion.

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?
The Pulse of Hope by Dr. William A. Reed

The Pulse of Hope by Dr. William A. Reed

Just a reminder: Dr. William A. Reed with be present at the next All Good Books discussion group meeting this Thursday, May 14, 2015 at the Community of Christ church (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM. We will meet in the Church Library.

Dr. Reed is the author of “The Pulse of Hope: A Surgeon’s Memoirs from Poverty to Prosperity.” Dr. Reed was a pioneer in the early days of open-heart surgery at KU Medical Center then later moved to St. Luke’s Hospital where he performed the first heart transplant at that hospital while serving as Director of Thoracic Surgery. Still later he returned to KU Med to re-establish what has become the largest heart program in this part of the country. The autobiography answers the question “How did a scrawny kid from an indigent, welfare-dependent Midwestern family become one of America’s first successful heart surgeons?”

Along the way the reader meets a passionate horseman, philanthropist, husband, father and poet. The final chapters in the book also speak to issues of faith, doubt, fear and leadership. You have the opportunity to hear him speak and ask questions on Thursday evening.  We hope you can join us.

In preparation for the meeting, here are some questions that might stimulate your reflection on the book (and if you haven’t read the book, come anyway)!

  1. On page 25 of Dr. Reed’s autobiography, he mentions Hudson’s Secret Journal. Have you read the book? Either way, do you agree with your understanding of its philosophy?
  2. On page 40 Dr. Reed discusses his wife’s childhood, her parent’s (Asay and Pauline) expectations, and their approach to parenting. How does their parenting compare to your own experiences as a child or young adult?
  3. What does the phrase “damned by faint praise” mean? Have you heard that phrase before or experienced that kind of praise?
  4. On page 59, Dr. Reed talks about “the silent treatment.” Have you experienced the silent treatment from someone in your life or used it as a tool in a disagreement? What were the results?
  5. An incident recorded on page 65, describes how Dr. Reed challenges the head of the cardiovascular department at KUMC to not “close” after heart surgery but to redo a stitch so a 6-year-old girl’s heart would not develop scarring. If your career depended on contradicting or correcting a superior, could you do it?
  6. Of all the surgical stories in the autobiography, which is your favorite? Which did you find most emotional or heart-rending? Which did you find most inspirational?
  7. Who do you think was the VIP patient mentioned on page 81?
  8. Reed places a great deal of emphasis on “good mentoring” (pages 112, 114). Have you ever experienced a “good mentor” as described by the Doctor?
  9. The concept of a “unique calling” for medicine is discussed on pages 114-115. Do you believe that any of the five “opportunities” listed on page 114 apply to other fields of endeavor?
  10. On page 116 in a discussion of mentoring, Dr. Reed talks about seeing people at their most vulnerable time. Do you see any parallels to your career or avocation?
  11. On page 122, Dr. Reed discusses “the secret of success is constancy of purpose” (Benjamin Disraeli). What is your reaction to his message on career choice? Does it apply to you?
  12. Reed explains that a good racehorse must excel while “mud and dirt and sand” are being thrown in the horse’s face (page 130). Is there a parallel in human endeavor?
  13. Is there a section or chapter of the autobiography that you found more interesting than the rest? Such as Dr. Reed’s childhood, “The Right Girl,” his ground-breaking surgeries, the chapter on mentoring, “Servant Leader,” or “Poet and Philosopher?”
  14. The author talks about the difference between horses that have an attitude and those that are mean (page 150). Do you think the same applies to pets? To humans?
  15. What does the author (page 150) mean by “no trainer ever commits suicide with an unraced two-year-old in his barn?”
  16. On pages 186-189, Dr. Reed explains his approach to leadership. Do you support his view? Do you see inherent problems with servant leadership? Have you ever worked for anyone who subscribed to this leadership style?
  17. What do you think is meant (page 213) by “optimism is a life skill that can be honed with practice.”
  18. On page 216, Dr. Reed says, “Every man dies alone with his God.” What does that sentiment mean to you?
  19. Do you understand the doubts and questions expressed on pages 216-218? Do you believe that faith can grow through doubt?
  20. Do you have answers for the questions posed in Dr. Reed’s poem on page 219?
  21. In the final chapter, “Poet and Philosopher,” the author becomes very philosophical and poetic as he discusses life span, living in harmony with your values, faith and pain, and the search for meaning and hope. What are your thoughts on the final chapter?