Archives for posts with tag: Inspiration

Mrs.Lincolns.DressmakerThe All Good Books group will meet this Thursday, June 21, 2018 to discuss  Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. We’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) in the Church Library.

The following are some suggested discussion questions:

  1. When you began reading the novel did you think that Elizabeth Keckley was a fictional character used by the author to talk about Civil War events and the Lincoln’s life in the White House? Or did you think that she was and historical figure? Did your opinion changed as you read the novel?
  2. From the novel, what surprised you most about Mrs. Lincoln? About President Lincoln? About the Lincoln family? And about Elizabeth Keckley?
  3. What are your thoughts on Elizabeth’s publication of her memoir, Behind the Scenes? Do you believe she have the right to publish about her years as a dressmaker, friend and confidante to Mrs. Lincoln? Was it a breach of confidentiality and privacy that her employers should have expected of her?
  4. Why do you think Elizabeth published her memoirs? Would you have published a similar memoir if you had served in the White House as a friend and confidant of the President or the First Lady?
  5. How would you describe Mrs. Lincoln as a wife, a mother, and a friend? Could you have served as a friend and confidant of Mrs. Lincoln like Elizabeth? How would you describe Elizabeth’s service and response to Mrs. Lincoln’s requests?
  6. What is your opinion of the relationship between Mrs. Lincoln and the Washington elite? Was she mistreated, or should she have expected the treatment she received? Explain.
  7. Would you recommend the novel to other readers? Why or why not?

The following are additional questions suggested by the publisher:

  1. What are Elizabeth Keckley’s most admirable qualities? What makes her such an appealing figure?
  2. Lincoln and Elizabeth both suffer terrible tragedies. Elizabeth was born into slavery, raped by her white master, and betrayed by her husband. She lost her only son in the war and was the victim of a scandal that damaged her reputation and left her in poverty. Mrs. Lincoln lost three of her four sons, as well as her husband, and was also the victim of devastating scandals and financial distress. How do they respond differently to the trials that life throws at them?
  3. What picture of President Lincoln emerges in the novel? In what ways does the novel deepen our understanding of Lincoln, both as a political leader and as a husband, father and friend?
  4. Elizabeth likes to think “that she too had played some small part in helping President Lincoln know the desires and worries of colored people better. She hoped she had used, and would always use, her acquaintance with the president and her time in the White House for the good of her race” [p. 192]. In what ways — direct and indirect — did Elizabeth helped the cause of people of color during her time in the White House? How might her personal example of dignity, compassion, and integrity have helped her cause? What actions does she undertake on behalf of her race?
  5. Why is the press so eager to vilify Mrs. Lincoln? Are any of their criticisms deserved?
  6. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Lincoln tells Elizabeth, “You are the only good, kind friend I have anymore, and I don’t know how I shall get along without you” [p. 259]. Why does Mrs. Lincoln come to rely so heavily on Elizabeth? In what ways is Elizabeth a loyal and generous friend to Mrs. Lincoln? What does she offer Mrs. Lincoln beyond dressmaking?
  7. Late in her life, Elizabeth tells the reporter, Mr. Fry, “When I am most in distress, I think of what I often heard Mr. Lincoln say to his wife: ’Don’t worry, Mother, because all things will come out right. God rules our destinies” [p. 349]. Does the novel itself seem to confirm Mr. Lincoln’s belief in divine providence? Does Lincoln’s death seem fated?
  8. What are some of the novel’s most moving scenes? How is Chiaverini able to bring the era, as well as the Lincoln family, so vividly to life?
  9. What are Elizabeth’s intentions in writing her memoir? In what ways does the editor of Carleton & Co., Mr. Redpath, take advantage of her?
  10. One reviewer of Elizabeth’s memoir, Behind the Scenes, writes that “The Line must be drawn somewhere, and we protest that it had better be traced before all the servant girls are educated up to the point of writing up the private history of the families in which they may be engaged” [p. 321]. Why do the critics respond with such hostility — and inaccuracy — to her book? Why would they feel threatened by it?
  11. How does Lincoln’s Dressmaker complement and add to the portrait of President Lincoln in the recent, Oscar–winning film Lincoln?
  12. Elizabeth learns from Mrs. Lincoln’s negative example that “the only way to redeem oneself from scandal was to live an exemplary life every day thereafter” [p. 325]. In what ways is her life, not just after the scandal but her entire life, exemplary?
  13. Reflecting on her teaching at Wilberforce University, Elizabeth feels that “Her greatest legacy could not be measured in garments or in words but in the wisdom she had imparted, in the lives made better because she had touched them” [p. 339]. In what ways does Lincoln’s Dressmaker also strengthen Elizabeth’s legacy? How much did you know about her before reading the novel?

 

 

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StarsAreFireThe All Good Books discussion group will meet this Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 7 PM to discuss the novel Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve. We’ll meet in the Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village) Church Library.

The publisher has posted some discussion questions which we can use as discussion starters. Further, I’ve added a few additional questions below:

  1. Was there a quote in the book that bears discussion? Something you underlined because it “spoke to you?”
  2. What do you imagine it would be like to be a disaster survivor? Have you ever survived a disaster? How has it effected your life?
  3. What would you take with you in the face of a natural disaster or catastrophe? Sentimental items or practical items or a bit of both? Be as specific as you can.
  4. In the marriage vows, what do you consider the limits of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part?” Is there ever a time when “worse” is so bad the vows can/should be broken?
  5. Assuming every novel has a central idea or thesis statement, what would it be for Stars are Fire?

We hope you can join us!

WrightBrothersThe All Good Books group will meet this Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 7 PM at the Community of Christ Congregation, 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS. We will discuss “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough. The following are some suggested questions to kick off the discussion.

  1. How would you describe the Wright brothers; who was older? Describe their dress, work habits, politics and social skills?
  2. What did the author mean by saying that Katherine could turn “wrathy?”
  3. What did you discover about Wilbur and Orville’s father?
  4. Do you agree with Bishop Wright’s advice to his sons when he said, “It is assumed that young folks know best, and old folks are fogies. It may be so, but old folks may be as right about new fangles as young folks are about fogy ways. Make business first, pleasure afterward, and that guarded. All the money anyone needs is just enough to prevent one from being a burden on others.” (Page 13-14)
  5. What’s your reaction to the story of Oliver Crook Haugh and Wilbur Wright? (Page 14) Were you aware of that part of Wilbur’s history?
  6. While many were in favor of the newfangled bicycle, other “voices were raised in protest. Bicycles were proclaimed morally hazardous. Until now children and youth were unable to stray very far from home on foot. Now, one magazine warned, fifteen minutes could put them miles away. Because of bicycles, it was said, young people were not spending the time they should with books, and more seriously that suburban and country tours on bicycles were ‘not infrequently accompanied by seductions.’” (Page 22) Do you see any parallels to technological advances in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century?
  7. What caused Wilbur to write to his Father, “In business it is the aggressive man, who continually has his eye on his own interest, who succeeds [he wrote]. Business is merely a form of warfare in which each combatant strives to get the business away from his competitors and at the same time keep them from getting what he already has. No man has ever been successful in business who was not aggressive, self-assertive and even a little bit selfish perhaps. There is nothing reprehensible in an aggressive disposition, so long as it is not carried to excess, for such men make the world and its affairs move. . . . I entirely agree that the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push. That is the very reason that none of us have been or will be more than ordinary businessmen.” (Page 24) Did Wilbur’s prediction hold true?
  8. The writings of Octave Chanute, a celebrated French-born American civil engineer (bridge and railroad builder) and Samuel Pierpont Langley, creator of the pilotless “aerodrome,” and backed by the Smithsonian, were helpful to the Wright brothers according to the author. How much of a debt do the Wright brothers owe to these pioneers? What do you remember about their relationships with each man?
  9. Have you heard stories that the Wright brothers were really not the first to succeed in human flight? How does the author treat these claims?
  10. According to the author, “All the same, and importantly, the times were alive with invention, technical innovations, new ideas of every kind. George Eastman had introduced the “Kodak” box camera; Isaac Merritt Singer, the first electric sewing machine; the Otis Company had installed the world’s first elevator in a New York office building; the first safety razor, the first mousetrap, the first motor cars built in America—all in the dozen years since Orville started his print shop and Wilbur emerged from his spell of self-imposed isolation.” (Page 35) Is that atmosphere of constant innovation past for America? Why or why not?
  11. How did the Wright brothers decide on Kitty Hawk as the location for their tests? What were they looking for? (Page 40). Where was Kitty Hawk located? Was that the hometown of the Wright brothers?
  12. Who or what were the “skeeters” that arrived on Kitty Hawk on July 18, 1901? (Page 58)
  13. Who stated in 1901, that “not in a thousand years would man ever fly…?” (Page 64)
  14. What events in the history of flight and the lives of Wilbur and Orville Wright were you surprised to discover from the book by McCullough?
  15. What momentous claim could John T. Daniels make? (page 106)
  16. On page 107 the author states, “incidentally, the Langley project had cost nearly $70,000, the greater part of it public money, whereas the brothers’ total expenses for everything from 1900 to 1903, including materials and travel to and from Kitty Hawk, came to a little less than $1,000, a sum paid entirely from the modest profits of their bicycle business.” Is that kind of individually funded entrepreneurship possible today? Likely?
  17. Why do you think the U.S. War Department was so slow to show any interest in the Wright brother’s flying machine? (Page 122-123)
  18. Were you aware that Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, a twenty-six-year-old West Point graduate had flown with Orville and died in a crash that almost killed Orville? What are your thoughts on Selfridge and the incident? How badly injured was Orville? What caused the accident? (Page 190-192)
  19. When Wilbur started giving rides in his two-seater, what was the criterion for filling the empty seat? (Page 223)
  20. Were you surprised by the legal battles that ensued over the Wright brother’s patents? React to the following quote from McCullough’s “Epilogue.” “Of far the greatest importance to both (Wilbur and Orville)—more than the money at stake—was to secure just and enduring credit for having invented the airplane. It was their reputation at stake and that mattered most. Their pride of achievement, quite understandably, was great. Eventually nine suits were brought by them, three brought against them. Over time they won every case in the American courts.”

 

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.

In preparation for our October 11, 2012 discussion of Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, I’ve drafted a few questions that might generate some discussion. We’ll meet at 7 PM Thursday at the Leawood Pioneer Library, Leawood, Kansas.

  1. What did you anticipate when you started to read the book and how did your expectations correspond with what you read?
  2. Are there passages in the book that you underlined and otherwise noted that made you reflect on issues related to the afterlife, pain and suffering, rewards and punishment or other topics?
  3. How closely does your concept of Heaven correspond with Colton’s experiences? Angels with wings? Such as God sitting literally on a throne? Angels carrying swords or bows and arrows to fight Satan and his forces? The age-related appearance of those who have died (Colton’s unborn sister appears as a child but Grandpa “Pop” Barber appears as a young man)? The presence of Jesus, Gabriel, Mary, Satan, and others?
  4. Have you ever experienced “shot down power” that provided an answer when needed and it seemed as if under normal circumstances you wouldn’t know what to say? (page 146)
  5. Colton first relates his story to his parents 3½ months after the event and continues adding detail over the next several years (approximately the next 2½ to 3 years). How reliable do you consider his re-telling of the events? Do you think Colton’s reflections are at all influenced and expanded because of his environment (growing up as the son of a Pastor)?
  6. Does the book alter, reinforce or negate any of your views of the afterlife?
  7. How did you react to Colton’s statement that “This one’s right” when he saw Akiane’s portrait of Jesus?
  8. When asked how Colton’s experience had changed the family, Pastor Burpo said “it absolutely broke us” and “we learned the value of being vulnerable enough to let others be strong for us, to let others bless us.” What do you think he meant? See page 153.
  9. What answers did you find in the book?
  10. Would you recommend the book to others? Why or why not?

Related links:

Heaven is real, says neurosurgeon who claims to have visited the afterlife http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/heaven-real-says-neurosurgeon-claims-visited-afterlife-213527063.html

Audio Interview with Todd Burpo about “Heaven Is For Real” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnCuKD0-xyM

Today Show interview with Burpo Family http://youtu.be/EACV0QuG0-c