Archives for posts with tag: literature

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?

 

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HandmaidsThe next meeting of the All Good Books group will be on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). The group will discuss one of 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 below. Discussion questions for the Timmer book will be posted later.

Discussion questions for The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. What is a dystopia and how does it contrast with a utopia?
  2. What are some of the events that led to the dystopia in the novel (page 174)?
  3. Were you surprised that the novel was written by a woman? Why or why not?
  4. How would you describe the novel? Imaginative, hopeful, distressing, depressing, unbelievable, or?
  5. The narrator refers to several Colloquialisms from the “before time.” What is the before time?
  6. Authors of science fiction often take events from today’s news and extrapolate them into the future. What events today might lead to the dystopia described in the novel?
  7. Among the colloquialisms in the novel are the following. Have you heard them? What does each mean to you?
    “Waste not, want not.” Page 7
    “I know what you mean” and “I hear where you’re coming from.” Page 11.
    “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Page 52
    “The understatement of the year…” Page 137
    “Time to take stock.” Page 143
    “Context is all.” Page 144
    “Steel yourself.” Page 160
    “Even Steven.” Page 172
    “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.” Page 211
    “What are you waiting for?” Page 291
  8. What is an Eye? An Angel? What is meant by the phrase “under his Eye?” Page 18.
  9. What does the following passage from page 18 of the novel tell you about the society described by Offred and its origins? “I used to be bad at waiting. They also serve who only stand and wait, said Aunt Lydia. She made us memorize it. She also said, Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted. She had a mole on her chin that went up and down while she talked. She said, Think of yourselves as seeds, and right then her voice was wheedling, conspiratorial, like the voices of those women who used to teach ballet classes to children, and who would say, Arms up in the air now; let’s pretend we’re trees. I stand on the corner, pretending I am a tree.”
  10. On page 24, Aunt Lydia says, “There is more than one kind of freedom….Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” Is it possible to have freedom to and freedom from? Explain.
  11. What did Aunt Lydia mean (page 25) when she says “We were a society dying, of too much choice.”
  12. What was the role of the Econowives (described on page 24) in the Gilead society? Do we have a similar position in today’s society?
  13. Did you think the Epilogue added to or diminished the story? Was it necessary?
  14. Offred says on page 19 (with the war with the Baptists raging off-screen) “…I’m ravenous for news, any kind of news; even if it’s false news, it must mean something.” Do you see a parallel today or has one occurred during your lifetime, when news (any news) was better than no news?
  15. In Gilead, men are hung for past crimes (Angel Makers), “Gender Treachery” is punished by death, women are not allowed to write, stores are marked by images rather than lettered names, and one’s clothing is standardized (red, blue, green, black, striped). Why?
  16. Serena Joy is described by the narrator this way (page 45). “She wasn’t singing anymore by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home. Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.” Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do?” Or is a contradictory life style sometimes necessary to make political and social gains?
  17. On page 46, the life situation of Serena Joy is described as “She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.” What’s your reaction to Serena Joy? Is she an admirable character? Pathetic? Powerful? Neglected?
  18. On page 48, the narrator says, “The dishtowel is white with blue stripes. Dishtowels are the same as they always were. Sometimes these flashes of normality come at me from the side, like ambushes. The ordinary, the usual, a reminder, like a kick. I see the dishtowel, out of context, and I catch my breath. For some, in some ways, things haven’t changed that much.” Have you ever had a memory triggered by an object? Describe it and indicate whether the memory was pleasant, painful or just unwanted.
  19. What does “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” mean? Why is it used several places in the story?
  20. At one point in the story, Offred says, “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” What does she mean? Who are these people?
  21. The Red Center’s official name is the “Rachel and Leah Center.” What’s the significance of the name?
  22. What caused the inability of many women in Gilead to bear children. See page 112.
  23. Do you agree with the statement (page 125), “But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”
  24. Why do you think the Commander want to see Offred alone in his study? Why would he show her an old copy of Vogue (page 156)?
  25. Do you agree “Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.” See page 211.

The next meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will be on Thursday, November 9, 2017. We’ll discuss The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Obsession by Nora Roberts. The group will meet at 7 PM in the Church Library at the Community of Christ, Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas).

The following questions are offered as possible kick starters for the discussion of Ellen Rankin’s The Westing Game, first published in 1978. Questions for The Obsession will be posted later.

  1. One reviewer claimed that The Westing Game met the criteria for an excellent murder mystery because it included an unusual plot, “a nutso bunch of characters” and “more unexpected twists than you can count.” Agree or disagree? Explain why.
  2. The novel has been taught for over 30 years in elementary and middle schools while it also appealed to adults. Why do you think that’s the case? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
  3. Many mystery novels provide only a single point of view. The Westing Game provided insight into the thoughts of most of the characters. Did that make the novel more interesting? More confusing? Would it have been better if you only had one point of view (a narrator or one participant)?
  4. On page 4, the author says the tenants in Sunset Towers include, “A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.” Which characters in the novel are identified by each label?
  5. On page 29, Sam Westing’s will reads, “My life was taken from me—by one of you!” What did he mean? Who took away his life?
  6. On page 31, Mr. Hoo says, “The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.” What does that mean to you?
  7. The novel includes 26 characters: Turtle Wexler, Angela Wexler, Grace Windsor Wexler, Theo Theodorakis, Chris Theodorakis, George Theodorakis, Catherine Theodorakis, Sandy (Alexander) McSouthers, Dr. Denton Deere, Otis Amber, Berthe Erica Crowe, Sydelle Pulaski, Flora Baumbach, Mr. Hoo, Madame Hoo, Sam Westing, Barney Northrup, Julian R. Eastman, Ed Plum, Sikes, Rosalie Baumbach, Violet Westing, Mr. Schultz, Shirley Staver, Alice Deere, Judge J.J. Ford.What do you know about each of them? Is there something about each person’s name that you found significant or symbolic?
  8. Why do you think Sam Westing (and the author) paired up specific heirs to compose the 8 teams at the reading of the will? The teams were: Madame Hoo and Jake Wexler, Turtle Wexler and Flora Baumbach, Chris Theodorakis and Dr. Denton Deere, Sandy McSouthers and J. J. Ford, Grace Wexler and Mr. Hoo, Berthe Crowe and Otis Amber, Theo Theodorakis and Doug Hoo, Sydelle Pulaski and Angela Wexler.
  9. Were there clues you picked up early in the book that helped solve the mystery? What were they?
  10. Why do you think Angela develops a rash on her ring finger?
  11. Why do you think the bomber set off the (first three) bombs?
  12. Did the Westing Game have anything to do with chess? Who was playing chess in the Game Room with Theo?
  13. Did “twins” have anything to do with the Westing Game?
  14. On page 68, why did Mrs. Wexler and Flora Baumbach indicate Turtle’s real name was, respectively, Tabitha-Ruth and Alice?
  15. Why do you think Judge J.J. Ford gave the entire $10,000 to Sandy the doorman? Does she ever realize what she’s done?
  16. On page 92, what does Grace mean by “English-speaking ears?” What issue does her behavior raise?
  17. On page 94, why do you think Sandy describes Mrs. Westing differently than Judge Ford remembers her (after meeting her briefly years earlier)? Judge Ford recalls that, “Mrs. Westing was white. Very white.” What does she mean?
  18. On page 99, Turtle tells Angela, “I didn’t look at your notes or clues, honest.” And then the author notes, “But she had removed the incriminating evidence.” What was the evidence?
  19. Why does Judge Ford consider Sam Westing a manipulative, mean man? Why does Sandy disagree?
  20. Are there secrets held by each of the 16 heirs that we haven’t discussed?
  21. On page 149, the will repeats, “It is not what you have, it’s what you don’t have that counts.” What was missing from the clues?
  22. How did Turtle’s habit of kicking people figure into solving the murder of Sam Westing?
  23. How did you react to the novel’s conclusion? Was it anticipated? A Surprise? Satisfying? Disappointing?
  24. Would you recommend The Westing Game to a pre-teen? To a teenager? To a young adult? To an adult? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?

Please come and join the discussion.

open book on a cloudThe All Good Books group will meet a week later than usual in August (on the 17th rather than the 10th) at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah.

There are some fascinating discussion questions available online at https://kristinhannah.com/books/magic-hour/book-clubs/. After you read the book, take a look at the 14 questions posted online.

We hope you can join us on the 17th!

The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, July 13, 2017 in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7:00 PM to discuss The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. You’re invited!

Woman_in_Cabin_10Here are some possible discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe the book? A roller coaster ride? Predictable mystery? Careful attention to detail? Just a fun read? Unexpected twists and turns? Not what I expected? Kept me reading and on the edge of my seat?
  2. Did you find Lo (Laura) a likable, believable character? Why or why not?
  3. What was the connection between the burglary at Lo’s apartment and the events on the ship?
  4. Which characters aroused your suspicions during the story? Who did you think was the woman in Cabin 10? Why? Did that change?
  5. What is Stockholm Syndrome and do you think that effected Lo and Carrie’s relationship?
  6. How effective were the email messages in moving the story forward? Were they necessary? Irrelevant. Red herrings?
  7. What was the connection between the dark haired girl in a Pink Floyd t-shirt on Archer’s phone and the woman in cabin 10? Was that photo relevant to the mystery or a red herring?
  8. Was Carrie a victim, co-conspirator or primary conspirator in the crime on the high seas?
  9. Why did Lo have a change of heart at the end of the novel and decide to move to New York? Did that seem like a normal response?
  10. What happened to the main characters by the end of the book? Lo, Judah, Richard, Anne, Ben, Carrie, and Johann? Others?
  11. How was the mystery resolved and were you satisfied with the ending of the story? Why or why not?
  12. Were there unanswered questions in the plot? If so, what wasn’t covered or finalized in the ending?

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.

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM is the next meeting of the All Good Books club. We’ll discuss “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrick Backman.

The group meets at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation in the Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). Everyone is welcome!

Here are some suggested discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe Elsa?
  2. How would you describe Elsa’s grandmother, Granny?
  3. Who is Britt-Marie and Kent and what relationship are they to Alf? Who is Lennart and Maud and how are they related to the other tenants? Who is the boy with the syndrome and his Mum? Who is the Monster (Wolfheart)? Who is Sam and is there a relationship between Sam and any of the other residents? Who is the woman in the black skirt? Who is Halfie? Who is wurse, Audi and Renault? What’s the relationship between Mum, Dad, George and Lisette?
  4. What do you remember about the Land-of-Almost-Awake? How do you travel to the land?
  5. What is the word jar? Who uses it and why?
  6. Is there a character that you personally identified with or who reminded you of someone you know? Tell us why.
  7. Is Elsa a believable almost 8-year old? Explain.
  8. What happened on the day Elsa was born? What philosophical question does her birth and the corresponding event raise?
  9. Who are in the photos on Granny’s ceiling?
  10. Is there a scene in the novel that had an emotional impact for you? Describe and explain why.
  11. Do you agree that the novel is part fairy tale and part adult story? Would you give it to a pre-teen to read? Why or why not?
  12. What do you view as the important themes of the novel?
  13. In a conversation on the phone, Elsa hears Granny say, ““I don’t want Elsa to know that I am going to die because all seven-year-olds deserve superheroes, Marcel. And one of their superpowers ought to be that they can’t get cancer.” Why are superpowers referenced and emphasized throughout the novel? Who has which superpowers?
  14. Granny says, ““It’s a grandmother’s prerogative never to have to show her worst sides to her grandchild, Elsa. Never to have to talk about what she was like before she became a grandmother.” Why does Granny say this and do you agree?
  15. Have you ever wanted to ask someone, like a parent or relative, a question and never got around to it until it was too late? How is that question related to the novel?
  16. What does the following quote mean? “Because not all monsters look like monsters. There are some that carry their monstrosity inside.”
  17. Would you like a grandmother like Granny? Why or why not?
  18. What is Granny sorry about?
  19. Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
  20. Would you recommend this book to someone else to read? Why or why not?