Archives for posts with tag: novel

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!

At the suggestion of several members, the All Good Books group will take on a new format beginning this month. While we’ll discuss Kristin Hannah’s novel, “The Great Alone,” we’ll also open the meeting for “book reports” by anyone attending.

If you’ve read a book that you loved or disliked, come prepared to share your comments about the book.  For the foreseeable future, we won’t schedule books to read months in advance, instead, we’ll go month to month based on recommendations by members.

So, if you’ve been reading something you’d like to share with the group, please plan to attend on Zoom at 7:00 PM this Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Zoom link used for all Mission Road Congregation meetings will also be used for the book club.

The All Good Books club will discuss “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The book club currently meets on Zoom.

“The Great Alone is a story of survival; the main characters must survive in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness and survive an abusive and volatile family situation. Ernst, the father, is a deeply flawed man. He prefers the company of survivalist and doomsdayer “Mad Earl” to that of the more optimistic townspeople. Cora, the mother, clings to the memory of the man he was before his time as a Vietnam War POW.

“Thirteen-year-old daughter Leni is caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, and has little choice but to go along, hoping that the move to Alaska will promise a better future.

“Author Hannah paints a vivid and memorable image of a family and a community making a living and surviving out in the wilderness. The small community she depicts is sparse, but vibrant, providing warmth and softening the edges of the harsh Alaskan landscape.”

Start reading now and join us on the 18th to discuss “The Great Alone.

The All Good Books group will meet to discuss “The Overstory” by Richard Powers on Thursday, January 21, 2021, at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

Possible discussion questions for the session are listed below. They are all derived from the PBS New Hour website at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/discussion-questions-for-the-overstory.

  1. Why do you think Richard Powers chose the title “The Overstory”?
  2. What was your experience with trees as a child, and what has it been as an adult? Have trees shaped your life in any meaningful way? Do you have a favorite tree?
  3. Adam initially builds his career on studying the faults in human brains, such as confirmation bias and the conflation of correlation with causality. Meanwhile, Douglas is convinced that humans’ greatest flaw is mistaking agreement for truth. What questions does this book ask about human failings?
  4. What does Powers mean when he describes humans as “trapped in blinkered bodies”?
  5. What do you make of the voices Olivia hears, and her sense of conviction that “the most wondrous products of four billion years of life” need our help?
  6. Which character’s story do you identify with the most, and why?
  7. It is a difficult moment for Douglas when he learns that all of his years of planting trees have only allowed companies to increase its annual allowable cut. How did this book make you think differently, if at all, about clear-cutting? Do you see it happening in your own community?
  8. What are you learning about trees that you didn’t know before? Did some of Patricia’s research surprise you, either about the “giving trees” or the ways dead trees contribute to forests? Did any of it change the way you see trees?
  9. Patricia describes trees and humans as being “at war” over land and water and the atmosphere, and that she can see “which side will lose by winning.” What does she mean by that?
  10. The book is divided into four parts: “Roots,” “Trunk,” “Crown,” and “Seeds.” What is the significance of each section? Were you surprised when the stories began to intertwine?
  11. Our book club just finished reading “We the Corporations,” a book about the ways corporations have gained many of the same rights as individuals. In “The Overstory,” Ray is moved and upset by a legal argument that suggests trees should also share those rights. Do you agree?
  12. Were you surprised by the lengths that Adam, Olivia, Nicholas, Mimi and Douglas went to try to wake people up to the destruction of forests? What did you think of their tactics?
  13. What have you read in the news lately that mirrors the stories in “The Overstory”? How is “The Overstory” playing out in real life in your own community?
  14. What is the significance of the worlds Neelay creates within his game, “Mastery”?
  15. What was your opinion of “direct action” as a means of effective activism before the book? What is your opinion after reading it? Do you think it should play a role in addressing the destruction of our planet?
  16. Toward the end of the book, Dorothy is arrested for her determination to let her yard grow wild. Did this book change how you see your own backyard?
  17. As the book closes, Mimi seems to say that the world as it has been is ending and a new one will begin. Does that ring true to you? How does that make you feel?
  18. Richard Powers writes: “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” Do you agree? Did any part of this story change your mind?

The All Good Books group will meet on Zoom this Thursday evening, November 19, 2020 at 7:00 PM. To discuss “The Lending Library” by Aliza Fogelson.

Possible discussion questions include:

  1. How would you describe “The Lending Library” to a friend and would you recommend the novel?
  2. Have you read any of the books mentioned in “The Lending Library?” Are there any books mentioned that you’d like to read or have read?
  3. Dodie, the main character through whose voice much of the novel is narrated, seems to have numerous “irons in the fire.” What are they? Is she juggling too much or is that a realistic depiction of a young woman her age?
  4. How would you describe the relationship between Dodie, Maddie and Coco?
  5. Describe Maddie’s birthday meal with Dodie. What does it reveal about the two?
  6. Who is Benton and how does he tie in with the plot? Who are Kendra and Geraldine? What role did they play in the novel?
  7. Who are Sullivan and Elizabeth? What was their big disagreement about? What advice would you have given if you were their friend or parent?
  8. Who is Elmira? Does she play a significant role in the novel? She’s re-reading “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” Have you read the book? Is there significance to its mention in the novel?
  9. Bridge to Terabithia” is mentioned in the novel. Why? Have you read the novel? What significance does it hold for the characters in “The Lending Library?”
  10. Who is Shep? What’s his story within the story?
  11. Who’s the most interesting character in the novel?
  12. Did you feel the characters in the novel were privileged, average, relatable, fanciful, realistic or stereotypical?
  13. Are there passages you underlined in the novel or re-read? Were there scenes that stuck with you? Please share.
  14. Describe the three sister’s meeting with “Not Dad.” How did you react to the meeting?
  15. Were you pleased, surprised, anxious or ho hum about the ending? Did you race to the ending or saunter along until you reached it?
  16. What is or has been your personal relationship to books and libraries?

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?

The All Good Books group will discuss Allen Eskens’ novel The Life We Bury this Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 7 PM on Zoom.

Possible discussion questions follow:

  1. How would you summarize “The Life We Bury” to a friend without giving away the ending or other important events?
  2. Would you have interviewed a murderer as Joe Talbert did? Why or why not?
  3. How would you describe the main characters in the book? Joe Talbert, Carl Iverson, L. Nash, Jeremy Naylor, Kathy Nelson, Mary Lorngren, Grandpa Bill, Crystal Hagen, Dan Lockwood, Doug Lockwood, Max Rupert, Andy Fisher.
  4. As you read the novel, did you find the characters unique or stereotypes? Believable or implausible? Was the plot believable, predictable, unexpected, or implausible?
  5. Were there concepts, ideas, people or events in the book that you researched further beyond what was indicated in the novel? Did you look up any of the following? The Innocence Project, Pascal’s gambit, Occam’s razor, Dying declaration, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Donner party, Romanesque Revival, or BOLO?
  6. In a conversation between Joe Talbert and Carl Iverson the question of “killing” vs. “murdering“ is raised. Is there a difference?
  7. What did you think the novel’s title indicated about the story and its characters? Whose was the life that was buried and what was buried?
  8. Was there an event or happening in the novel that “stuck with you” or was particularly memorable?
  9. Is guilt a character in the novel? Explain your response.
  10. Why do you think Carl Iverson watched the girl next door so closely? Is his motivation ever explained in the novel?
  11. What is Hillview Manor? How is it described? Does that description match your experiences?
  12. Would you read another murder mystery by Allen Eskens? Explain.