Archives for posts with tag: novel

RESCHEDULED: The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 7 PM to discuss “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. The book club will meet in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Mission, Kansas). All are invited to attend.

Discussion questions for the novel are available at https://www.readinggroupguides.com/reviews/little-fires-everywhere/guide.

The Thursday, September 19, 2019 All Good Books group meeting will discuss “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. We’ll meet at 7 pm in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas).

Some possible discussion questions on the novel follow:

  1. Would you recommend “Where the Crawdads Sing” to a fellow reader? Why and how would you describe it (romance, coming of age, murder mystery)?
  2. On the first page of the novel, the narrator states, “A swamp knows all about death, and doesn’t necessarily define it as tragedy, certainly not a sin.” What’s the general and specific meaning of that passage?
  3. What was Kya’s greatest concern and handicap? Why?
  4. Early in the reading of the novel, did you consider the death of one of the characters an accident or murder? If the latter, who did you initially suspect was the murderer? Did your prime suspect change as you read the novel?
  5. Why was it important for the narrator to tell the reader Kya’s history (childhood) as well as the history of the marsh people?
  6. In what ways was Tate, Kya’s hero? Her betrayer?
  7. Tate’s dad, Scupper, told him that “the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.” Do you agree? How would you add or subtract from that definition?
  8. Why was Pa abusive to his wife and children? What event in his life did the narrator suggest contributed to his violent anger? What’s your reaction to Pa’s response to the event?
  9. As Kya learns to read, she encounters a sentence that reads “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” Her response to the sentence is spoken in a whisper, “I wadn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” What does she mean and what meaning do you think she found in the sentence?
  10. Describe the relationship between Kya and Chase? What was Chase’s motivation to be with Kya? Why did he always wear the shell necklace around his neck?
  11. Amanda Hamilton’s poetry is sprinkled throughout the novel. What was significant about Hamilton’s poetry?
  12. The final Hamilton poem in the novel is “The Firefly.” What is it’s significance?
  13. What is the meaning of the novel’s title? Where is the place where the crawdads sing?
  14. How important is “nature” to the structure, meaning and plot of the novel? 
  15. Are the characters and storyline in the novel believable? Realistic?
  16. Were you happy with the ending of the story?

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss Kevin Kwan’s “China Rich Girlfriend” the second novel in his Crazy Rich Asian’s trilogy.

All are invited, whether you’ve read the book or not.

Discussion questions (#1-9 below) are drawn from the LitLovers website and may be useful in generating discussion. I’ve also added a few more question (#10 and beyond).

  1. Consider the book’s title: what does “China rich” mean? How is it different (or is it…?) from “Singapore rich” where Crazy Rich Asians (CRA) takes place?
  2. Like the previous book, China Rich Girlfriend is filled with jaw-dropping opulence. Which incident, or which character, dropped your jaw more than others?
  3. In what way do Rachel and Nick serve as (somewhat) objective observers into this world of crazy conspicuous consumption? To what degree are their values different from the characters who live in Asia? Do they exude a sense of superiority over the others?
  4. Poor Rachel has her trouble with secondary mothers: Eleanor, her future mother-in-law, and Shaoyen, her step-mother. Both make life difficult for Rachel. How do their attitudes change and are those changes genuine?
  5. Talk about the ins & outs of Rachel’s relationship with her half-brother Carlton.
  6. What do you make of Kitty Pong, her social climbing and attempts to fit in with the Straits Chinese? Is she a sympathetic character?
  7. How have events transformed Astrid’s husband, Michael? Is he due a “comeuppance?”
  8. Overall, what do you think of these characters? Is Kevin Kwan presenting them critically, satirically, lovingly, humorously? All or none of those?
  9. Is there a take-away from this novel and, if you’ve read Crazy Rich Asians, from that novel as well? If so, what? Or are these books simply one of those guilty pleasures that one loves to indulge in?
  10. What do you think is the attraction of the Crazy Rich Asians series? What attracted you to read the book?
  11. Did you imagine that there were people in China, Hong Kong and Singapore with the wealth depicted in the story?
  12. How would you describe Eleanor, Nick‘s mother? Does she change over the course of the first two novels? How?
  13. What are the advantages and drawbacks of marrying into wealth like Kitty Pong or Rachel Chu? Are the trade-offs worth it? would you make different choices in their shoes?
  14. Does Rachel change over the course of the first two books in the series? How?
  15. Are you intrigued to read the third novel? Why or why not? What questions for you remain unanswered?
  16. Which of the first two books did you enjoy more? Why?

The All Good Books book club will discuss Elizabeth Berg’s Night of Miracles on Thursday, July 18, 2019. The meeting will be held in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas) at 7 PM. All are invited to attend.

Sequel to The Story of Arthur Truluv.

Discussion questions are available on the publisher’s website.

The publisher’s description of the book follows:

Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off one big decision she sorely regrets.

When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community–just when they need it the most.

We hope you can join us for this book club discussion.

The All Good Books book club will discuss Elizabeth Berg’s The Story of Arthur Truluv” this Thursday, June 20, 2019. The meeting will be held in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas) at 7 PM. All are invited to attend.

The novel is described (on http://www.Goodreads.com) as: A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.

Discussion questions for The Story of Arthur Truluv are available on the publisher’s website.

The All Good Books group will discuss With Love, Wherever You Are
by Dandi Daley Mackall at our next meeting on Thursday, January 17, 2019.

As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

Here are some discussion questions that appear in the back of the book as published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Discussion Questions

  1. A pivotal experience in her childhood made Helen resolve she’d grow up to be a nurse, while Frank followed his father’s footsteps into medicine. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What experiences or family influences shaped your vocation?
  2. When do you think Frank actually fell in love with Helen? When did Helen admit that she’d fallen in love with Frank?
  3. Faced with the prospect of being separated by the war, Frank and Helen made a swift decision to marry. Would you have been among the friends who cheered them on or those who asked if they’d lost their minds? Why?
  4. Both before and after their wedding, Helen and Frank had moments of doubt about their marriage, especially about how well they truly knew each other. What things would you list as essential to know about another person before marrying? What kinds of things can be learned over time?
  5. Having only letters to connect them for weeks and even months left Helen and Frank vulnerable to misunderstandings. Once, as she endured long days with no word from Frank, Helen filled in her own assumptions about what he was thinking and feeling, only to learn that he hadn’t received her letters at all. In Helen’s place, would you have jumped to the same conclusions? Can you think of a time when you constructed your own story about another person during a gap in communication? How much of what you believed was the truth?
  6. Frank showed his jealousy a couple of times, most notably over Colonel Pugh and the trip to Paris. Helen also admitted her jealousy over Nurse Becky and Marie, the young French patient in Marseille. How did they handle moments of jealousy? Have you ever been jealous—of a spouse, a friend, a family member? How did you handle it?
  7. What characteristics would you say are necessary for an enduring marriage? Which of these did you see Frank and Helen exhibiting, or learning, throughout the story? Where did they still need to grow?
  8. Faced with the prospects of battles and bombings, Frank wondered, “What was it that made one man buck up, another act heroically, and another give in to terror?” How would you answer his question?
  9. Frank came to find comfort and courage from a verse of Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” How do you respond to fear?
  10. Frank was quick to tell others that Dotty and Jack were the heroes in his family—not him. Why do you think he was reluctant to take on a “hero” label? How would you define a hero, and who has been one in your life?
  11. For much of the story, Helen lived by the motto “God helps those who help themselves.” But when she’s forced to acknowledge how much is out of her control, Naomi advises her that a better motto might be “God helps most when you admit you can’t do it on your own.” Which motto do you believe and live by?
  12. This novel is fiction, but based on the experiences and letters of the real-life Frank and Helen Daley. How much do you know about your parents’ or grandparents’ histories? Can you think of any family stories that would make good fiction? If you were to write those stories, where might you have to use your imagination to fill in gaps or flesh out the details?
  13. In her note to readers, the author makes a distinction between some true and invented pieces of this story—for example, Dotty’s story adheres to the facts, but in real life, Bill Chitwood wasn’t blinded, and Major Bradford didn’t exist. As a reader, did it matter to you to learn that some of the characters were invented or their stories changed? Why or why not?
  14. During World War II, Japanese and German citizens living in the US fell under cruel suspicion, and overseas, Helen faces some of the same prejudice because of her ability to speak to wounded German soldiers. In her place, how would you have responded to such suspicion? Would you have had difficulty caring for enemy soldiers?
  15. Helen and Frank were part of what’s been called “the Greatest Generation.” What qualities have earned them this title? What names have you heard for your generation? Do you think the perception of your generation is justified?
  16. Helen and Frank wrote to each other as many as three times a day, but slow and waylaid mail often meant long gaps in communication. Censorship made it hard to freely say all they might have wanted to. How different might their story have been if they’d had access to today’s instant communication? What difficulties due to their separation would have remained the same? With our new technology and the ability to stay in touch virtually all over the globe, do you think we’ve lost anything?

KillersThe All Good Books group will discuss Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann at our next meeting on Thursday, November 15, 2018. As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

The following discussion questions are drawn from the publisher’s site (https://bit.ly/2qzeRVZ):

  1. What do the contemporary media reports on the wealth and lifestyle of the Osage reflect about white perceptions of Native Americans (pp. 6–7; pp. 76–77)? In what way do they lay a foundation for the way the murders and mysterious deaths were treated by law enforcement?
  2. What was your first impression of William Hale (p. 17)? How does Grann bring to life his strengths and appeal, as well as the darker side of his nature? What qualities does he share with people who achieve power and influence today?
  3. How did you respond to the description of law enforcement in America during the 1920s (p. 19)? What elements most shocked or surprised you? What made the situation in Osage County particularly chaotic? What effect did this have on the investigations into the deaths of Anna Brown and Charles Whitehorn?
  4. What does Grann’s account of the relationship between the United States government and Native Americans contribute to your understanding of the country’s history (pp. 37–44)? How did government policies affect individuals like Mollie and her family? What does Grann capture in his description of Lizzie’s death: “Lizzie’s spirit had been claimed by Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, and by Wah’Kon-Tah, the Great Mystery” (p. 36)?
  5. Discuss the circumstances that distinguished the Osage from other Native American tribes, including the actions taken by tribal leaders early in the century; the influx of white settlers and oil prospectors; the granting of headrights; and the guardianship system (pp. 78–80).
  6. What is the significance of the murder of Barney McBride, the oilman who went to Washington to seek help for the Osage (p. 68) and of W.W. Vaughan, the attorney who worked with private detectives investigating the murders (p. 93–4)?
  7. What does Grann’s portrait convey about J. Edgar Hoover (p. 107)? What traits stand out and what do they foretell about Hoover’s future as director of the FBI?
  8. In what ways does Tom White combine the qualities of the Old West and of the modern bureaucratic system Hoover is trying to create? How does this influence the steps he takes in investigating the murders? How do the various views of White, including the stories of his childhood and his work as a Texas Ranger (pp. 137–153), shape your impressions of him? Would you define him as the hero of the book?
  9. How were manufactured evidence, suborned testimony, and false confessions used to divert the FBI investigation? What role did independently hired private eyes and informants play in the search for the truth?
  10. The crimes in Osage County involved many levels of deception and betrayal. In addition to the actual conspirators, who else either directly profited from the crimes or was silently complicit in them? In what ways did accepted mores encourage the corruption that plagued the investigation?
  11. What role did new methods of criminal investigation play in uncovering the guilty parties? In addition to introducing up-to-date forensic science, how did Hoover use the case to transform the Bureau of Investigation and simultaneously enhance his own image?
  12. During Hale’s trial, a member of the Osage tribe said, “It is a question in my mind whether this jury is considering a murder case or not. The question for them to decide is whether a white man killing an Osage is murder—or merely cruelty to animals” (p. 215). Why does this observation resonate beyond the immediate circumstances?
  13. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Killers of the Flower Moon is the marital and familial connections between murderers and their victims. What explains Ernest Burkhart’s actions even as he remained married to and had children with Mollie? How does Grann bring to life the particular horror of crimes committed within a family and a close-knit community?
  14. What does the evidence Grann uncovered when he visited Osage County in 2012 reveal about the lasting legacy of the “Reign of Terror”?
  15. Killers of the Flower Moon combines the fast pace of a true-life murder mystery with the scope and detail of a narrative history. How does Grann integrate these different aspects of the book?
  16. We are familiar with many American crimes and criminals during the early twentieth century from movies, books, and television shows. Why do you think the story of the Osage murders hasn’t received similar attention?
  17. Are there recent examples of racial prejudice and injustice that parallel those described in Killers of the Flower Moon? What has changed about the approach taken by law enforcement? About the attitudes expressed by the white community in the face of racial or religious discrimination? In what ways have things remained the same?

A cast of characters from the book follows. This list is also drawn from the publisher’s website.

Cast of Characters

The Family
Mollie Burkhart, a wealthy Osage woman whose family was targeted

Anna Brown, Mollie’s oldest sister, a divorcee who spent a lot of time in the reservation’s rowdy boomtowns

Lizzie, Mollie’s mother, deeply attached to Osage traditions even as the world around her changed; she suffered a slow, inexplicable death

Rita, Mollie’s sister, and her husband, Bill Smith

Ernest Burkhart, Mollie’s white husband, the father of her three children, and her official financial guardian

Bryan Burkhart, Ernest’s younger brother

William Hale, Ernest’s uncle, a self-made man of great wealth and staggering power; revered by many people as “King of the Osage Hills”

Margie Burkhart, the granddaughter of Mollie and Ernest Burkhart; she shared her father’s memories of the “Reign of Terror” with Grann as well as stories about Mollie’s and Ernest’s lives in later years

The Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover, the twenty-nine-year-old newly appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation; he saw the Osage cases as a way to redeem the bureau’s bad reputation and advance his own career

Tom White, an old-style frontier lawman and former Texas Ranger who was put in charge of the investigation

John Wren, recruited by White, he was then one of the few American Indians (perhaps the only one) in the bureau

Other Characters
Barney McBride, a white oilman who sought help for the Osage

W.W. Vaughan, a lawyer who worked closely with private detectives trying to solve the Osage cases

James and David Shoun, local doctors (and brothers)

Scott Mathis, owner of the Big Hill Trading Company and a close friend of both Mollie Burkhart and William Hale; he managed Lizzie’s and Anna’s financial affairs and administered Anna’s estate

James Bighart, the legendary chief of the Osage who negotiated the prescient treaty with the government to retain mineral rights for the tribe

George Bighart, James’s nephew who gave information to W.W. Vaughan

Henry Roan, briefly married to Mollie when they were young; he borrowed heavily from William Hale and made Hale the beneficiary of his insurance policy

Additional discussion questions are available from the PBS NewsHour/New York Times book club (https://nyti.ms/2zBPMxA) as listed below.

  1. Before starting “Killers of the Flower Moon,” had you ever heard of the Osage murders? If so, how did you learn about them, and what did you know? Do you think this history should be taught in schools?
  2. Grann begins the book with a line describing the flowers spread over the Oklahoma hills where the Osage Indian nation resided — and how those flowers break and die in May. How does this line set the tone for, and introduce the subject of, the rest of the book?
  3. The first character we meet is Mollie Burkhart, whose family becomes a main target of the Osage murders. How does Grann signal to us early on what the murderer may be after?
  4. Grann describes the discovery of oil on Osage land as a “cursed blessing.” How do you think it’s a blessing, and how is it a curse?
  5. How trustworthy do you find the different authorities that appear throughout the book to investigate the murders? Authorities such as William Hale, who Grann initially describes as a “powerful local advocate for law and order,” as well as the frontier lawmen, the brothers who conduct autopsies of the bodies, the local sheriff and, later, the F.B.I.?
  6. As you reach the halfway point of the book, who do you believe is responsible for the killings? Why?
  7. Osage “headrights” — or the money received by members of the tribe, or by white guardians, from mineral royalties — soon become central to the book. Grann writes: “Although some white guardians and administrators tried to act in the best interests of the tribe, countless others used the system to swindle the very people they were ostensibly protecting.” Which sectors of society abused these guardianships? How was this able to happen?
  8. Why do you think the F.B.I. pursued the case of the Osage murders? What did you learn about the birth of the agency?
  9. At this point in your reading, what do you think these murders say about America’s history with Native American people?
  10. As the F.B.I. solved the case, what was the mythology of the bureau that J. Edgar Hoover was trying to create? What parts of the agency’s investigation of the Osage Murders were left out of the story?
  11. Grann begins the third section of the book with the words: “So much is gone now,” including oil fields and boomtowns. But he also writes that the Osage nation has recovered in the decades since the murders, and today is a vibrant nation that’s 20,000 people strong. What do you think Grann wants us to take away from this?
  12. Grann ends the book with a quote from the Bible about Cain and Abel: “The blood cries out from the ground.” Why do you think he chose to close the book this way?