August Book Selection

August 2011 Book Selection

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Monday, August 8, 2011
6:30 pm @ Baba Yega

Kingsolver’s ambitious new novel, her first in nine years (after the The Poisonwood Bible), focuses on Harrison William Shepherd, the product of a divorced American father and a Mexican mother. After getting kicked out of his American military academy, Harrison spends his formative years in Mexico in the 1930s in the household of Diego Rivera; his wife, Frida Kahlo; and their houseguest, Leon Trotsky, who is hiding from Soviet assassins. After Trotsky is assassinated, Harrison returns to the U.S., settling down in Asheville, N.C., where he becomes an author of historical potboilers (e.g., Vassals of Majesty) and is later investigated as a possible subversive. Narrated in the form of letters, diary entries and newspaper clippings, the novel takes a while to get going, but once it does, it achieves a rare dramatic power that reaches its emotional peak when Harrison wittily and eloquently defends himself before the House Un-American Activities Committee (on the panel is a young Dick Nixon). Employed by the American imagination, is how one character describes Harrison, a term that could apply equally to Kingsolver as she masterfully resurrects a dark period in American history with the assured hand of a true literary artist.

About the Author

Guardian Review

NY Times Review

Discussion Questions

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July 2011 Book Selection

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Monday, July 11, 2011
6:30 pm @ TBD

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’sThe Handmaid’s Talehas become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules. Like Aldous Huxley’sBrave New Worldand George Orwell’sNineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Talehas endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

Study Guide

Helpful Chapter Guide

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June 2011 Book Selection

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
Monday, June 13, 2011
6:30 pm @ Kenneally’s

Proulx has followed Postcards , her story of a family and their farm, with an extraordinary second novel of another family and the sea. The fulcrum is Quoyle, a patient, self-deprecating, oversized hack writer who, following the deaths of nasty parents and a succubus of a wife, moves with his two daughters and straight-thinking aunt back to the ancestral manse in Killick-Claw, a Newfoundland harbor town of no great distinction. There, Quoyle finds a job writing about car crashes and the shipping news for The Gammy Bird , a local paper kept afloat largely by reports of sexual abuse cases and comical typographical errors. Killick-Claw may not be perfect, but it is a stable enough community for Quoyle and Co. to recover from the terrors of their past lives. But the novel is much more than Quoyle’s story: it is a moving evocation of a place and people buffeted by nature and change. Proulx routinely does without nouns and conjunctions–“Quoyle, grinning. Expected to hear they were having a kid. Already picked himself for godfather”–but her terse prose seems perfectly at home on the rocky Newfoundland coast. She is in her element both when creating haunting images (such as Quoyle’s inbred, mad and mean forbears pulling their house across the ice after being ostracized by more God-fearing folk) and when lyrically rendering a routine of gray, cold days filled with cold cheeks, squidburgers, fried bologna and the sea. 

About the Author

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May 2011 Book Selection

The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Monday, May 9, 2011
6:30 pm @ TBA

The Bone People weaves its story together with dreams, myths and legends, the world of the dead, and the ways of ancient cultures. The result is an unconventional and powerful novel which, after being rejected by major New Zealand publishers, was published by a women’s collective and won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1985. The Bone People explores the potential within families for both destruction and healing, as well as the great personal costs of the disintegration of individual connections to traditional communities and cultures – in this case, the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand. The novel centers on a strange trinity of characters, each isolated, each spiritually adrift. Simon, a mute child surrounded by mysteries, is found on a beach and is adopted by Joe, a Maori man embittered by the loss of his wife and son and thwarted in his desire for family, religious, and cultural ties. The two are bound together by “a bloody kind of love that has violence as its silent partner.” Simon and Joe come into the life of Kerewin, a part-Maori woman estranged from her family. She is a strong woman, compassionate and powerful, a sensualist who delights in color and landscape, food and archaic language, but who is also wary and conflicted. The three come together, break apart, experience great pain and loss, and eventual healing. Ultimately, the family they create stands as Keri Hulme’s assertion of vitality and regeneration for individuals, families and traditional cultures.

About Keri Hulme

Book Summary

Guardian Review

Facebook Page

Book Club Review

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Summer of Women Authors

We have selected the books for the next four months which will carry us through the summer. We decided to read all women authors this summer, which is pretty exciting! Here is the schedule for the summer:

May 9, The Bone People by Keri Hulme – Shannon leading

June 13, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx – Kristina leading

July 11, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Tim and Molly leading

August 8, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – Barb leading

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April 2011 Book Selection

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Monday, April 11, 2011
6:30 pm @ TBA

Shteyngart presents another profane and dizzying satire, a dystopic vision of the future as convincing—and, in its way, as frightening—as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s also a pointedly old-fashioned May-December love story, complete with references to Chekhov and Tolstoy. Mired in protracted adolescence, middle-aged Lenny Abramov is obsessed with living forever (he works for an Indefinite Life Extension company), his books (an anachronism of this indeterminate future), and Eunice Park, a 20-something Korean-American. Eunice, though reluctant and often cruel, finds in Lenny a loving but needy fellow soul and a refuge from her overbearing immigrant parents. Narrating in alternate chapters—Lenny through old-fashioned diary entries, Eunice through her online correspondence—the pair reveal a funhouse-mirror version of contemporary America: terminally indebted to China, controlled by the singular Bipartisan Party (Big Brother as played by a cartoon otter in a cowboy hat), and consumed by the superficial. Shteyngart’s earnestly struggling characters—along with a flurry of running gags—keep the nightmare tour of tomorrow grounded. A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title, this is Shteyngart’s best yet.

New York Times Review

Review on Slate and Slate’s Audio Book Club

The Guardian Review

NPR Interview with Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart on Facebook

 

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March 2011 Book Selection

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Monday, March 7, 2011
6:30 pm @ Red Lion Pub

In this darkly comic début novel set in India, Balram, a chauffeur, murders his employer, justifying his crime as the act of a “social entrepreneur.” In a series of letters to the Premier of China, in anticipation of the leader’s upcoming visit to Balram’s homeland, the chauffeur recounts his transformation from an honest, hardworking boy growing up in “the Darkness”—those areas of rural India where education and electricity are equally scarce, and where villagers banter about local elections “like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra”—to a determined killer. He places the blame for his rage squarely on the avarice of the Indian élite, among whom bribes are commonplace, and who perpetuate a system in which many are sacrificed to the whims of a few. Adiga’s message isn’t subtle or novel, but Balram’s appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling.

About Aravind Aviga

White Tiger Wins 2008 Booker Prize

Discussion Questions

NY Times Review

The Guardian Review

The Hindu Review

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