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Girls of Atomic City

Book & Author

The Girls of Atomic City

A secret city in Tennessee.  Women recruited to work on a top secret project for top dollar wages.  They are sworn to secrecy and wondering what they are working on.  Then a detonation overseas makes it all clear.

Denise Kiernan

Denise has this to say about herself on her website bio:

A WORK IN PROGRESS

I tell stories.

Sometimes they’re my own, sometimes they’re not.

Sometimes they’re true, sometimes they’re not.

Sometimes I write them alone, sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I use words, sometimes I use images.
more

Watch this video from Simon and Schuster to hear Denise share what inspired her to write The Girls of Atomic City.

 Quote from the Book

They fought to smile through the lines and the mud and the long hours, dancing under the stars and under the watchful eyes of their government, an Orwellian backdrop for a Rockwellian world.

Discuss

Topics that the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • The African American experience at Oak Ridge and the ways people coped with it.
  • The ethical implications of the employees at Oak Ridge being asked to spy on each other.
  • Oak Ridge was in some ways a social experiment.  How did the women featured in the book create a community in a town populated by people who were mostly strangers to one another?

More discussion questions are available from Simon and Schuster.
You might want to also look at the questions (and responses) that a librarian at a public library used with her book group.

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After You

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Book & Author

After You

I loved Me Before You and thought it ended in the perfect place, but any doubts I had about continuing the story were quickly erased when I started this sequel. Jojo Moyes is a master at tugging on your heartstrings. I laughed, I cried, and I nearly threw my Kindle against the wall at one point. Give this to anyone in your life who has experienced a tragic loss. With a box of tissues. — Joseph Jones for LibraryReads.

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London.  In between her upbringing and her successful writing career, she’s worked as a minicab controller, did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University and spent ten years as a journalist.  She now lives and writes on a farm in Essex, England with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

Viking books had author Sophie Kinsella interview Jojo Moyes about After You – you just have to watch this:

Quote from the book

You don’t have to let that one thing be the thing that defines you

Discuss

Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • What it takes to move on after the death of someone close.
  • Whether or not it is a good idea to take on something big (like helping out a teenager) while dealing with grief.
  • What it means to have personal freedom and whether or not the characters in the book have achieved it.

More discussion questions are available from LitLovers and from this My One and Only Home blog post.

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I found the cutest Jo Jo Moyes inspired merchandise on redbubble!  Your book group will love the shirts, prints, stationary and other items with quotes and images from her books.  An inexpensive favor for those attending your meeting would be the pictured vinyl sticker.

As for food ideas, some good English Breakfast tea, a British pudding and some good wine would be my suggestions.  Any others?

Interact

Have you or your book group read After You?  Would you recommend it to other groups?  Tell us by commenting on this post.

Whose Names Are Unknown

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Whose Names Are Unknown:  Sanora Babb’s long-hidden novel Whose Names Are Unknown Whose names are unknowntells an intimate story of the High Plains farmers who fled drought dust storms during the Great Depression. Written with empathy for the farmers’ plight, this powerful narrative is based upon the author’s firsthand experience. This clear-eyed and unsentimental story centers on the fictional Dunne family as they struggle to survive and endure while never losing faith in themselves. In the Oklahoma Panhandle, Milt, Julia, their two little girls, and Milt’s father, Konkie, share a life of cramped circumstances in a one-room dugout with never enough to eat. Yet buried in the drudgery of their everyday life are aspirations, failed dreams, and fleeting moments of hope. The land is their dream. The Dunne family and the farmers around them fight desperately for the land they love, but the droughts of the thirties force them to abandon their fields. When they join the exodus to the irrigated valleys of California, they discover not the Promised Land, but an abusive labor system arrayed against destitute immigrants. The system labels all farmers like them as worthless “Okies” and earmarks them for beatings and worse when hardworking men and women, such as Milt and Julia, object to wages so low they can’t possibly feed their children. The informal communal relations these dryland farmers knew on the High Plains gradually coalesce into a shared determination to resist. Realizing that a unified community is their best hope for survival, the Dunnes join with their fellow workers and begin the struggle to improve migrant working conditions through democratic organization and collective protest.  Written in 1939, published in 2004. 222 pages.

Sanora Babb was born in Oklahoma Territory in 1907 where she developed a life-long affinity with Native American beliefs and community life based on the Otoes she knew as a child in Red Rock. There the local chief named her Little Cheyenne Who Rides Like the Wind—a name in which she took great pride. In 1913, her family moved from small town security to an utterly isolated 320-acre broomcorn farm on the vast, dry High Plains where they spent five years homesteading in eastern Colorado. (Her memoir An Owl on Every Post depicts these years.) After repeated crop failures, they moved back to the Oklahoma Panhandle where Sanora and her sister, Dorothy, were able to attend school. She had her first job at the age of twelve, working for a printer in exchange for a free supply of handbills for her theater. There were other jobs on local newspapers, a farming magazine and as a teacher.

Discuss
Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • Despite their desperate poverty, the majority of the Dunne’s Oklahoma neighbors are generous and compassionate. Why would people who don’t have enough resources to sustain their own families be willing to share what they have with others?
  • Chapter 17 was taken from a letter that Sanora Babb’s mother wrote to her. The scope of the letter is one month, and it is a harrowing day-by-day accounting of life during dust storms. Would you have been able to cope with years of dust storms, or would you have moved on earlier than the Dunnes and Starwoods? Why?

 

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Watch former Oklahoma governor, George Nigh, discuss Sanora Babb.

Interact

Would you recommend Whose Names Are Unknown to other groups? If you have read both this book and The Grapes of Wrath, which one do you think is the better book?  Why?  Comment on this post and let our other groups know what to expect if they discuss this book.

Art of Fielding

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The Art of Fielding:  At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

art of fieldingHenry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment–to oneself and to others.Published in 2011; 513 pages.
Description from book jacket.

Chad Harbach grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. His father is an accountant, his mother ran the Small World Montessori School, for children 6 and under. He read prodigiously as a child, starting with Roald Dahl. In high school, sports — basketball, golf and baseball — temporarily trumped reading and writing as priorities.

chad harbach“What fascinates me about baseball is that although it’s a team game, and a team becomes a kind of family, the players on the field are each very much alone,” he said. “Your teammates depend on you and support you, but at the moments that count they can’t bail you out.”

Discuss
Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • Does male friendship always involve competition? In what ways? Can men ever be just friends? Are their relationships more competitive than those between women?
  • After hitting Owen and losing his accuracy, Henry immerses himself in grueling physical activity: running the stadium steps, racing Starblind, doing endless chin-ups, swimming in the lake. Why does he do this? Is his body to blame for his throwing problems? Discuss the relationship between the body and the mind in The Art of Fielding.

More discussion questions are available from LitLovers

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Chad Harbach, Author of The Art of Fielding on the Leonard Lopate Book Club
Watch Chad Harbach talk about writing, baseball, and baseball’s role in United States history.

Interact

Would you recommend The Art of Fielding to other groups? Comment on this post and let our other groups know what to expect if they discuss this book.

The Patron Saint of Liars

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Book and Author

book coverIn The Patron Saint of Liars, Rose is a young wife of three years who concludes she married by mistake, that she misinterpreted teenage lust as a sign from God. Newly pregnant and unable to continue a life with a man she doesn’t love, Rose decides to leave. She abandons her quiet, inoffensive husband and their life at the southern California seaside of the 1960s.

Rose plots to give up the baby for adoption, never telling her husband. And to punish herself, she will also give up the mother she adores, the one person she really loves. Leaving without notice, she drives east to Kentucky and soon realizes that any new life will be a deception and she will be a liar for the rest of her life.

Rose’s destination is the sanctuary of St. Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers in Habit, Kentucky. St. Elizabeth’s is a refuge but also a place of liars and “leavers,” for all of the girls who come will leave, and most will lie about where they’ve been and what has happened. Unlike the other young women, Rose is married but chooses to tell no one. She plans to wait out her pregnancy, give over the baby to adoption, and then move on.

But St. Elizabeth’s keeps Rose for years. In the once elegant Hotel Louisa, the home is near the site of a healing spring run dry, a spring that still exerts a little magic. Rose learns to cook for the girls who come and go and befriends the saintly Sister Evangeline, who knows people’s troubles and sees their futures.

Rose decides to keep her baby and marries Son, the groundskeeper, and once again begins a small life with a man she doesn’t love. Her daughter Cecelia, or Sissy, grows up at St. Elizabeth’s among the nuns, a devoted father, and successive waves of unwed mothers. Sissy longs for her mother’s love and attention and wonders about her past.

Most of the odd and troubled characters fascinate and confound us. In the end, Rose surprises us one more time, and Sissy grows up, showing herself neither a liar nor a “leaver.”

ann patchettAnn PatchettPatchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. “Home is …the stable window that opens out into the imagination.” Patchett attended high school at St. Bernard Academy, a private, non-parochial Catholic school for girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. Following graduation, she attended Sarah Lawrence College and took fiction writing classes with Allan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. She later attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she met longtime friend Elizabeth McCracken. It was also there that she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars. In 2010, when she found that her hometown of Nashville no longer had a good book store, she co-founded Parnassus Books with Karen Hayes; the store opened in November 2011. In 2012, Patchett was on the Time 100 list of most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.

Quotes from the book:

“Without worry to protect me, every thought that came into my mind received real attention.”   

“To be truly brave, I believe a person has to be more than a little stupid. If you knew how hard or how dangerous something was going to be at the onset, chances are you’d never do it, so if I went back I would never be able to leave again. Now that I knew what leaving meant.”

Discuss

Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • In the book, there are many references to “leaving,” to breaking connections to home, family, and responsibilities. Who are the “leavers” and who are the ones left? Can you find evidence of what Rose, Son, and Sissy think about all the leaving? Finally, who turns out to be a “stayer,” and why is that important?
  • The novel deals with lies and liars, beginning with Rose’s first lie of omission. You might ask, “Are all lies equal?”
  • One of the characters in the novel is a “seer.”  Do you believe that some people have such abilities?  Do you believe in “signs?”  How does the author make use of the search for signs?

More discussion questions can be found at:  http://www.readinggroupguides.com/reviews/the-patron-saint-of-liars/guide

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Cooking (nurturing) is a recurring theme in this book.  You might consider serving your book group these “comfort food” dishes that are mentioned in the book:

Interact

Have you or your book group read The Patron Saint of Liars? Would you recommend it to other groups?  Share your thoughts with other book groups by commenting on this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

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Book and Author

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War. Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farm girl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

Karen Abbott: Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and, most recently, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, Amazon, and Flavorwire, and optioned by Sony for a miniseries. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in New York City, where she’s at work on her next book.

Quotes from the book:

It is so delightful to be of enough consequence to be arrested,”  

“War, like politics, was men’s work, and women were supposed to be among its victims, not its perpetrators. Women’s loyalty was assumed, regarded as a prime attribute of femininity itself,”

Discuss

Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  •  Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy examines women’s roles and how they changed when the men in their lives—fathers, husbands, brothers—enlisted in the Union and Confederate armies. What do you think was the most difficult aspect of being a woman during this time? Do you think most women considered their increased responsibilities a hardship or a freedom?
  • Emma Edmonds went furthest in upending gender roles, disguising herself as “Frank Thompson” to enlist in the Union army. How do you think Emma (and the other approximate 400 women who enlisted as men) pulled off this spectacular feat? What were some of the daily challenges they endured in living as imposter men among real ones?
  • What aspects of life during the Civil War surprised you the most as you read the women’s stories? How does this version compare to others you’ve read?

More discussion questions from the author’s website.

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You might enjoy serving Civil War era foods for your book club meeting, and there are some very good resources online:

Karen Abbott  enjoys taking part in book group discussions, and you can invite her to join yours either via phone or Skype.  You can contact her via her website.

Interact

Have you or your book group read Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy? Would you recommend it to other groups?  Share your thoughts with other book groups by commenting on this post.

Invention of Wings

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The Invention of Wings: Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the Invention of wingswealthy Grimke household. The Grimkes’ daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Sue Monk Kidd’s sweeping new novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her waiting maid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement, and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in search for something better, and Charlotte’s lover, Denmark Vesey, a charismatic free black man who is planning insurrection.

Sue Monk Kidd was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia, a place that deeply influenced the writing of her first novel The Secret Life of Bees. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and sue monk kiddAnderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers conferences.  In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction. Her short stories appeared in TriQuarterly, Nimrod, and other literary journals and received a Katherine Anne Porter award and citations in Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories.The Invention of Wings, Kidd’s third novel was published January 7, 2014 by Viking to wide critical acclaim. It debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #1 and remained on the hardcover fiction list for over six months. It has been translated into 20 languages, thus far. The novel was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Plans are underway to turn the book into a film.

Discuss
Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • After laying aside her aspirations to become a lawyer, Sarah remarks that the Graveyard of Failed Hopes is “an all-female establishment.” What makes her say so? What was your experience of reading Kidd’s portrayal of women’s lives in the nineteenth century?
  • Some of the staunchest enemies of slavery believed the time had not yet come for women’s rights and pressured Sarah and Angelina to desist from the cause, fearing it would split the cause of abolition. How do you think the sisters should have responded to their demand? At the end of the novel, Sarah asks, “Is it ever right to sacrifice one’s truth for expedience?”

More discussion questions are available from the author’s website.

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Read the PBS article from the series God in America on Angelina and Sarah Grimke.

grimke sisters
Angelina Grimké, left, and her sister, Sarah. Their lives helped inspire Ms. Kidd to write “The Invention of Wings.” Accessed from The New York Times article Giving Voice, and Finding Her Own
Sue Monk Kidd Tackles Race in ‘The Invention of Wings

 

 

Read and discuss the quote below from the pamphlet, “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” written by Angelina Grimke (the entire text of the pamphlet can be read here).   Submit your group’s comments on this post.

I appeal to you, my friends, as mothers; Are you willing to enslave your children? You start back with horror and indignation at such a question. But why, if slavery is no wrong to those upon whom it is imposed? Why, if as has often been said, slaves are happier than their masters, free from the cares and perplexities of providing for themselves and their families? Why not place your children in the way of being supported without your having the trouble to provide for them, or they for themselves? Do you not perceive that as soon as this golden rule of action is applied to yourselves that you involuntarily shrink from the test; as soon as your actions are weighed in this balance of the sanctuary that you are found wanting? Try yourselves by another of the Divine precepts, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Can we love a man as we love ourselves if we do, and continue to do unto him, what we would not wish any one to do to us? Look too, at Christ’s example, what does he say of himself, “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Can you for a moment imagine the meek, and lowly, and compassionate Saviour, a slaveholder? Do you not shudder at this thought as much as at that of his being a warrior? But why, if slavery is not sinful?

 

Wonder

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Book & Author

Picture

The publisher’s description:  August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

 

R. J. Palacio

PictureI live in NYC with my husband, two sons, and two dogs. For many years, I was an art director and book jacket designer, designing covers for countless well-known and not so well-known writers in every genre of fiction and nonfiction. I always wanted to write, though. I kept waiting for the perfect time in my life to start writing, but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, I realized that the perfect time would never really present itself. It’s never the perfect time to start writing a book. So I  decided to just go for it. Wonder is my first novel. And no, I didn’t design the cover, but I sure do love it.

From www.rjpalacio.com

 

Quotes from the book:

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

Discuss

 

  • What qualities does Auggie’s family have that help support him as he struggles to fit in at school?
  • Do you think Auggie ultimately sees himself as ordinary, or extraordinary? Do other people in his life think about this differently?
  • How about his parents? How about Via? How do his friends at school think of him? How about his teachers?

 

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As a book group, create your own set of precepts.  Consider a craft night to make those precepts into works of art to be displayed in your home or place of work.  Use ones from book, find some of your own favorite precepts, or create your own altogether.

Interact

Books turned into movies is all the rage this day and age.  Do you think this would be a good book to turn into a movie?  If so, who would you cast?  If not, why?
Answer in the comments below.

 

Letters Never Sent

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Book and Author

Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran

In 1997, shortly after Katherine Spencer’s death, Joan O’Connor travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to clean out her estranged mother’s house. Hidden amongst her mother’s things, Joan finds a wooden box containing trinkets and sealed letters to a person identified only by a first initial. Through the letters, Joan learns that her aloof and unyielding mother was anything but – that she had loved deeply and lost that love to circumstances beyond her control.

The story shifts to 1930s Chicago where Katherine has left her small town in Kansas and the marriage proposal of a local boy, to live on her own and work at the glove counter at Sears & Roebuck. It’s here that she meets Annie Bennett, a bold, outspoken feminist who challenges Katherine’s idea of who she thinks she is, in addition to what she thinks she wants.

The decades-long, often tumultuous relationship between Katherine and Annie, Katherine’s subsequent marriage to a man she grows to hate, and the fractious relationship between mother and daughter ultimately shows that despite their differences, they’re more alike than Joan had ever realized.

Sandra Moran Pletcher, 46, lost her battle with cancer on November 7, 2015.  Sandra was born in Topeka, Kansas on December 20, 1968.  She grew up in Dover, Kansas and graduated from Mission Valley High School in 1987.  Sandra holds three degrees from the University of Kansas: a BS in Journalism, an MA in Public Administration and an MS in Anthropology.  She has worked in many fields including political speech writing, newspaper journalism, archaeological tour management, and serving as a professor of Anthropology at Johnson County Community College for14 years. She also was the author of four books.

In her own words: “Sandra was a teacher, writer, and international woman of intrigue—though mainly a writer.  When she was not running around Kansas City (literally) or torturing college students with the fundamentals of anthropology, she could be found in her lair listening to Pandora and making up stories.”

(From Sandra’s obituary at http://www

HUSH Library Podcast #75 –  Sandra Moran

An enlightening conversation on gender roles, writing in Kansas, and more.

Download MP3

Discuss

Topics for discussion that the book will bring up include:

  • Gender roles of women and how they have and have not changed over time.
  • The complexity of mother/daughter relationships.
  • Social issues such as alcoholism, rape, abortion, and sexual identity – and how these issues and their impact have changed over time.

Enhance

The characters in the book drink whisky and lemonade on occasion.  Here is Martha Stewart’s recipe for Whiskey Lemonade that you may choose to serve your book group.

At the 2013 Kansas Book Festival, Sandra Moran discussed Letters Never Sent and talked about changing gender roles in the 1930s, 1940s, and the 1950s:

 Interact

Have you or your book group read Letters Never Sent?  Would you recommend it to other groups?  Share your thoughts with other book groups by commenting on this post.

 

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

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Book and Authors

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
One day a man goes to his mailbox to mail a letter to an friend who is dying.  His letter seems so inadequate.  He decides he must go see her instead.  And so  a poorly equipped Harold sets out to walk the length of England– meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

Rachel Joyce:

Watch this video to hear Rachel Joyce explain what motivated her to write the book and what she hopes it will convey to her readers:

Quote from the book:

The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.

Discuss

Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • The motivations for Harold’s journey–and whether or not the group members could be motivated to walk 600 miles.
  • How having to rely upon people’s kindness and live off of the land–as Harold had to do–affects someone.
  • How Harold’s life would have been different if he had  not undertaken his journey. 

More discussion questions are available from Random House and the Durham County Library

Enhance

On the blog Novel Meals, Tina shares about how she was inspired to make risotto after reading about how Maureen used to enjoy gardening and cooking and took pleasure in seeking out new ingredients:  “Today we are Italian,” she’d laugh, kicking open the door to the dining room and presenting David and Harold with asparagus risotto. Buon appetitescones with jam

The Crown Publishing Group chose sweet over savory, “We couldn’t resist pairing this book with a recipe for blackberry jam that you can enjoy with toast or scones.”

Bring a map of England to the meeting, and ask group members to share which location Harold visited was their favorite–then mark it on the map.  The library has some atlases that you could use to copy off a larger sized map.  Bring some travel guides on England and look up the places Harold passed through.  Your group members may find some inspiration for a journey of their own.

Interact

Have you or your book group read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?  Would you recommend it to other groups?  Share your thoughts with other book groups by commenting on this post.