Julia Dahl – Invisible City

Our globetrotting literary tour continues.

We’ve gone from Alaska back to the East Coast – Brooklyn to be specific.  It’s nice tmaps_borough_park_o know that all it will take to get from there to here is a trip on mass transit – no I don’t recommend the BQE I have been in the most horrific traffic going through and to Brooklyn.

juliadahlBefore we get to know the characters I always like to introduce you to their creator. Our next author is Julia Dahl – this time in her own words.

I was born and raised in Fresno, Calif. I stumbled onto the staff of my high school newspaper in 1994 and have been chasing stories ever since. I have been an editor at Marie Claire, a stringer for the New York Post, a staff writer for The Crime Report, and I now work producing articles and video about crime and justice for Crimesider, the 48 Hours blog on CBSNews.com.

My first novel, a murder mystery entitled “INVISIBLE CITY,” will be published by Minotaur Books in May 2014.

I’ve written features about subjects ranging from suicide-by-cop to prosecuting rape to my own involvement in the unsolved murder of a Hurricane Katrina victim for publications including the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Pacific Standard (formerly Miller-McCune), Seventeen, Salon and the Columbia Journalism Review.

I have lived on-and-off in NYC since 1999 and now reside in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I am a massive Bruce Springsteen fan and consider David Simon, Joan Didion and Katherine Boo my literary/journalistic idols.(Source: http://muckrack.com/juliadahl/bio)

The Jericho Public Library subscribes to a database “Gale Literature
Resource Center” it offers a substantial biography of Ms. Dahl.  You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit jericholibrary.org, click on the “Databases” tab and then click on “Adults.”  You can find the database either on the A-Z listing or click on the link for LiteratureYou will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

The Snow Child – A fond farewell

March/April 2015

March/April 2015

We’re at the end of our discussion and ready to move on to the next book (I’ll get to that in the next post), but before we move on I’d like to spend just a bit more time with Mabel, Jack, Faina, and the rest of the Alaska crew.

One thing that has been bugging me is why Garrett chose to shoot the fox.  Why was it such a compulsion for him?  He was pointedly asked not to go after the fox, but the idea of the fox seemed always present before and after the directive.

Alternately, why was it important that he not shoot the foxfox?

After the death of the fox the story for me took such a drastic turn.  The attempt at taming Faina and her acceptance of attempting to live a “normal” life, coming out of the woods and spending more of the year on the farm, connecting to  and forming relationships, and then the birth of a child.  Why does the author force Faina off the mountain and out of the wild?  What do you believe that she was trying to convey.

Why does Eowyn Ivey end the novel the way that she did?  Did Mabel finally get her child via the birth of the baby?  Why doesn’t Faina name either her dog or her baby?  What does a name signify that Faina couldn’t manage?

Finally, did you enjoy your time with the book and the characters?  I do hope so.

We’re off to something entirely different next time!

Snow Child – Characters

Thankfully (well at least for me) there aren’t very many characters in the novel.

mistery-character[1]I don’t normally focus on a favorite character in my posts, but I did have one and will share it with you if you share yours with me.  I don’t think it’s fair to, even though you do come here to hear my musings and opinions ( no?), force my opinions on you as you read.  I do hope that you come away with your own opinions!

Although as I write this it does make me wonder about authors.  Let’s start today’s discussion about authors and their characters.

Do you ever feel manipulated by an authors rendering of a character – forcing you to like or dislike them?  Can an author avoid hoisting their opinion of a character on the reader?  Does the act of creating a character force the author to try to feel a certain way about a character?  Does it necessarily follow that in order to create a story he/she must persuade you to like, dislike, sympathize with, etc.characters to create a plausible narrative?

Now back to The Snow Child.  Was there a character that spoke to you above all others?  Did you have a favorite?  There were characters that we met but didn’t find out much about and others that were more well rounded regarding their history.  In the end I felt we learned the most about Mable.  Do you agree?  Was there a character you wanted to see more of?  One that you could have done without?

I have led in person discussions about The Snow Child and a few members mentioned Faina and the mystery surrounding her appearance and her ability to remain alone in the cold Alaska woods even as a child.  We do find out a little about her father – possibly Russian (coincidence that the novel is based on a Russian folk tale), died because of or aided by alcohol consumption, and her mother likely died during childbirth.  Did you want more?  Would that have added to or detracted from the narrative? Even though this novel truly needed the reader to suspend disbelief a few readers had difficulty accepting the possibility that Faina could have managed on her own.  Did you face the same issue?  Would you prefer more reality based fiction or are you up to the challenge of the fairy tale?  I was a big fairy tale reader as a child.  Do we lose the ability to lose reality as we grow up?

I’d love to hear from you!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey Discussion Questions (Spoiler Alert)

snow childWe’ve entered the magical world of 1920’s Alaska and have met Mable and Jack.

Were you shocked to learn that it was Mable that suggested that they move to Alaska?

Why do you think that, having lived so long as a childless couple, they decided at nearly 50 years old to leave the comfort of home and family?

On page 5 we begin to see the desperation that Mabel feels

” There were guns in the house, and she had thought of them before…She had never fired them, but that wasn’t what kept her.  It was the violence and unseemly gore of such an act, and the blame that would inevitably come in its wake.  People would say she was weak in mind or spirit, or Jack was a poor husband. And what of Jack?  What shame and anger would he harbor?”

She decides to commit suicide by river, how does she justify this?  How would her death have been easier for Jack?

As she travels across the icy river why do you think that she changed her mind?  Did she change her mind?

There is a chill between Mable and Jack yet on the night of the first snowfall they play like children.  It’s not until this night that Faina appears.  What is the significance of her appearance at this point?

More to follow.

The Jungle Gym

jungle gymSo much of what we have been taught regarding getting ahead in the business world deals with “moving up the ladder.”  I found Sandberg’s example of the jungle gym so relevant to my “progress” in my chosen field.  Rather than the dream of moving constantly upward the idea of moving side to side, and up and down in order to get where you want to go is freeing.  What do you think?  How have you moved up?  If you’re stuck where you are and don’t see a way to move up after reading this chapter have you pondered how the jungle gym approach may be more helpful?

I have a friend (lets see if this resonates with you) who isn’t sure where she wants to end up.  She’s pretty sure that, while she’s finally gotten where she wanted to be in her company, it’s not where she wants to stay.  Disappointed that her dream job just isn’t that she’s feeling stuck.  I’ve discussed with her what she’d really love to do, and encouraged her to dream big.

I love the paragraph on page 55,

” A long-term dream does not have to be realistic or even specific.  It may reflect the desire to work in a particular field or to travel throughout the world.  Maybe the dream is to have professional autonomy or a certain amount of free time.  Maybe it’s to create something lasting or win a coveted prize.”dream

If you could dream big what would you dream?

I’ve recently taken a job that required a cut in pay, but would eventually give me more free time and the ability to enact positive chages.  It’s more work than my last job and more fulfilling – I’m NEVER bored and really trust my supervisor.  For me that’s a win-win.  What would you give up to move to where you want to be?

I think at this point we need to revisit the “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Can you truly dream big when you’re constrained with just trying to get by?  My decision was a tough one because it required some major belt-tightening and has left me worried from time to time about paying the bills.  But it was worth it! .

What would you love to do?  Share it with us!

Lean In – Discussion/Thoughts

fearOn page 35 Sandberg says ”

“One of the things I tell people these days is that there is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around.”

One of the criticisms of the book is that there is a disconnect between the reality of a wealthy working woman, a woman with a solid support system, and that of a woman who has neither.  What do you think?

Sandberg discusses the effect of fear – “What would you do if money weren’t an issue?” Is it easier for some to disregard this fear? Is fear the same for someone who might take a risk and not be able to feed her family or might lose her home?

On page 35 Sandberg discusses the incident at the end of her lecture where the men in the audience kept their hands up. “Even though I was giving a speech on gender issues, I had been blind to one myself.” She does indicate that women must do a better job of keeping their hands up, but that institutions must be aware of the gap and make strides to adjust for compensate.  What else might be done to bridge the gap? Should we as women be more mindful of other women who might need the proverbial leg up?

The Illusion of Separateness – and an aside

handsPondering what to cover with this post I began thinking of connectedness.   A few years ago I received a job solicitation, responded to it, and was interviewed by two librarians here at Jericho Public Library. Over the years I have been honored to work for them and have marveled at their professionalism.  Tomorrow they both leave Jericho for what I hope will be a long and happy retirement.

Connectedness – were it not for their trust in me I would not have been working here, were it not for their willingness to support and advise I would not be writing this and you in turn might not have read the wonderful novels that we’ve covered.  Connectedness!

Back to the novel

The characters within the novel find themselves intersecting at various points in their lives.  Beyond the obvious connections that they share, are there other similarities between characters?

Van Booy tends to write about love and the yearning for it in all forms.  Did they each find what they were hoping for?  Is it possible within ones life to appreciate the love we receive or recognize how we have been affected by others?

The Illusion of Separateness – Discussion

connectedIn a 2011 article Simon Van Booy stated,

“For me, I think words allow us to hold hands with strangers. They remind us that one person’s experience is everyone’s. With that in mind, to love another is to love one’s self. To insult or injure another is to insult or injure one’s self. I read somewhere that we live solely to overcome the illusion of our separateness. Stories and language allow us to live without living, and to die without dying, which is why I think the modern Holy books are rooted in language and not pictures.”

How does Van Booy convey this feeling in the novel?  Do you agree?

Van Booy is both a philosopher and a poet, and both permeate the novel.  Did the shorter, almost staccato, sentences and phrasing add to or detract from your reading experiences?

In another article Van Booy discusses the quote from Thich Nhat Hanah, his inspiration for the novel:

“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness. And I thought that was compassionquite interesting. You know, of all the things one hears in a day, isn’t it quite wonderful that some things stick, they resonate. It’s almost like a bell, you know, you hear the chiming long after, you know, the actual note has been struck. And so for days and weeks after I considered that I was connected to everybody, even when I was stuck in traffic and not particularly happy, I thought, well, you’re connected to that person next to you, you know, the person cutting in front of you.”

Do you agree that we are all connected? Do you believe that our “contentedness” will encourage compassion?  Does it work for the characters in the novel?

Our Next Book Discussion Book

OK I lied/fibbed I’m going to introduce the next book and while you’re on your way to the library to pick it up we’ll continue to discuss The End of the Point. Be warned there will be two posts today.  I know – Shocking!

With the intent of making the time for each discussion more brief I’ve chosen f two smaller/shorter books.  Don’t be fooled though they may be concise but I assure you the authors packed them full of wonderful content.

last brotherOur selection for September is The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah.

“As 1944 comes to a close, nine-year old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world.  He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. After a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of a prison camp, he meets David, a boy his own age.  David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles now indefinitely detained in Mauritius. When a massive storm on the island brings chaos and confusion to the camp, Raj is determined to help David escape.

Stop into the library and pick-up a copy.

A Land More Kind Than Home – (Spoiler Alert)

MP900341322[1]Today we’re going to finish the discussion of  A Land More Kind Than Home.  We’ve seen the death of both Chambliss and Ben in that startling scene at the Hall place.  Julie and Chambliss were set to run off, but Julie decided that she wanted to retrieve her belongings (no mention of taking Jess with her.) Ben greets them on the porch with a shotgun and blows Chambliss away. Having had a modicum of sense, Julie has called and requested the police to be present, but Clem arrives too late to save Chambliss. Clem does try to get Ben to put down his weapon.  Ben too angry to hear reason is shot and killed.  Julie injured by the shotgun blast that Ben sent into the car recovers and runs off.

We need to talk about Julie!  A few chapters ago Adelaide Lyle tried to explain why Julie is so fervent in her beliefs.  Should her behavior be forgiven because of her religious beliefs?  Do you believe that her motives for bringing Stump to that service were pure?  Why doesn’t she consider taking Jess with her?  How could she leave him behind? What do you think were the motives of Pastor Chambliss?

Julie knew that there was going to be trouble.  What motivated her to go back to the house? Was what happened inevitable?

Julie, Jess and Adelaide knew things about what had gone on that might have prevented the deaths of Stump, Ben and Chambliss, yet all three have survived.  There was plenty of blame to go around, but do you think that justice was served?  Did you get a sense that any of them took a lesson from the mistakes that were made?

After the death of Chambliss Addie claimed, “But in the Old Testament, when God’s chosen people called out, “Save us, Lord!” He heard them, and they were saved.  He was there for them because they believed.”  Do you think any of the characters in the novel were saved?

Clem and Jimmy were each instrumental in the deaths of each others son.  Why do you think Wiley Cash wrote the events this way?  Was it just poetic justice?

I’ve finished with the book and my portion of the discussion.  I hope that you enjoyed the novel and the discussion. Even after reading it for a second time I still enjoyed it. I found aspects that I could reflect upon that I missed the first time. Please comment below if you would like to share your thoughts on the book.

While we might be finished with A Land More Kind Than Home the discussion continues.  I’ll be back to announce our next selection and other book related topics.

Stay tuned!