Invisible City Discussion Questions – The End

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

All of us have survived the scene in the garage between Miriam including Rebekah – all that is except Miriam.

The novel neatly wraps up the murder of Rivka, but leaves us wondering about Rebekah and her relationships with Tony, her father, and the possibility of finally reuniting with her mother.

What did you think of the story?  Were there issues that you had with either the writing, the story, the depiction of Hasids?  Come on now I know you have opinions!

There is a second book out now, Run You Down, that deals with another murder. This time the story is set in the ultra-Orthodox Upstate town of Roseville, N.Y. (could it be based upon the town of Kiryas Joel?)

Would you be interested in following Rebekah’s story?

I’ll introduce our next novel next time.4th of July

Have a happy 4th.


Invisible City – Discussion Questions – Part 4 (Spoiler Alert)

Onto the murder.

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

If you’ve finished the book (and I hope that you have by now because I’m going to ruin it if you haven’t) we must talk about the murder(s).

After Saul is arrested Malka and Sara take the notes about Shoshanna and Rivka’s murders to Rebekah.  There had been talk earlier in the book about the death of Rivka’s daughter but up until now it was just blown off as accidental.  Given the brutal death of Rivka were you surprised that the two deaths were connected?

Before Malka hands over the evidence it is important to her to explain why her community is so protective and insular when it comes to policing (it is not the first time that Dahl has a character convey this).

We know that to survive we must rely on one another, we must support and protect our fellow Jews.  We do not do this because we do not believe that sin should be punished.  We do this because the strength of the community is vital to our survival. (page 249)

Malka wants Rebekah to understand – do you? If one does come from such a community can an outsider truly learn about the deep-rooted fears from being told?

Do you think that, given the nature of the crimes, Shomrim should have investigated murderfurther?  Were they protecting the community?  Do you think that there connection with the Mendolssohns clouded their judgement?  Do you think that they suspected Miriam’s responsibility, or do you think that they were covering for Aron?

While Aron was not primarily responsible for the death of his daughter or his wife he did suspect how dangerous Miriam was.  While he may have to live with his culpability, what if anything do you think his punishment should be?

When Malka brings the information she says,” I do not wish to invite scrutiny by people who do not respect our way of life, but the secrets have to stop.  The community can heal, but individual people, boys and girls, they cannot.”

Can a community heal when wounds like murder, infanticide, etc. are hidden?  Do you think any community can truly police itself? Can a police force that doesn’t understand the inner workings of such a community fairly oversee them?

Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part 3 (Spoiler Alert)

failedDrat and double drat.

I have failed technology and technology has failed me.  I was in the middle (and oh so close to the end) of a blog post and didn’t hit “save draft” and it didn’t auto-save, so here I go again.

Rebekah has come a long way from Florida to become a reporter.  She insists that her need to begin her career in the toughest place to find a job doing that has nothing to do with her mother.

While she tries to convince herself how much of this do you buy?

Not only is she conflicted about her reasoning for heading to NY, but she manages to come in contact with many who, like her mother, have questioned Hasidic tenants and practices.

In a community that requires strict adherence to traditional beliefs Rebekah manages to find herself surrounded by those who are questioning.  How easy do you think it would actually be to, as an outsider, quickly connect with such individuals.  Did Rebekah’s story ring true?


Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part 2 (Spoiler Alert)

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

Re-reading the novel I get to the point where Rebekah is waiting at the gas station convenience store trying to get warm and describing how cold it is outside.

“I guess I’m a better reporter in the summertime, it was never once this cold in Florida, and even under all these layers I feel painfully exposed by the temperature.  My bones feel like brittle aluminum rods, barely holding me up, scraping together, sucking up the cold and keeping it.  One poke and I’ll crumble to the ground.

I, like so many characters in the novel, am so affected by the presence of the naked body of the woman in the freezing cold clutches of the machine.

Did you feel the same?

Could this section have evoked a similar emotional response had the weather been more gentle?

Dahl has, during this particular section, seemingly made the cold a pivotal character. Do you feel as though Brooklyn is as well?  There is much talk later in the novel about Rebekah’s mother living in Kiryas Joel, another Jewish enclave in New York State, can you imagine this story set there?  The Jewish community in Borough Park is sets itself apart from the rest of NYC, but is still functioning within the city.  Could this story have been set in a more geographically isolated area like Kiryas Joel?

Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part One (Spoiler Alert)

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

So much to discuss in this book I’ve been stumped about where to begin so I think I’ll just start where the story begins.

When we meet Rebekah she is a very young, and dare I say naive, newspaper stringer working on a story about a dead body found in a scrap heap in Brooklyn. Motivated by more than a reporters need for a good story, Rebekah makes errors in judgment.  Would a more seasoned reporter have been able to see past the lies and misrepresentations?  Did her naivete work in her favor or hinder her assignment?coates

How did her abandonment by her Hasidic mother help propel her need for closure of the case?  Did it?

As she investigates the crime she is able, with a bit (major help?) of help from Saul Katz, to get a glimpse of a world that outsiders wouldn’t normally have.  Did this ring true to you?

The Snow Child – Discussion Questions – Setting Part One (Spoiler Alert)

Western PennsylvaniaI took a vacation to Western Pennsylvania last week to visit relatives.  It’s not quite the cross-country trip that I would have had to make to visit Alaska but it did get me thinking about The Snow Child.  The hills and people of Western Pennsylvania are very different in so many ways that my flat landed, overpopulated Nassau County.

As I drove along I 80 headed West and watching for my exit I thought about how far away from family that Mabel and Jack had actually traveled.  A trip to see family that I put off because of distance, 362 + miles that took me over six hours by car means that I just can’t manage to see them as often as I would like.  I couldn’t help but ponder moving away from family knowing that I would in all likelihood never see them again and yet Jack and Mabel did just that.  Would you be able to pull up your roots and leave everyone in your life knowing that you might never see them again?  Why do you think Jack and Mabel made this decision?  Did you get a sense from any of the characters that they regretted leaving kit and kin?

Given their ages (around 50 at the beginning of the novel) do you think that either gave much thought to the possibility of being abandoned and alone in this desolate area should one of them die?  Do you think that Mabel would have been able to carry on in the wilds of Alaska?  What do you think she would have done had this occurred?  Was Jack better suited to the wilderness?  Would he have remained or do you think he might have been tempted back to Pennsylvania?

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.

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 – 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?