Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions (spoiler alert)

July/August 2015

July/August 2015

Let’s begin at the beginning.

As the book begins we are aware that “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . .”

The novel begins by telling this.  Did revealing this information right away influence the way you read the novel?  

Some have said that they expected the novel to be more of a mystery. The novel is many things but I wouldn’t consider it a mystery.   Was this what you expected?  Were you disappointed?

It is revealed at the end of the book what actually did happen to Lydia but I won’t reveal that right now because I fear that many have not reached that point yet.  I will revisit this later on but I’d like you to ponder these questions. As you delve into the story do you find it important to actually find out what happened to her?  If it is revealed to her family do you think it would allay or worsen their grief?



More to come!  If you haven’t picked up a book yet give us a call and we can put it on reserve for you.

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 Cellist of Sarajevo

pigeonQuestions to ponder.

Which character has the greatest conflict with himself/herself?

 What do the ‘men on the hills’ represent?

Dragan sent his wife and son away but remained in the city to try to keep his job and protect his apartment.  Why did some people refuse to leave Sarajevo when it was still possible?

What do the details about Kenan’s trips to get water tell us about war?

What is your most valued possession? Would you pay 20 times the price to have it?

Explain the comparison between Kenan and a pigeon.

I have had comments that this was a very depressing read.  In the end did you think it depressing or was there any glimmer of hope?



The Siege of Sarajevo began twenty-two years ago, in April 1992, and lasted until February
1996—the longest siege of any capital city in the history of modern warfare. Sarajevo, now
capital of the independent nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been a cultural, religious,
and commercial hub of the Balkans since the 15th Century. The siege was part of the Yugoslav
Wars—a series of complex ethnic conflicts fought between 1991 and 1995 following the
disintegration of Yugoslavia. The siege broke out when the European Community (now the
European Union or EU) recognized Bosnia’s independence. An estimated 18,000 Serb rebels,
led by Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, began bombarding Sarajevo with sniper shots and
shellfire from the hills surrounding the city. Their goal was to create a new Serbian state,
Republika Srpska.
Prior to the conflict, the city was a cosmopolitan center of 525,980 inhabitants that
was approximately 50% Muslim, 30% Serb, 10% Yugoslav, 7% Croat and 3.5% Jewish.
According to a report for the United Nations Commission of Experts, nearly 10,000 persons
were killed or went missing during the siege, including over 1,500 children. An additional
56,000 persons were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. An average of 329 shell
impacts hit the city each day, causing extensive damage to both civilian and cultural property;
the Council of Europe’s Committee on Culture and Education concluded that most
of the buildings in the city had been damaged to a greater or lesser degree. UNICEF
reported that of the estimated 65,000 to 80,000 children in the city, at least 40% had been
directly shot at by snipers; 51% had seen someone killed; 39% had seen one or more family
members killed; 19% had witnessed a massacre; 48% had their home occupied by someone
else; 73% had their home attacked or shelled; and 89% had lived in underground shelters.
The area has since stabilized, but the effects of the siege will no doubt be felt for generations.
• Bassiouni, M. Cherif, ed. Study of the battle and siege of Sarajevo, Final report of the United Nations
Commission of Experts. Bristol, UK: University of the West of England, http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/
• “Chronology: What happened during the war in Bosnia?” Reuters 21 July 2008.
• Richards, Rogers. “Remember Sarajevo.” Digital Journalist, December 2003.
• Sarajevo Under Siege, 1992-1996. http://www.sa92.ba/v1/index.php

I have copied information from the One Maryland One Book 2012 booklet.

If you are a teacher and are considering adding The Cellist of Sarjevo to your curriculum there is a wealth of information to be gleaned.  You may also find information via the Jericho Public Library databases.  All you need to unlock these databases is you Jericho Public Library card.

Our Next Selection – The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

CellistWe’ve moved on from The Last Brother and are now switching gears from the Island of Mauritius  in 1945 to the Sarajevo during the siege.

From the book jacket:

In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human. From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a bread line. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory. Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character—a young woman, a sniper—holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become.

Please visit the Jericho Public Library and pick up your copy.

Author Information – Maria Semple

maria semple

Ms. Semple has included her bio on her website.

There is some terrific information about and by Maria Semple on the website Red Room.

For more wit and wisdom and an insight into how she thinks read the New York Times article “A Novel Asks Seattle to Laugh at Itself” by Julie Bosman.

The Jericho Public Library subscribes to a database “Biography in Context” that offers a substantial biography of Ms. Semple.  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 BiographyYou will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

A summary from the above database about Maria Semple:

  • Born May 21, 1964, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (a television writer and producer); partner of George Meyer; children: one daughter.
  • Education: Graduated from Barnard College.
  • Screenwriter for television series, including Beverly Hills 90210, Ellen, Saturday Night Live, Mad about You, Suddenly Susan, and Arrested Development.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette has been optioned for a feature film.
  • Writer, television screenwriter, movie screenwriter, and novelist.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette was named one of the ten best fiction books of 2012, Time.



A Land More Kind Than Home – Let’s Talk About the Setting

MP900385621[1]As you can see I love the ability to take an armchair tour the world through books.  In our last novel we learned a little bit about Iceland.  I truly do feel that Hannah Kent gave us a terrific sense of place and time in Burial Rites.

Are you getting that sense of place from Wiley Cash?

The setting is a very small town in North Carolina.  Do you think that the events depicted could have occurred in a less remote and closed off community? 

Is the setting vital in the storytelling?  What about the community might have allowed Chambliss and his beliefs to take root?  

Would you like to find out more about North Carolina? 

The Jericho Public Library has a database that can help. America the Beautiful offers state-by-state coverage includes geography, history, economy, government and cultural highlights. You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit http://www.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 Encyclopedias & Dictionaries. You will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

Burial Rites: Questions – Just a Start

Burial Rites AmericanI was worst to the one I loved best. – Laxdaela Saga

This is truly how Burial Rites begins.  Hannah Kent has chosen this line from one of the Icelandic Sagas to begin our journey with Agnes.  Why do you think Hannah Kent chose this line?  What does it mean to you?

Now, what do you think of Burial Rites so far?  I am really enjoying it.  Even though Hannah Kent has provided a note on Icelandic names and pronunciation I still had difficulty with the names of people and places.  I have my own way of coping with names that are foreign to me.  Rather than getting bogged down in translations or pronunciations I assign a name or a term and use that throughout the book.  Are you struggling with the names as well or do you have another way to manage?

The book begins with a map of the area of Iceland in which the story takes place.  I have to admit that I love when a novel that is set in an area that I’m not familiar includes a map – it helps to me to better envision the area. I’m a visual reader. I need to be able to picture the setting and the characters, but some of you might be driven by some other aspect of a novel.  What do you need within a novel to really be invested?  Is it the plot, characters, setting?


I want to welcome all of you to our inaugural online book club. I hope that you’re enjoying Burial Rites. We’re all new here so I’ll begin the introductions.

gravatarMy name is Susan and I’m a librarian at the Jericho Public Library. I grew up in Queens and my fondest memories are of visiting my local branch of the library and browsing the books in the Children’s room. There was a terrific librarian who would let me search on my own, but always knew when to step in and recommend.

I love to read and one of my favorite things to do is find that hidden gem on the shelf  – I’ve found some great books this way (including Burial Rites.)

I’m excited about the idea of an online book club because, just like you, I don’t have the time to get to a regularly scheduled meeting. Whenever I decide “This month I’m going,” something comes up and I can’t finish the book or get to the meeting.

Now it’s your turn.  Tell a little bit about yourself in the comment area below. After the introductions I’ll start posting questions and comments.

I look forward to “meeting” you.

Our First Pick is in!

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

It was a tough decision because there are so many great books, but I had to choose a book that I was passionate about. Burials Rites is that book. It is a well written, engrossing debut novel that I couldn’t wait to pick up and didn’t want to put down.

From the Book Jacket:

Burial Rites American“A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.”

The Washington Post called it “A starkly compelling story of murder, love.”

About the author:

Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. She is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your hannah kentDarlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel.

Feel free to visit Hannah Kent’s blog for interesting tidbits about her new-found fame and more about the book. http://hannahkentauthor.com

For more information regarding Hannah Kent’s inspiration for writing the novel as well as some of her photographs of Iceland read her article in The Guardian 

Pick up a copy of our current selection or download it from the JPL Overdrive collection.  You can also borrow a Nook Simple Touch that already has a copy downloaded for you.

Start reading and send me a comment and let me know what you’re thinking.