New Month, New Book – September

Our next selection is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

September/October 2015

September/October 2015

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.(source: book jacket)

Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions

The Role of Women/Mothers

My mom had one that looked just like this. I still own it evokes fond memories of her.#I'mnotmarilyn

My mom had one that looked just like this. I still own it evokes fond memories of her.#I’mnotmarilyn

Marilyn has become the polar opposite of what she intended to become.  Her goal in attending college was to become a physician and yet almost immediately she falls into a relationship with James.  How much of this was self-fulfillment?  She does spend a great deal of time looking back and regretting her decision, or does she?  Do you think that she is able to reflect upon where she ended up (as a stay-at-home mother) and realize that she is responsible?  She does try to find a job on campus but never follows up until years later. Why?

Marilyn does converse with James about her desire to be more than a mom. What motivates James to encourage and support Marilyn to stay home?

The Betty Crocker Cookbook becomes a touchstone of sorts for many of the characters – Marilyn and her mother, Lydia and Marilyn, and last but not least Hannah.  What is the author trying to convey?

One of the most heartbreaking moments in the novel for me was when Marilyn finally finds the cookbook in Lydia’s room. Is there a moment in the novel that deeply affected you?

http://jplbookinablog.org/2015/08/24/everything-i-never-told-you-discussion-questions/

Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions Part 3 (Spoiler Alert)

July/August 2015

July/August 2015

Grief

The entire Lee family is dealing with the loss of Lydia, but like most families they are handling it in varying ways.  Not only are they dealing with the death of Lydia they are all also still, years later, reeling from the summer that Marilyn took off.  James and the kids have been on their best behavior for years trying their best to ensure that Marilyn is happy, but life cannot survive in an environment where relationships are like the thin and fragile shells of robin’s eggs.

How much of what happened stemmed from the fear of Marilyn leaving?  Do you think that had she not taken off that the family might have seen the town for what it was? Would the events that followed have been prevented?

James, Marilyn and Nath are able to share their grief via the pages of the book, but Hannah never seems to have been able to share her grief with anyone.  She sees the family grappling with the loss and their inability to deal with it communicate within the family, but they don’t see her.  Why?

Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions Part 2 (Spoiler Alert)

July/August 2015

July/August 2015

The story deals with prejudice in the 1960’s all the way up to 1977.  According to Celeste Ng, “at the time, of course, interracial marriages were both rare and stigmatized.  Now, it’s getting to be much more common… but at the time, it would’ve been a much bigger deal.”

Each of the characters experienced discrimination of one sort or another, even Jack who had he come out of the closet would have dealt with prejudice and the ramifications of “being different” in a very homogeneous community.  While they did all face it they each chose to deal with it in different ways.  Who do you feel was able to adapt the best/least?  Could James and Marilyn have made decisions that would have made their lives and the kids lives easier?  After finding out that Lydia had died James thinks back on why he bought the house by the lake and wondered if he had chosen differently Lydia might not have died, were there decisions that were made earlier that made events inevitable?  Where they inevitable?

Celeste Ng is the child of two parents of Chinese decent.  Growing up in the ’90s she says “virtually all of the overtly racist things, large and small, in the book are things that either my family experienced of other Asian families that i knew experienced.  Sadly, I didn’t really have to do much research on that at all.”  Do you think it’s significant that Ng chose to set the book 20 years before she experienced racism as a teen, and wrote the novel 20 years (or so) after her teenage years? If so why?

I heard one comment that a reader thought that this novel felt more like a veiled memoir to her.  She truly thought that, perhaps, this was just Ng telling her own story (albeit dramatized – she did not lose a family member to drowning.)  What do you think?

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.

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 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?

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.)