“The Unfinished Child follows the fictional stories of Margaret and Marie, two women separated by decades of time whose lives are both profoundly changed by Down syndrome. It’s a multi-layered story that also deals with shifting friendships, marriage, and motherhood, going back and forth in time and posing deep questions about choices and consequences, rather than professing to have cut and dried answers. This book inspired an engaging and revealing discussion for our book club, all of us mothers and one the mother of a child with Down syndrome. Everyone let their guard down and shared their own experiences with pregnancy, disability, prenatal testing, and the choices we have all been confronted with. This is an excellent book club choice.”
“As The Art of Hearing Heartbeats begins, we learn that the day after Julia graduated from law school, her father suddenly disappeared. She realizes she knows very little of his past. It is only after uncovering an unsent letter from her father addressed to a Mi Mi in Burma that Julia sets outto find her, hoping to shed some light on her father’s disappearance.
“In what is today Myanmar, she learns from a teahouse regular of her father’s early years as a blind monk who amazingly could hear heartbeats in people and minute creatures. She also learns about Mi Mi, who was a young crippled girl, and of her relationship to Tin Win, her father. Her search reveals a love story on many levels.
“Our group fell in love with this beautifully written story. It is definitely not in the Harlequin mode of love stories! It is unique, tender, and very discussable. We talked about wantingto know about our parents, often long after they had died and could no longer tell us. We talked about Burma and its culture. We talked about relationships and beliefs different from our own.And we talked about wanting a sequel. Fortunately, there is one, and it is as good as this one!”
“The Woman Who Heard Color is about a German girl who loves art and seems to be able to hear the colors in paintings. She becomes an art critic and buyer and eventually, during the Nazi occupation of Germany, tries to save some of the art. One of the featured artists is Wassily Kandinsky. To celebrate and discuss this book, we toured our local Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York where, although they weren’t on exhibit at the time, four of Kandinsky’s paintings are housed. We all loved this book and recommend it highly.”
Paired With: “Because of the German reference, we went back to one of our member’s home for homemade Apple Strudel. We always have a favor pertaining to the book as a remembrance and for this one, she actually gave us each a piece of art that she had created on canvas.”
“From the bestselling author of The Comfort of Lies, an engrossing look at the darker side of a marriage—and at how an ordinary family responds to an extraordinary crisis.”
Paired With: The author’s recipe for Hundred-Step Chocolate Pie Supreme
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy (Atria, 2014), Historical Fiction, 432 pages
“An evocative novel that sheds light on a little known era of American history, Citizens Creek is the ideal book club read. Written by Lalita Tademy, New York Times bestselling author of Red River and Oprah pick Cane River, Citizens Creek centers on Cow Tom, a once-enslaved black man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars and the Indian Removal westward, and his granddaughter Rose, who sustains his legacy of courage. Based on true events, Citizens Creek is a story of family, community, and making your own way. It will reshape the way you view history.”
“We had a very lively discussion of My Stroke of Insight. Most members of the group had watched at least one of Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talks to round out our experience of the book. We felt the book was more educational than literary. Several of us have worked in health care and shared some of our experiences with stroke patients and the health care system in general. As well as making us more aware of recognizing stroke symptoms, the book initiated discussion about the importance of gathering and nurturing groups of friends at times of physical stress and illness, now that not everyone has families to care for us. We thought that the book would be helpful to anyone working in health care, and in the larger sense, it made us all more sensitive to dealing with all types of people on the level where they exist.”
Men’s Book Club of Greater Boston, Massachusetts, recommends:
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
by Gilbert King (Harper, 2012), Nonfiction, 448 pages
Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
“In 1949, four young black men in Lake Country, Florida, were falsely accused of rape.
One was killed in pursuit, another nearly killed in custody by Lake County’s ruthless sheriff, Willis MacCall. The accused were represented by Thurgood Marshall, then head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. This extraordinarily well-researched book, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is the compellingly told story of a relatively unknown miscarriage of
justice at a time when the KKK held sway in the south, a history of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and an astute profile
of the legendary Marshall. Our book group was fortunate to have the author, Gilbert King, join us
by phone for one of the richest discussions we’ve had in twenty years of reading. We discussed his
research methods, the ongoing racism in Florida’s judicial system, and the reaction his book has received when he has spoken in Florida.”
“The story of a solitary orchardist who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the American West, this book offered an incredible description of the orchard and the surrounding country. The author involved the reader as if we worked in the orchard and characters were so well described that the reader is drawn in. We expected that when these two young girls arrived, everyone would fall into happy family life. It was a book with many twists and turns.”
Served with: Gingered Apple Fizz (from The Gingered Pear). “We mixed a non-alcoholic drink with Shrub Apple Fennel Natural Fruit Syrup (fruit syrups preserved with vinegar that is a base for cocktails and beverages) to highlight the apples grown in the orchard. It can also be served as a cocktail with vodka or gin.”
“Notes from a Maine Kitchen is a cookbook, but also a collection of essays that really brings
the feel of the Ne w England food environment to life. It is quintessential New England cooking, with a focus on local and organic, with entertaining stories about the fisherman, foragers, and farmers who provide the ingredients for these dishes.
“Kathy Gunst was nominated for a James Beard award for her work on NPR’s ‘Here and Now’ and is a great communicator about food. She brings the same conversational style to her writing, and book groups will find that Notes on a Maine Kitchen will spark many discussions about food, place, environment, and family. It’s a great way to get out of the same old of reading a novel each month.”
Served with: End-of-the-Season Roasted Tomato Sauce from Kathy Gunst
“I’ve been excited about this particular book for more than a year now (one of the absolute
best perks about working in publishing is getting the chance to read our books long before
they are fully born into the world) and I’m thrilled that readers now get to experience it.
We call it The Shining meets Glee — a high school musical festival at a dilapidated, possibly haunted hotel goes awry in the middle of a snowstorm — and it is every bit as much fun as that sounds. The inner lives of eight colorful characters are revealed, entangled, and sorted by the book’s dramatic end, and each storyline is so delicately woven that you’ll never run out of topics to discuss, or sides to take. This book is for every high school band geek (guilty, here) and for every adult who grew up reading Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark under the covers (guilty, again).”
“Amelia, a 15-year old girl who attends a private school, does not have a lot of friends. When she is asked to be a part of a secret club she is thrilled, even though she and her friend had promised each other they would never join one of the clubs.One day, Amelia’s mom receives a phone call saying there had been an incident at the school; she arrives to discover that Amelia has jumped from the roof of the school to her death.This is hard to process as Amelia was a good girl with good grades, and never got into trouble. Then Amelia’s mom starts receiving anonymous texts saying, ‘She did not jump.’
“Reconstructing Amelia brought out some passionate discussion about hazing and bullying. Most of us have had an experience with bullying, either ourselves or with our children.We discussed social media and the question: How much information is really too much information to reveal? Single parenting is also covered in this book and we talked about how hard it is to raise a child and maintain a job and household on your own.”
Paired with: “Hibachi, Amelia’s favorite food. We also had an assortment of wines: we took the labels off and referred to them as Maggie’s hazing potions. For dessert we had New York Cheesecake as the book is set in New York.”
“We discussed the book long before the arrest of Warren Jeffs [imprisoned leader of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints] that got so much attention in the news. Not a single person disliked this book — a couple even thought it is Krakauer’s best — but everyone sure disliked the subject matter. One member was ‘horrified, repulsed, amazed, astounded’ by events depicted in the book. Members discussed why so many people choose religion, what makes religion a religion and not a cult, and whether human beings always have a choice in their actions. No other book has generated as much discussion as this one did, not in more than eight years. We recommend it to everyone.”
“Everyone in the book club very much enjoyed the story, the history included, and the writing style. This is the story of a slowly growing relationship between two misfits — a jinni and a golem — in late 19th century New York City. They end up in very different ethnic neighborhoods, and by happenstance, meet each other. The two mythical beings slowly get to know each other as they experience human lives and feelings through the humans who’ve offered them shelter and protection. The author does a very nice job of making these mythical people seem almost more real than the humans with whom they interact, and the history and day-to-day goings on of a Syrian and a Jewish neighborhood during the turn of the century are captivating. We discussed magic versus religion, the role of marriage in turn-of-the-century New York, what defines being human (especially concerning the two non-human characters in the book), and food’s ability to both comfort and unite. We also talked a lot about the different characters and their importance in the story and about the history of old New York and Ellis Island.”
“If you loved Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, you’ll love this book.The Shadow Queen is the perfect book club read for historical fiction fans and Francophiles alike. Hailing from the author of the much loved Josephine B. trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King. A stunning capture of wealth and power, this book is parfait.”
“Mixing history with scandal, Belle Cora is a fantastic historical novel that covers the glitz, glamor and grit of the early 1900s from San Francisco to New York City. A story of love (and of loss) this book captures what happens when a good girl goes bad. Belle will bear a gambler’s child, build a fortune, commit murder, leave a trail of aliases in her wake and sacrifice almost everything — though perhaps not enough — for the man whose love she cannot bear to lose. At last her destiny will take her to Gold Rush California, to riches and power. That is, until the day she mysteriously disappears. Told with unflagging wit and verve, Belle Cora brings to life a turbulent era and an untamed America on the cusp of greatness. Its heroine is a woman in conflict with her time, who nevertheless epitomizes it with her fighting spirit, her gift for self-invention, and her determination to chart her own fate.”