Book Club & The Christmas List

by Richard Paul Evans

a review & summary
An extremely fast read, high on sap low on plot. In the introduction the author shares that he had always enjoyed Charles Dickenson’s “A Christmas Carol.” The Scrooge in this book is named James Kier and is three ghosts is a premature obituary wherein he understands that even his own son can’t stand him. This book is highly predictable with emotional twists and turns designed to elicit tears and joy in all the “right” places. Borrow it from the library if you must read it, I’m not likely to read another by this author. I like to at least guess at the out come, not have a map drawn to me.

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Book Club & The Help

by Kathryn Stockett
reading guide

a review
As the title indicates, this is a book I read for book club. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise. I find it hard to believe that a white author can write an account of life for African-American housekeepers/maids in the south in the 1960s. Penguin books had a podcast episode with the author about why she felt she could write this book. I listened to part of it and was so bored I turned it off before finishing it. The stories from the housekeepers/maids in the book were interesting enough to hold my interest.

a summary
A fictional account of the life of African-American housekeepers/maids set in the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. The book is written by a white woman and is told from the point of view of a white woman just out of college and two housekeepers/maids. The white woman, Skeeter, wants to be a journalist and decides to interview at least 12 woman who spent their lives taking care of other people’s children and house. The story is full of racial tension as all of the women sneak behind the backs of their employers, friends, family, neighbors and high-society. The story was creative enough to hold my interest, but I have no idea as to the accuracy of such an account, fictional though it is.

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Book Club & The Glass Castle

by Janette Walls
reading guide

a review
A well written memoir of the author’s childhood with an alcoholic parent and an out-of-touch parent. I was genuinely surprised by the depth of caring toward her parents the author could express as she wrote her account. I had a difficult time finding any empathy for the parents, while Janette clearly found common ground on which to stand with her family. I found myself a hybrid between Janette and her youngest sister, who when the time came, ran from her family and hasn’t looked back yet.

a summary
Janette recounts her childhood and the chaos that one alcoholic parent and one free-spirit parent brought to her life and the lives of her siblings with love and respect for them. While her father was not violent, his drinking left the family with little to no money to provide for basic needs, including food, clothes, and shelters. Her parents pride wouldn’t allow them to accept handouts or help of any kind, rather the children went without meals, clothes, appropriate shelter and more. Her mother would work only when absolutely necessary and kept secrets of her own that may have saved the children a great deal of pain and anguish had she been a bit less selfish. This is a heart wrenching account of a child watching her parents spiral out of control of their lives and their failure to provide for the basic care of their children. The few things the parents did instill were pride in education and pride in self, that one could do just about anything one set about doing.

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Book Club & For One More Day

by Mitch Albom
reading guide

a review
A quick read wherein the author let’s you in on his secret a bit at time, though with enough information to figure out most of it before the last page. I’d read it again.

a summary
In the author’s typical style, the story looks at past choices and regrets, and then offers a way to rectify some. The premise of this work asks if you could have one more day with a loved one who had died, what would that day look like, what would you talk about, what would you do, etc. Charley, the main character, is allowed one more day with his long dead mother. He learns to look at himself and his family in a different light.

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Book Club & Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants discussion guides:
Guide 1
Guide 2

a review
It was a fun little story, though not especially deep or philosophical and a nice diversion from what I usually read, but that was the point of joining the book club. There were a few unseen twists. I enjoyed the author’s note at the end explaining where and how she developed all the intricate characters and plots.

a summary
The story is told by Jacob about his life before the nursing home. Near the end of college, a tragedy sends him running from college and searching for what he will do with the rest of his life. A traveling circus gobbled him up to be the on-site vet, quickly. In the opening chapter, a circus man is killed in a melee that may have been preventable. At this point in the story, I understood absolutely nothing of the character of any of the characters. I struggled trying to understand the death and motives. I spent over half the book quite upset and unwilling to understand the characters involved in the death. The half-way mark or so gave enough insights into the character of all parties involved to allow me to understand a bit more. As the story progressed, the chapters would flip from “young” Jacob to “old” Jacob (93 yrs old). This odd storytelling method surprisingly held my interest better than had it only been old Jacob telling of his youth.

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Book Club & The Shack

I was unable to attend this month’s meeting so I cannot comment on what was discussed. I was a bit disappointed. A few people couldn’t meet last week so it was moved to tonight, but it was my day in GR. I’m not going to do a summary or review as comprehensive as the first book. I am unsure about the next meeting as I haven’t gotten the book from the library yet. I ordered it over a month ago and it still hasn’t arrived. If it arrives in time for me to read it, I’ll try to attend, if not, maybe it’s a sign *giggle*

My thoughts:
Several years before reading the book, I am able to recall the fuss generated by this book because of how the author chose to portray the Trinity, God as Father, God as Son and God as Holy Spirit. Many were encouraged to avoid the book, denounce it, and more. I didn’t store the title of the book in my head, only the supposed problems with it. In the Spring of 2008 this book was recommended to me by a friend, but I was chastised again not to read it for the theology, as if I am not a critical thinker. I was told it had an interesting message about forgiveness that I might find helpful. I read it and enjoyed the theology as well as the story. Sometimes being outside of the box is a good thing. I’m not going to preach sermons from it, nor will I probably put into practice much of the book, but the author certainly presented some interesting arguments for changing thought patterns.

This story is quite fictional, but the story seems real at times, too real. The author gives the reader a few opportunities to rationalize how the most fantastic of the events could have been less that accurate. I choose to read it as written, trying to take the fictional main character, Mack, and his close friend, Willie, at their word.

Mack experiences a great loss in his life which in turn leads to a gread sadness that he seems unable to overcome. While his wife has a strong faith in God, Mack’s life experiences have left him feeling rather distant. He receives an invitation that seems to indicate that God would like to meet with him. This is his journey to find God.

Some online guides for The Shack by William Young (spoilers possible):
Guide 1
Guide 2

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Book Club & The Life of PI

A few weeks ago, my husband forwarded me an advertisement from a coworker of his inviting people to join a book club. He checked with the organizer to be sure that I could join and it was. Next up The Shack and then Water for Elephants. I’ve read the first and had the second on my to-read-list for a while.

Our first meeting was tonight, so I’m not sure of any of us were truly ready. We shared some thoughts on the book of the month, The Life of Pi and then did some housekeeping for future books/meetings. Some of the copies of the book had study questions, so we glanced through those and answered a few of the questions. While those specific questions are not online that I found, here are a few that I did find (study guides may contain spoilers for the book):

I offer a summary with spoilers because writing reviews is one of my 101 things in 1001 days as well as joining a book club. If you plan to read the book, stop now. Really, I wanted to use bold and exclamation points galore but decided against it.

a review
Disturbingly creative. The first part took a while to get into as it explored several religions Pi pursued as a child in India. Much detail is spent on describing the zoo and Father’s care of the animals as well as how humans should interact with wild beasts. Once the ship sets sell, the action starts and doesn’t stop until the end of the book. The author weaves a tale drawing the reader to desire only the best of and for Pi. A chapter of the current adult Pi happens every few chapters so that the reader knows Pi survives, appears to be happy, but is pulled in to find out how he arrived at his present circumstances. After the author spends several hundred pages describing the journey from India to Mexico, he offers a second story lasting less than 20 pages with similar details but differing main characters. The reader must decide which is the “better” ending, the “more correct” ending, the truth.

a summary
The Life of Pi opens with the adult Pi reflecting on his childhood with the author sprinkling pictures of who Pi would become. Pi’s father own and operated a zoo in India until he because upset with the political climate. While a child in India, Pi explored many religions hoping to find the best way to “love God.” He struggled understanding why he couldn’t be a Hindu, Muslim and Christian at the same time. He refused to accept they were so different that there was no commonality. His father eventually closed the zoo, sold the animals and loaded his family and animals on a ship to deliver the animals and begin anew in Canada. The ship does not make it from India to the intended destination. The ship and most of the occupants went down to the bottom of the Pacific. Much of the book is a story of Pi’s journey on a lifeboat for 277 days. When Pi first entered the small lifeboat, he was joined by a hyena, zebra, gorilla and tiger. After nature takes its course, Pi is left alone with a personified tiger, Richard Parker. He remembered training from his father and eventually “trains” the tiger to stay out of territory that didn’t belong to the tiger. Pi fed the tiger and himself from rations store on the boat as well as what he caught in the ocean. When he encountered another castaway, the tiger was not so understanding and devoured him. Somewhere in mid-journey Pi and Richard Parker encounter a carnivorous island, much like a Venus Fly-trap. They stay until Pi realized the danger and left with the tiger in tow. When he washed up on shore in Mexico, officials from the shipping company showed up to question him. He offered the above story to them, which they chose not to believe and asked for the truth. Pi offers a story without animals, where Pi, mother, the cook and a sailor are on the lifeboat until the cook kills and eats Pi’s mother and the sailor. Pi is Richard Parker, the tiger, and kills the cook when he can’t take it anymore. Pi leaves it to the officials to decide which story they like best.

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