Monday, October 7, 2013
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Book Status: CURRENTLY READING
Month: February 2013
Genre: Literary Thriller
Book of the Month: A Land More Kind Than Home
Author: Wiley Cash
Question source: N/A
1. Think about the epigraph the author chose to open the book and from which the novel's title derives. What is the significance of this particular quote? How does it set the novel's tone and mood? Explain what the title—"a land more kind than home"—signifies.
2. The novel is told from three characters' perspectives. How does this add to the story and deepen it as it unfolds? How might it be different if it had been told from only one of the character's point of view?
3. Talk about Carson Chambliss. Describe his character. Why does he have such a magnetic hold on his congregation, and especially on Julie? Is Julie a good mother? Can you understand why she behaved the way she did? Do you think she understood the truth of her son, Stump's fate? Why is Addie so afraid of him?
4. How might the events of the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?
5. Describe this small North Carolina town in which the story takes place. What is it like? How does its size and remoteness influence the lives of those who call it home? Sheriff Clem Barfield is not native to Madison County. How does this impact the way he sees this place and its people?
6. How can religion uplift a person's soul? How can it be corrupting influence? Julie considers herself to be a "good Christian woman." What do you think? Whether you are Christian or not, religious or not, what is your definition of a "good Christian?" Is anyone in the novel virtuous, and if so, in what way?
7. Why did Addie pull the children out of Chambliss's services? Did she have any other options?
8. When Jess asks his grandpa if Stump will be able to talk in heaven, Jimmy tells him, "Of course he will. We'll all be able to talk. And we'll be able to understand each other." What does his answer reveal about him and the world? What is he trying to teach Jess?
9. Think about Jimmy Hall. What kind of relationship does she have with his son? What about with Sheriff Barefield?
10. Can this novel be compared to a Shakespearean tragedy? If so, in what ways? Think about various stories and proverbs from the Bible. How are they reflected in the story?
11. What role does nature and the natural world play in the novel?
12. Addie believes that this place and its people will be saved in the wake of tragedy. Do you believe in salvation? What role does forgiveness play in this story? Do you think people can change for the better? What about Jimmy Hall? How do the novel's events impact his relationship with the sheriff and with his grandson, Jess?
13. Think about the novel's themes: revenge, faith, betrayal, goodness and evil, forgiveness and understanding. Choose a character and show how these themes are demonstrated through his or her life.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Book Selection Status: READ
Month: August 2012
Book of the Month: The Saving Graces
Author: Patricia Gaffney
Question source: http://www.patriciagaffney.com/savinggraces_guide.html#
- Which Grace do you relate to most, and why? What do you define as "grace"? Where do you find it in your life?
- Why do you think the author starts and ends the story from Emma's point of view? Would you consider Emma the main character?
- When Lee is describing Isabel for the first time, she says, "Some people are born knowing things the rest of us spend our lives trying to learn." What kinds of things do you think she's talking about? Do you agree with Lee? What do you think Isabel had, or knew, that the other Graces didn't?
- The night Emma finds out that Mick Draco is married, she describes men as "speed bumps ... aggravating distractions scattered along life's otherwise pretty nice highway," and also says that good women are easier to find. Do you think she really believes this? Have you ever felt the way Emma says she does? Do you think men feel that way about women -- that, on the whole, men are the better sex -- or is this a uniquely feminine perspective?
- At one point, Rudy says about Curtis, "I tried not loving him -- just for a second; an experiment. To my horror, it worked." What does she mean by this? That her love for him isn't real? What do you think of Rudy and Curtis's relationship, over all? How did your feelings change about him over the course of the book? When he told Rudy he has leukemia, did you believe him? What do you think Rudy's dream means?
- There's a remarkably small amount of jealousy and possessiveness among the Graces. Do you think this is realistic? Have you had the same experiences with your women friends?
- When you tally it up among the four of them, the Graces experience just about every tragedy known to womankind -- cancer, infidelity, alcoholism and drug abuse, mental illness, infertility, and devastating heartbreak, to name a few. Do you think the author has woven these themes in realistically? Would you say this group of women experiences more than their share of suffering? What about joy?
- The only time the idea of romantic love between women comes up in the book is via Jenny, Henry's lesbian plumber mom. Why do you think the author wrote Jenny into the story? What purpose does she
serve? Do you think Jenny really assumes The Saving Graces is founded on the same basic ideas as the women's group/commune she belonged to in the late '70s? Is it? If so, how is it the same, and how is it
- Have you ever belonged to a formal group like The Saving Graces? Do you think it's difficult to form close friendships with women later in life, after school and other settings? How do you think friendships among women change as they age?
- At one point, Emma describes Isabel as her "mentor, although neither of us would ever say that out loud, and certainly we'd never use that word." Do you think that's an accurate way to describe their
- What about mothering -- is Isabel the mother figure in The Saving Graces? Or is Lee? Do you think any one member takes more than she gives, or is it all pretty equal?
- Why do you think Lee holds out for so long trying to have her own baby? Do you think she's justified in feeling so angry and desperate, especially when she has a loving husband, a good job, a nice home -- and other people have much bigger problems, like her friend Isabel, who's dying? How do you think Lee's experience with infertility affects her reactions to what's going on with Isabel?
- Isabel says "sometimes kindness is as excruciating as cruelty." What do you think she means by that?
- Why do you think the author wrote in Isabel's encounter with Sheldon Herman, the old man on the bench?
- When Isabel and Kirby sleep together for the first time, she's able to forget for a moment that she's dying -- then abruptly remembers again. Do you think that sex and death are related in any way?
- What do you think of the scene where the Graces take on Curtis? Is it realistic? Is it everybody's fantasy, in some way, to have their best friends there for them in the hardest moments? Can you really have help with these things, or do you need to face them alone?
- Do you think Emma and Mick will make it as a couple? Or were they brought together by the desire for something they couldn't have, and, now that they have it, their passion will be diminished?
- Which of the Graces do you think grew the most over the course of the book, and in what ways?
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Book Selection Status: READ
Month: July 2012
Book of the Month: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
Question source: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/the_chaperone.html
- The Chaperone opens with Cora Carlisle waiting out a rainstorm in a car with a friend when she hears about Louise Brooks for the first time. What do we learn about Cora in this scene? What does it tell us about her and the world she lives in? Why does Laura Moriarty, the author, choose to open the novel this way? Why do you think she waits to introduce us to Brooks?
- When we first meet Louise Brooks, she seems to be the complete opposite of Cora, but the two women form an unlikely bond anyway. Are they really so dissimilar? What does Cora learn from Louise? Do you think Louise learns anything from Cora?
- When Cora arrives in New York, the city is worlds away from her life in Wichita. How much do you think Cora actually embraces New York? When she returns to Wichita, what does she bring back with her from New York? What parts of her stayed true to Wichita all along?
- The limits of acceptable behavior for women were rapidly changing in the 1920s, and both Cora Carlisle and Louise Brooks, in their own ways, push against these boundaries. Discuss the different ways the two women try to change society’s expectations for women. Is one more successful than the other? What are the values involved in each woman’s approach?
- Cora becomes frustrated with the hypocrisy of the women in her Wichita circle of friends and yet she herself chooses to keep details about her own life secret. Do you think she should be more open about her life choices? What are the risks for her if she were to be more open?
- Cora Carlisle hopes to find the secret of her past in New York City but discovers that the truth doesn’t align with either her expectations or her memory of the past. Why do you think Laura Moriarty has chosen to leave Cora’s history ambiguous? What does this tell you about Cora? How has Cora’s attitude toward her past changed by the end of The Chaperone?
- Cora narrates the events of the book from a perspective of many years later. What juxtapositions does this allow her? By placing Cora’s narration at a time of radical social change, what parallels is Moriarty making?
- Think about Louise Brooks’s behavior. How much of it would be considered scandalous today? What values has society held on to? In what ways has society changed?