Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry



The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce – To be Discussed on Wed May 3, 2017, at Geneseo Public Library
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Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning a letter arrives, addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl, from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. But before Harold mails off a quick reply, a chance encounter convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry embarks on an urgent quest. Determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice, Harold believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. A novel of charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts,

Discussion Questions:
1.    Why does the story that the garage girl tells Harold affect him so deeply? Do you think Harold would have mused on faith and gone on this tremendous journey had the garage girl told Harold that her aunt died of cancer anyway?

2. How does Maureen’s relationship with Rex allow her the perspective to understand Harold’s decision to walk?

3. The publicity that Harold receives on his journey often feels like a curse. What are some benefits that come out of the media coverage?

4. What does Harold’s choice to live off the land and other people’s kindness mean to him?

5. In what ways is the incident at the beach with his son representative of Harold’s fears about himself? In what ways do those fears reflect the reality?

6. “He had not said goodbye to his son. Maureen had; but Harold had not. There would always be this difference.” Do you think anything would have been different for Harold had he had the moment of closure with David’s body at the funeral home? How did this difference manifest over the years?

7. How might things have been different for Harold and Maureen if she had told him about Queenie’s visit to the house in which she explained why she took the blame? Maureen thinks her withholding of this information caused years of irreversible damage. How might Harold have been affected if he’d known any sooner that Queenie didn’t blame him at all?

8. What state did you think Queenie would be in when Harold reached the end of his journey? Were you surprised by their interaction once he got there? How do you think that scene might have been changed if Harold had arrived any sooner?

9. Think about all the people Harold met along the way—the garage girl, the barkeep, the woman with the apples and water, Martina, Wilf. Had Harold not met even one of them, might his journey have diverged, stalled, or even ended before he reached Queenie?

10. Where would Harold be today if he hadn’t made his pilgrimage? What would the state of his relationship with Maureen be? How would news of Queenie’s death have affected him? What would his life look like?

11. Does Harold’s journey feel secularly or religiously spiritual to you? Does it change over time? How does his idea of faith fit with your own beliefs?

12. What would it take to get you to make an extraordinary journey? Is there anyone or anything that could compel you to walk six hundred miles? What would such a journey mean to you?

13. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has become an international bestseller. Readers from Taiwan, Germany, England, Australia, the United States, Italy, South Africa, and many other countries have embraced the novel. What do you think accounts for Harold reaching the hearts of so many people from all over the world?

Notes from April 2017 group




 The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee - Discussed on Wed April 5, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library


Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . .

When she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father, Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream.

"The Glass Kitchen" is a delicious novel, a tempestuous story of a woman washed up on the shores of Manhattan who discovers that a kitchen--like an island--can be a refuge, if only she has the courage to give in to the pull of love, the power of forgiveness, and accept the complications of what it means to be family.

This was an interesting, easy to read book.  We enjoyed the characters and especially the cooking and recipes given. There were good topics for discussion in this story including city vs country life, family relationships, poor vs rich lifestyles.  There was a lot of family drama.  Most of our group enjoyed this novel.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Glass Kitchen



THE GLASS KITCHEN by Linda Francis Lee – To be Discussed on Wed. April 5, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library


                                                                                                         

Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . .

When she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father, Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream.

"The Glass Kitchen" is a delicious novel, a tempestuous story of a woman washed up on the shores of Manhattan who discovers that a kitchen--like an island--can be a refuge, if only she has the courage to give in to the pull of love, the power of forgiveness, and accept the complications of what it means to be family.

Discussion Questions:
1. There are several instances in which Gram gives Portia cooking guidelines that can be applied more broadly to life in general. What are some examples of this?

2. The feeling Portia gets from discovering her gift is described on page six: “Suddenly her world made sense, as if she had found a hidden switch, the meaning of what she was supposed to do blazing to life like a Christmas tree lighting up in a burst of color.” Have you ever had an “aha!” moment that felt like this?

3. How would you describe the family dynamic in the Kane household? What role does each family member play? How would you describe the dynamic between Portia, Olivia and Cordelia?

4. On page 85, Portia describes a time when, after a fight, she and her sisters filled jars with homemade strawberry preserves. She says that, “the preserves had been the bridge back to each other…” Can you think of times in your own life when the acts of dining or cooking have played a larger role?

5. Did you have any ideas or guesses about what might have happened during the car accident that Ariel was trying so hard to avoid and hide? Were you surprised when Ariel revealed the truth about what happened?

 6. On page 147 Portia contrasts New York and Texas in food terms, comparing New York to “bagels slathered with thick cream cheese” and Texas to “sweet tea over ice on a hot day”. How would you describe the places you have lived in this way? What food comparisons would you use?

7. What role does setting play? What is the importance and meaning of “home” to the development of the story?L

8. On page 285, Cordelia tells Portia that she “can’t keep living a half life.” What does Cordelia mean by this? In what ways has Portia been living a “half life”?

9. When Ariel finds her mother’s memory box, she realizes that, “she couldn’t hide anymore from the stuff she didn’t want to know”. There are several characters that, throughout this story, have trouble facing various truths. Which characters, and what are they hiding from?

10. “Some things are true whether you believe them or not.” Portia tells Ariel this, and it is repeated several times. Where do we see evidence in support of this statement throughout the story?