Friday, March 9, 2018

Stella Bain


Stella Bain by Anita Shreve – To be Discussed on Wed. April 4, 2018 at Geneseo Public Library

Stella Bain has no memory of her past when she wakes up in a hospital bed in Marne, France. It is 1916, and she wears the uniform of a British war nurse but speaks with an American accent. As soon as she is able, Stella sets out for London, where she hopes to find answers. What she discovers-with the help of Dr. August Bridge, who takes an interest in her case-both shocks and startles. As Stella's memories come racing back, she must undertake a journey across the ocean to confront the haunted past of the woman she used to be.

In this gripping historical drama that transports us from Europe to America and back again, Anita Shreve weaves an engrossing tale about love and memory, set against the backdrop of a war that devastated an entire generation.

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you enjoy reading this book?



2.  Which character was your favorite and why?



3. Would you recommend this book to other people?



4. What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s contents?



5. Does this book seem realistic? Does the content presented accurately represent the time period?



6. If you could rewrite any part or parts of the novel what would they be and why?



7. What did you think of the book’s pace? Was it too fast or too slow?



8. What artist would you choose to illustrate this book? What kinds of illustrations would you include? Discuss scenes that stood out to you while you read.



9. What were some quotes or passages from the book that were your favorite?



10. Which character in the book would you most like to meet?



11. Have you read any other books by Anita Shreve? If so, how did they compare to this novel?



12. If you have not read another book Anita Shreve would you? Why or why not?


Notes from March 2018 group


An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor - Discussed on Wed March 7, 2018, at Geneseo Public Library

Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the Northern Ireland village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there. But Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly.

The older physician has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can't decide if the pugnacious O'Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met or the best teacher he could ever hope for. Through O'Reilly, Barry soon gets to know all of the village's colourful and endearing residents and a host of other eccentric characters who make every day an education for the inexperienced young doctor.

Ballybucklebo is a long way from Belfast, and Barry is quick to discover that he still has a lot to learn about country life. But with pluck and compassion, and only the slightest touch of blarney, he will find out more about life--and love--than he ever imagined back in medical school.

This wholesome story was filled with interesting characters and situations written by a real Irish doctor.  We like the contrast of the old established doctor (Fingal O’Reilly) vs the new rookie doctor (Barry Laverty) in rural Northern Ireland in 1960’s.  We discussed the morning patient office visits then each afternoon they went to on home visits.  The older doctor O’Reilly knew and was concerned for all his patients and sometime used unusual methods to resolve medical / personal conflicts.  Both doctors learned from each other, and admitted when they made a mistake.  Doctor O’Reilly was the soul of the small community and well respected.  The medical experience was so different back then.  Our group really enjoyed this book and some of us will continue reading rest of this series.  Note there is an Irish glossary at the end of this book – helpful to American readers.

Friday, March 2, 2018

An Irish Country Doctor


An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor – To be discussed on Wed March 7, 2018 at Geneseo Public Library

Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the Northern Ireland village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there. But Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly.

The older physician has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can't decide if the pugnacious O'Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met or the best teacher he could ever hope for. Through O'Reilly, Barry soon gets to know all of the village's colourful and endearing residents and a host of other eccentric characters who make every day an education for the inexperienced young doctor.

Ballybucklebo is a long way from Belfast, and Barry is quick to discover that he still has a lot to learn about country life. But with pluck and compassion, and only the slightest touch of blarney, he will find out more about life--and love--than he ever imagined back in medical school.
Questions:
1. Just a few pages into An Irish Country Doctor, its main character, Barry Laverty, speaks of his love for and devotion to Northern Ireland. What do we learn about the soul of the country, by the story’s end? What makes it such a compelling home for Barry, and for Taylor’s other characters? 
2. Barry’s first encounter with Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly is surprising, to say the least. What is your initial reaction to O’Reilly? Does your opinion of him change along with Barry’s as the book progresses? 
3. By many standards, Dr. O’Reilly’s medical practice is often unorthodox. Is he an effective physician? Is he a moral one? Have you ever known a doctor who resembled him? Would you trust O’Reilly with your own medical care? 
4. There are several instances throughout the book in which O’Reilly breaches traditional ethics—in maintaining confidentiality, in telling patients the truth, even in prescribing “tonics”—while caring for his patients. How does Barry react to this? How do those breaches make you feel? Are there ever medical situations like these in which you think the end justifies the means? 
5. An Irish Country Doctor portrays two people who each lost their partner long ago, and who have now platonically shared a home and a life for decades. What do you think makes O’Reilly and Kinky such good colleagues in the running of his practice and his day-to-day life? How do they play off one another’s temperament? At any point in the story, did you wonder why they had never fallen in love with one another? Why has each remained single for so long? 
6. Barry’s first meeting with Patricia seems to have a quality about it of” love at first sight,” of his being smitten by her beauty and she by his slightly awkward charm. Is there more to their attraction than that? Do you think that “love at first sight” can form the basis of an enduring relationship?

Notes from Feb 2018 group


Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery – Discussed on Wed Feb. 7, 2018 at Geneseo Public Library


Kelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

Our group did not like this book.  The story was OK – we enjoyed learning about tulip farming.  The family was very dysfunctional, especially the mother. She came back to town to cause trouble for her relatives again.  There was lots of secrets between the main characters which all came out.  No one would recommend this book. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters







Kelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now. >p>

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters? 




























Notes from the Jan 2018 group




The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks – Discussed on Wed Jan. 3, 2018 at Geneseo Librar


Carnton Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of the almost 1,500 soldiers buried there. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears--the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more.

Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Civil War. While the fierce fighting rages on Carrie's land, her plantation turns into a Confederate army hospital; four generals lie dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead--and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation.

Several of our group had toured this TN plantation.  This was not an easy read.  Each chapter was written from the point of view of a different character.  We learned about the Civil War and the hardships affected all people not just the soldiers.  Author did a good job researching this time period. The personalities and plot were interesting.  Most of our group liked this book.

The Widow of the South



Widow of the South  by Robert Hicks – To be Discussed on Wed. Jan. 3, 2018 at Geneseo Public Library

Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Battle of Franklin, five of the bloodiest hours of the Civil War.

While the fierce fighting rages on Carrie's land, her plantation turns into a Confederate army hospital; four generals lie dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead-and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation.


Discussion Questions:

1. It seems that Carrie doesn't come alive until literally everyone around her is dying. Why do you think it took her home being taken over by the Confederate Army and turned into a hospital to awaken Carrie out of her stupor?

2. Do you believe that Zachariah really wanted to die when he picked up the colors on the battlefield? Why does Nathan Stiles spare Zachariah on the battlefield specifically, when others carrying the colors were killed? Is Zachariah grateful to be spared, or is he regretful, or a little of both, and why?

3. Does John McGavock undergo a character transformation from the beginning of the novel, when he and Theopolis encounter the gang of ruffians in the woods, to the end, when we see scenes him of him wandering around Franklin somewhat aimlessly? How do you think he views the war? How do you think he views his role, or his non-role, in the war? And how does this compare with Carrie's attitude towards the war?

4. In the author's note Robert Hicks says of Mariah, "… I have concluded that Mariah may well have been the most complete human of them all." Mariah never let her enslavement define her. Do you agree?

5. Discuss how the death of their children affected both Carrie and John. What is the difference between the attachment mothers and fathers have with their children? Do you think John would have begun drinking whether his children had died or not? And do you think Carrie had a propensity for eccentricity and seclusion?

6. When Carrie first notices Zachariah in her upstairs guest room, she remarks: "Unlike most of the men, he looked ready to die. He looked as if he were welcoming it, urging it along…I wanted his eyes on me." Why does Carrie take to Zachariah, and why does she later give him special treatment? Do you think it was purely physical attraction? Does Zachariah's welcoming of his own death conflict with Carrie's values?

7. Faith plays a large part in each character's motivations. Discuss the role of belief in a higher power and how it guides Carrie, Zachariah, and Mariah in their actions. For most of us, our belief system changes or 'grows' over the span of our lives, one way or the other. How did Carrie's faith change over the span of the novel?

8. Why do you think Carrie beats Zachariah on the porch? Were you surprised by this or did you understand it?

9. Zachariah and Carrie have an intense love affair yet it's never consummated sexually. Do you think the fact they never were physically intimate takes away or adds to their relationship, or does it matter?

10. At one point Carrie tells Mariah, "You always could have left, even when you weren't allowed. I would have never stopped you." Do you think this is true? Carrie seems to think of Mariah as her best friend, but she was really her property, a "gift" her father gave to her as a child. Do you think Carrie tries to make herself appear a better friend/owner than she really was? Discuss Carrie and Mariah's relationship. Could friendship really transcend enslavement?

11. Among the political issues leading up to the Civil War was the South's strong adherence to the doctrine of 'state's rights.' Among the issues to come out of the war was the emancipation of the enslaved in the 'slave states,' whether they had remained loyal to the union or had seceded and joined the Confederacy. Yet, neither of these political issues is ever addressed 'head-on' in the book. Why do you think that is?

12. Carrie comes from a rich, educated family. She is "learned." Zachariah is poor, and almost illiterate. Yet do you think one is wiser than the other?

13. Robert Hicks has said, "good writing is about transformation." We see transformation in Carrie, Zechariah and in their relationship, in John, in his and Carrie's relationship, in Mariah and her relationship with Carrie. Are we left with any sense that Mr. Baylor ever comes to any real peace about what has happened?

14. What does Carrie mean when she says the following to Zachariah: "You are my key. You will explain things I have not been able to understand…I want you to explain to me why I wanted you to live and why I was able to make you live. Because I don't understand, not really, and the answer is very important to me." What is Carrie not able to understand about herself, and what answer does she think Zachariah will be able to provide?

15. Carrie takes Eli into her home and he quickly assumes the role of a surrogate son and Winder's surrogate brother. How do Carrie's actions speak to her changing perceptions of family? Has her work running the hospital changed her maternal instincts or is she simply responding to the nature of war?

16. At the town party, Carrie remarks about how she doesn't fit in with the other women; Mrs. McEwen pokes fun of her efforts and jokingly calls her "St. 17. In 1894, after John has died, and Mariah, Carrie and Zachariah are all elderly, why does Zachariah not profess his love for Carrie more overtly? Over time, did his love become more of respect and admiration for her heroism, or are his feelings for her just as romantically intense?