Friday, December 7, 2018

Paris for One


Paris for One by JoJo Moyes – To be discussed on Jan 2, 2019, at Geneseo Public Library



Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She's never even been on a romantic weekend away—to anywhere—before. Traveling abroad isn't really her thing. But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up for their mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone—including herself—wrong.  Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life? Funny, charming, and irresistible, Paris for One is quintessential Jojo Moyes—as are the other stories that round out the collection.

Discussion Questions:

1.      Which is your favorite story in the collection and why?



2.      Do you recognize yourself in Nell or any of the other characters in Paris for One and Other Stories?



3.      Fabian first feels a connection to Nell when they are both moved by the same painting at the Frida Kahlo exhibit. Have you ever responded to a work of art in such a visceral way?



4.      Nell’s girlfriends play a key role in her Paris weekend, in both good ways and bad. How does her relationship with Magda and the others shift after she returns?



5.      On pp. 86–87, Fabien takes Nell to the Pont des Arts to see the love locks. Were you familiar with this Parisian tradition of attaching locks to the bridge? Why do people do it? Would you?



6.      In the final line of “Paris for One,” Nell says she “always did like a story with a happy ending” (p. 151). What do you imagine happens to Nell after the story ends?



7.      In “Thirteen Days with John C,” Miranda finds a stranger’s cellphone and is seduced by the texts of a man she doesn’t know. Although she is pretending to be someone else and in fact never meets John C, do you believe that what she did qualifies as cheating? Would her husband agree?



8.      Why is Sara so unenthusiastic about being whisked away for the night in “Love in the Afternoon”? Why didn’t Doug tell her he received the trip as a company bonus? In what way does the discovery change Sara’s attitude?



9.   The stories “Paris for One” and “Love in the Afternoon” both revolve around a romantic weekend trip. What is the most romantic vacation you’ve ever had?

Notes from Dec 2018

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - Movie watched and discussed on Dec. 5, 2018
at Geneseo Public Library


Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

This was a story about racism and relationships in the South 1964.  Most of the characters were strong, quirky, black women who accepted stranger Lily (white runaway teen) into their home and supported her. Enjoyed the situation between Lily and Rosaleen (her black nanny) who cared for her for ten years.  There was a lot of drama between Lily and her mean father, Lily and the 3 sisters, Lily and Zach, a black teen she liked.  We learned about bee keeping.   It was an unusual book – easy to read and interesting.  The entire group liked this one.  It generated great discussion.
Our group liked the books so much we watched the movie in December 2018.  They did a great job casting actors to play the main characters - Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Paul Bethany. Costumes, cars, scenery - these  1964 details were all carefully, thoughtfully chosen and enhanced the film.  Our bookclub really enjoyed the DVD as much as the book.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Secret Life of Bees DVD

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - 2008 DVD with Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah


Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

Notes from Nov. 2018 group

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - Discussed on Nov. 5 at Geneseo Public Library

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

This was a story about racism and relationships in the South 1964.  Most of the characters were strong, quirky, black women who accepted stranger Lily (white runaway teen) into their home and supported her. Enjoyed the situation between Lily and Rosaleen (her black nanny) who cared for her for ten years.  There was a lot of drama between Lily and her mean father, Lily and the 3 sisters, Lily and Zach, a black teen she liked.  We learned about bee keeping.   It was an unusual book – easy to read and interesting.  The entire group liked this one.  It generated great discussion.




Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Secret Life of Bees


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – To be Discussed on Wed Nov. 7, 2018, at Geneseo Public Library

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

Questions:

1.       How would you describe Lily's feelings about her mother? Did they change throughout the novel? How did hearing that her mother left her to affect her perception of her mother?

2.      Do you believe T-Ray's account of what happened when Lily's mother died?

3.      Did your opinion of T-Ray change when August told Lily about how much he used to love her mother? Does Deborah's abandonment explain or excuse T-Ray?

4.      Do you agree with Lily that people would rather die than forgive? Does she forgive her mother? T-Ray? Herself?

5.      What do the bees mean to the story? What is "the secret life of bees?"

6.      Do you think race was portrayed realistically in The Secret Life of Bees? What do you think Sue Monk Kidd was saying about race in this novel?

7.      Why did Rosaleen spit on the men's shoes? What are the ways the characters in the novel confront injustice? How do you think we should deal with injustice? Do these kinds of prejudices still exist today?

8.      What was your reaction to Lily's relationship with Zach? What do you think happened to them in the future?

9.      Talk about the sisters. Who was your favorite? Do we all need a wailing wall, like May? Why do you think June was cold toward Lily? How would you describe August

10.   What role did the Black Madonna play in their community? What do you think about the legend of the Black Madonna?




Notes from Oct 2018 group


Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel – Discussed on Wed. Oct. 3, 2018 at Geneseo Library



Many people dream of escaping modern life. Most will never act on it—but in 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight did just that when he left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another person for the next twenty-seven years.
 
Drawing on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel shows how Knight lived in a tent in a secluded encampment, developing ingenious ways to store provisions and stave off frostbite during the winters. A former alarm technician, he stealthily broke into nearby cottages for food, books, and supplies, taking only what he needed but sowing unease in a community plagued by his mysterious burglaries. Since returning to the world, he has faced unique challenges—and compelled us to reexamine our assumptions about what makes a good life. By turns riveting and thought-provoking, The Stranger in the Woods gives us a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way.

This was an interesting book.  We were amazed at how a 20 year old American man could drop out of society for 27 years.  His family did not report him missing.  Chris was very resourceful, inventive, and able to survive outdoors all year long. He did what he wanted to do which was just leave him alone in the woods.  He has a very different personality. He was finally caught stealing food and other necessities as he had done for 27 years.  He never got sick until he went to prison.  Most of our group liked this book and it generated great discussion.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Stranger in the Woods

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel - To be Discussed on Wed. Oct. 3, 2018 at Geneseo Public Library


Many people dream of escaping modern life. Most will never act on it—but in 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight did just that when he left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another person for the next twenty-seven years.
 
Drawing on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel shows how Knight lived in a tent in a secluded encampment, developing ingenious ways to store provisions and stave off frostbite during the winters. A former alarm technician, he stealthily broke into nearby cottages for food, books, and supplies, taking only what he needed but sowing unease in a community plagued by his mysterious burglaries. Since returning to the world, he has faced unique challenges—and compelled us to reexamine our assumptions about what makes a good life. By turns riveting and thought-provoking, The Stranger in the Woods gives us a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way.
Questions:
1. Discuss the significance of the Socrates epigraph that opens The Stranger in the Woods. How does this set the tone for the book? How does it relate to the book’s larger discussion of needs versus wants?

2. In the early pages of the book, Finkel states that Knight has “stripped the world to his essentials.” Consider the lifestyle that Knight leads in North Pond. What are his essentials? How many of these essentials are material versus immaterial? What does he value the most? 

3. On page 5, Finkel states that Knight has a “moral code” that he lives by, which determines what he will and will not steal. How would you describe his moral code? How does his moral code relate to larger ideas about capitalism and materialism in the United States?

4. In the first few chapters of the book, Knight is referred to solely as “the hermit,” before his name and identity are revealed to the reader. Why do you think Finkel chose to employ this narrative device? Explore the significance of the lore around Knight as “the hermit,” and how the mythos of “the hermit” is complicated once his identity is made publicly known.

5. How would you describe the locals’ attitudes toward the hermit over time? Discuss the varied experiences of those who were victimized by his crimes and how these incidents affected their perceptions of their hometown, their domicile, and their safety. After his arrest, how does the narrative of the hermit change, if at all?

6. How do you feel about Knight? On the North Pond camp owners’ scale of “Lock Knight up forever” to “Let him go immediately,” where do you reside?

7. In chapter six, Finkel describes the fanfare surrounding Knight’s arrest, pronounced “a circus” by some local officials. Consider the irony of Knight’s fame in relation to his desire for solitude. How does Knight play into the public’s idea of what a hermit “should” be?

8. In chapter seven, the narrative lens of The Stranger in the Woods shifts to allow for the author’s point of view to emerge. What spurs Finkel to reach out to Knight, initially? Discuss their early exchanges, as well as Finkel’s first visit. How does their relationship evolve?

9. Early in their relationship, Finkel reveals to Knight that he is a “flawed journalist,” based on past actions during his reportage. Why does he choose to do this? Discuss the “lofty ideals” that both men strive for in their lives. How are they both committed to seeking truth?

10. Discuss Knight’s time in jail. How does the movement from complete solitude to imprisonment affect his morale? What tactics from his time in the woods does he use to pass the time? 

11. Throughout The Stranger in the Woods, Knight is defined by many labels: He is a hermit, a thief, a prisoner, a purist, a son, a brother. Which of these labels does he associate himself with, if any? How much of a person’s identity is shaped by socialization, and how much is self-determined?

12. On page 50, Finkel states that Knight “seemed to say exactly what he was thinking, raw and true, unfiltered by the safety net of social niceties.” Discuss this statement. How does Knight’s time in the woods affect his understanding of human interactions? What is his general standpoint toward humanity? How does his exposure to media (books, radio) keep him connected to society at large?

13. When reading Notes from the Underground, Knight felt that Dostoyevsky was reaching through time and speaking directly to him. What books have made you feel that way?

14. Discuss Knight’s childhood and family. How does the idea of rugged individualism and self-reliance color his upbringing? The value of privacy? Consider his absence in the lives of his family members, and his sudden return to them. Does he feel any guilt about his decision to disappear? How does his family interpret his return?

15. On page 78, Finkel notes that Knight’s decision to retreat to the woods “had elements of a suicide, except he didn’t kill himself.” Unpack this statement. Considering Knight’s promise to go back into the woods at the end of the book, how does he view death in relation to the natural world?

16. Consider Finkel’s discussion of various hermits or secluded individuals in societies around the world. What does Knight share with these other historical examples of hermits? Is there a mutual moral commitment that underpins their solitude?  How much of Knight’s decision to isolate himself seems to come from a place of idealism versus personal preference? How does his existence in Little North defy the typical categorization of what a hermit is?

17. Discuss the discipline inherent to Knight’s existence in the woods. How is his life reliant on patterns and consistency? How does he use fear as motivation?

18. On page 112, Knight wonders if “modern society, with its flood of information and tempest of noise, was only making us dumber.” Reflect on this statement. What are the pitfalls of technology in relation to modern living? How does our reliance on technology undercut some of the most essential human functions?

19. Stranger in the Woods asks complicated, fundamental questions about solitude, self-reliance, and humans’ relationship with nature, with an extraordinary, singularly unique human at the center. Consider your own life as it relates to these concepts. How often are you completely alone? Do you ever seek out solitude, particularly in nature? How is nature both restorative and challenging for the human spirit? By the end of the book, how did your feelings toward Knight evolve?