Recap of our Block Book Club October 2014 meeting
Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].
1. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry #1) by Rachel Joyce (2012)
presented by P.:
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie–who is 600 miles away–because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die.
So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories–flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband.
Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband’s sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?
2. Missing Person, by Patrick Modiano (1978)
presented by J. – who read it because this French author just won the Nobel Prize of Literature – cocorico as we say there!!
Winner of the Prix Goncourt – a major literary award in France. I read it myself back then and loved it!In this strange, elegant novel, winner of France’s premier literary prize, Patrick Modiano portrays a man in pursuit of the identity he lost in the murky days of the Paris Occupation, the black hole of French memory.
For ten years Guy Roland has lived without a past. His current life and name were given to him by his recently retired boss, Hutte, who welcomed him, a onetime client, into his detective agency. Guy makes full use of Hutte’s files – directories, yearbooks, and papers of all kinds going back half a century – but his leads are few. Could he really be the person in that photograph, a young man remembered by some as a South American attaché? Or was he someone else, perhaps the disappeared scion of a prominent local family? He interviews strangers and is tantalized by half-clues until, at last, he grasps a thread that leads him through the maze of his own repressed experience.
On one level Missing Person is a detective thriller, a 1950s film noir mix of smoky cafés, illegal passports, and insubstantial figures crossing bridges in the fog. On another level, it is also a haunting meditation on the nature of the self. Modiano’s sparce, hypnotic prose, superbly translated by Daniel Weissbort, draws his readers into the intoxication of a rare literary experience.
3. The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, by Edith Hahn Beer and Susan Dworkin (1999)
presented by M.
In vivid, wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells of German officials who casually questioned the lineage of her parents; of how, when giving birth to her daughter, she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal her past; and of how, after her husband was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia, Edith was bombed out of her house and had to hide in a closet with her daughter while drunken Russians soldiers raped women on the street.
Yet despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith Hahn created a remarkable collective record of survival: She saved every set of real and falsified papers, letters she received from her lost love, Pepi, and photographs she managed to take inside labor camps.
On exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents form the fabric of an epic story – complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant.
4. Stone Cold (Joe Pickett #14), by C.J. Box (Jan 2014)
presented by B.
5. Uprising: A New Age is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter, by Sally Armstrong (March 2014)
presented by A.
The earth is shifting under the status of women. UPRISING tells a remarkable story about women claiming their own space – against all odds – and how this shift from oppression to emancipation will improve the economy, reduce poverty and curtail conflict. Sally Armstrong, also known as the war correspondent for the world’s women, has been following the action on the front line for women and girls in Bosnia, Egypt, Congo, The Middle East, Afghanistan and America for twenty-five years. She says the manifesto for this revolution is being written in mud-brick huts in Afghanistan and on Tehrir Square in Egypt and in the forests of the Congo, as well as on the streets of Kenya, where 160 girls sued their government for failing to protect them from being raped, and won, and in Pakistan, where Malala Yousafzai, is fighting for the rights of all girls. Armstrong has been an eye witness to the worst atrocities and is now the first to write about the astonishing changes that are happening in Asia, Africa and the Americas.Her eye-witness reporting has earned her many awards including the Gold Award from the National Magazine Awards Foundation and the Author’s Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters. She received the Amnesty International Canada Media Award in 2000, 2002 and again in 2011. She was a member of the International Women’s Commission a UN body that consists of 20 Palestinian women, 20 Israeli women and 12 internationals whose mandate is assisting with the path to peace in the Middle East.
6. The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope, Comfort and Spiritual Transformation, by Kathleen D. Singh (2013)
also presented by A.
The author came to speak to our local College, J. also highly recommends her books
In this brilliantly conceived and beautifully written book, Kathleen Dowling Singh illuminates the profound psychological and spiritual transformations experiences by the dying as the natural process of death reconnects them with the source of their being. Examining the end of life in the light of current psychological understanding, religious wisdom, and compassionate medical science, The Grace of Dying offers a fresh, deeply comforting message of hope and courage as we contemplate the meaning of our mortality.While the prevailing Western medical tradition has seen death as an enemy to be fought and overcome, Singh offers a richer and more rewarding path of understanding. Combining extensive training and education in developmental psychology with profound spiritual insight, she balances expert analysis with moving accounts drawn from her experiences working with hundreds of dying patients at a large hospice.Singh moves beyond the five stages of dying revealed in Kübler-Ross’s classic On Death and Dying, and finds in the “nearing death experience” even more significant and forming stages of surrender and transcendence. These stages involve the qualities of grace: letting go, radiance, focusing inward, silence, a sense of the sacred, wisdom, intensity, and, in the end, a merging with Spirit. Through this intense process, we come to experience at last the reality of our true self, which transcends our finite ego and bodily existence, and our merging with the source of being from which we originated. Dying is safe.
In clear, nontechnical language, Singh reveals the transformations that come with dying, using the vocabulary of growing Western, as well as Eastern, wisdom.
Written for those aware that their life is coming to an end, those who care for the dying, and, ultimately, for all of us who inevitably face our own death and the deaths of the people we love, The Grace in Dying reveals that dying is the most transforming, powerful, and spiritually rich of life’s experiences.
7. Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife, by Gioia Diliberto (1992)
presented by S.
Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway were the golden couple of Paris in the twenties, the center of an expatriate community boasting the likes of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and James and Nora Joyce. In this haunting account of the young Hemingways, Gioia Diliberto explores their passionate courtship, their family life in Paris with baby Bumby, and their thrilling, adventurous relationship—a literary love story scarred by Hadley’s loss of the only copy of Hemingway’s first novel and ultimately destroyed by a devastating ménage à trois on the French Riviera.Compelling, illuminating, poignant, and deeply insightful, Paris Without End provides a rare, intimate glimpse of the writer who so fully captured the American imagination and the remarkable woman who inspired his passion and his art—the only woman Hemingway never stopped loving.
8. The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey to the Nobel Peace Prize, by Douglas G. Brinkley (1998)
presented by R.
Jimmy Carter left the White House in January 1981, defeated in his bid for reelection and rejected by the American public — but hardly broken. Outside the Oval Office, with a commitment rarely seen in an ex-president, he was more determined than ever to complete his life’s mission: the achievement of world peace.With unique access to the Carter archives and to the man himself, award-winning historian Douglas Brinkley brings us this unprecedented biography of the former President. Here are penetrating observations of Carter’s complex relationships with such world figures as Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher, Fidel Castro, and Yasir Arafat, as well as his associations with the presidents who have succeeded him. Brinkley also reassesses the achievements of Carter’s underrated White House tenure — the Camp David accords, Panama Canal treaties, and his championing of human rights. The Unfinished Presidency is the definitive portrait of this formidable world statesman.
9. The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard, by Sherry Jones (Oct 2014)
presented by me
Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God. But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever.Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.
Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.
Click on the book cover to access my personal review
HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?