Mother/Daughter Book Club

Thirty some odd years ago, my grandmother and some of her best friends decided to start a book club with their daughters. I’m unsure of how many were originally invited, but currently we have 4 grandmothers, 6 of their daughters and 2 members of the third generation (me and one other). I was officially asked to join somewhere in 2014, but I’m going to start keeping track now, the beginning of 2016. Hopefully soon I’ll have a picture to add of the founders from 30 years ago. This group doesn’t meet in the months of January and February, so March is their first meeting of the year.

November 2018

crawdads

…coming soon…

October 2018

Station Eleven

No one in the book club would ever have picked Station Eleven up on their own, I guarantee you. But everyone LOVED it! Such a win for literature, I think. I’m sad I didn’t get to hear my grandmother’s plan for surviving the apocalypse. Even the member who only like sort of feel good stories loved this one.

September 2018

educated

I’ve been missing a lot of these meetings because the club meets at 5pm and that time is just…well…really hard in my house right now. I am so sad to have missed this one – we combined it with October because no one was available in Sept – because this is one of my favorite books of the year. Our first non-fiction this year, everyone loved it and many people commented “if this was a novel, I would have hated it because I would argue it’s unbelievable.”

 

August 2018

th

I didn’t read this one but went to the meeting anyway. No one was really thrilled with it, but no one hated it, either. The story revolves around the mistress of a political figure – not during the time of the affair but many years after. Told from the point of view of the woman, her mother and also her daughter.

July 2018

eleanoroliph

I was the only one who hated Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Everyone else loved her. My mistake was guessing where the book was going and projecting who I thought Eleanor would turn out to be on Eleanor when I met her in the novel. Everyone else thought this was a quirky fun almost-love story and found a lot of humor in it, right alongside some of the dark.

June 2018

the dry

I missed this discussion but it’s my understanding that everyone loved this Australian mystery. We have one founding member who loves books that take place either in the coldest of cold or the hottest of hot and this one fit the bill. Set during a hot Australian summer in the middle of a drought. A pretty straight forward mystery.

May 2018

9781405930208

This was a funny one because it is SUCH a hot book, people have been raving it about it for well over a year. Only ONE of us loved it. A few liked it and a handful of us (me included) didn’t care for it at all. It’s the story of a small hockey town and what happens when scandal rocks it. Issues: sports teams, consent, loyalty, the cost of doing what’s right.

April 2018

rain

One of the reasons this book club is SO fun is because of the (now) three generations worth of stories that come up during discussions. The other reason is that we really do ONLY talk about the books. Four of our members are in their late 80s, and their stories of growing up during the Great Depression were amazing. Everyone liked this book well enough, but the stories that came up were some of the best. Issues: Great Depression, mother/daughter relationships, hard times.

March 2018

secondmrshock

I got so far behind keeping up with this – but here’s what I remember. I was so surprised to find myself liking this epistolary novel. I really didn’t think I would when I started it. Everyone felt pretty much the same way. It’s a Civil-War era story about a young girl who gets married and finds herself caring for her new husband’s plantation/farm while he’s away. You know that some scandal unfolds because it goes back and forth in time. Issues: slavery, secrets, forgiveness.

December 2017

historyofwolves

This one was weird but good. I read it a while ago and my only memory was “it felt so so ominous, I was just waiting for the bad thing to happen.” I’d say it was split – half loved half didn’t love. The ones who loved it fought hard for it. It’s the story of a young girl who lives in the woods with her ex-cult-ish parents. She takes a job babysitting for the intriguing new neighbors who move in across the pond. Eerie, but interesting. Now we are on a break until MARCH 2018! Our “back from break” book is The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers.

November 2017

littlefireseverywhere

This was another book that I loved that made my Best Of list at the end of the year. Of the 12 of us, I’d say 8 loved, 2 thought was just ok and 2 really didn’t like (that was a mother-daughter duo who compared it to a bad soap opera). Issues: adoption, maternal bonds, teenage rebellion, small town issues.

October 2017

darkdarkwood

I missed this one, but the group picked this because it’s October and they wanted something scary. I think everyone liked it?

September 2017

rabbitcake

Rabbit Cake was a light-ish book club book – a coming of age story of a young girl named Elvis who is dealing with the sudden death of her mother. Grief finds everyone in different ways and between Elvis, her father and her sister…things get a little weird. Easy, fun even though it’s dealing with death and grief, and just really quirky and weird. I for sure thought everyone would hate this book but I was wrong! Lots of people really loved the weirdness of it all. Issues: grief, losing a mother, mental health issues.

August 2017

newsoftheworld

This was one of my favorite books of the year, so you can guess that I pretty much loved everything about it. The group all agreed it was a good story, but some found it too predictable. You can see my full review here. Issues: Native Americans, Post-Civil war, immigrants, friendship.

July 2017

saradevos

This was a great historical fiction pick that we almost all liked. Back and forth in time between Sara De Vos, the only woman admitted to the Guild in 17th century Holland, the present day family that owns her one attributed painting and a young grad student who paints a forgery of the work. We all agreed that Sara’s story (set in 1630s Holland) was our favorite of the three. I myself didn’t love that the three stories lines were: past, present, present – I would have liked them to have all been set in different eras. Issues: gender equality, art/painting/forgery, forgiveness and survival.

June 2017

30531538

Almost everyone finished The Hearts of Men. We read another of his novels, Shotgun Lovesongs, previously and all admired his writing. This one was a little tougher – although people agreed it was interesting and compelling, it was dark and everyone had trouble saying that they “loved” it. The story follows young Nelson, an outcast at Boy Scout camp and in his everyday life, as he deals with bullies and the business of growing into a man. Broken into three sections: Nelson as a child, Nelson as a man, Nelson as an old man (sort of, a little more convoluted) all sections set at the Boy Scout camp. I gave it 4 stars, I think the group would’ve given it 3. Issues: bullying, men, fatherhood, Boy Scouts, trauma, war veterans.

May 2017

flight of dreams

Flight of Dreams was our Mother/Daughter book club selection this month. Historical fiction about the Hindenburg. Maybe the most interesting part of this novel was learning about the flight and its demise. All I knew was that it went down – I had no idea that there were so many survivors or that the cause of the crash was unknown. Ariel Lawhorn did a tremendous amount of research and all of her characters were REALLY on the Hindenburg. They all suffered whatever fates they suffered in real life. My book guru Mary likened the novel to Murder on the Orient Express – where you have a bunch of people who could be responsible, a bunch of people with secrets and schemes, and the novel is more about those characters than the actual crime. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 after our interesting book club discussion. Issues: historical interest, WWII, Hitler, zeppelins.

April 2017

25817162America’s First Daughter is about 600 pages long. I opted NOT to read it but went to the meeting anyway. Interesting discussion that touched on what life would have been like back in those days, Sally Hemings, visits to Monticello. Here is the synopsis given by the publisher: In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

March 2017

18144124

Because of the 2 month hiatus, the group decided to tackle this beast of a book. It kind of falls in the “thriller” range – but everyone loved it. I didn’t read it and missed the discussion. Here is the publisher’s blurb: A breakneck race against time…and an implacable enemy. An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity. One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey. Pilgrim.’ My father and grandfather both read this after my mother and grandmother and loved it as well.

December 2016

armadillos

No secret that this is my favorite book ever written, but here’s what everyone else thought. 2 thought it was too depressing and awful (because it’s a Holocaust story), 1 did not read it. EVERYONE ELSE LOVED IT. One said that it’s the only book we’ve ever read that she knows for sure she’ll read again. One said that it made her fall in love with the Jewish religion – through folklore and general spirit. One said that she cried three times and felt uplifted. It’s really just so good I’m having trouble writing an unbiased review. Issues: Holocaust, mercy, redemption, magic, folklore, trust, humanity, etc etc etc.

Up Next: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, meeting in March 2017

November 2016

be-frank-with-me

Everyone loved this story about a young (probably autistic but never named as such) boy living with his recluse of a mother in LA. Everyone except me. Here’s what everyone else thought: such a charming and interesting book, lovely characters, interesting to see the way young Frank’s mind worked, plot line really propelled you along. Here’s what I thought: not a very substantial story, I wanted more of the mother and less of Frank. Frank’s mom is the author of an insanely successful novel written years and years ago. She never wrote another thing but is forced to now as her fortune has been lost. Her publisher sends a young woman out to care for Frank while the mother works on her writing and the novel is mainly the story of the girl and how she comes to love Frank. Issues to discuss: autistic/spectrum children, bullying, art, parental love. I say 2.5 stars, they’d all say 4.5.

Up Next: In the Land of Armadillos (or They Were Like Family to Me) by Helen Maryles Shankman

October 2016

did-you-ever-have-a-family

Truth. I missed this one and knew I would miss this one so I didn’t (yet) read this one. One loud and adamant member loved it, all of the others seemed to find it too dark and depressing. Not even sure what it’s about! Sorry guys!

Up Next: Be Frank With Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson

September 2016

under-the-harrow

This was a fast-paced one that most everyone enjoyed. Told first-person and reminiscent of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, I kept waiting for the “aha that’s what you’re not telling us!” moment. Our narrator goes to visit her sister and finds her dead. She starts investigating, making herself a nuisance and also a suspect in the process. Twist ending. Issues to discuss: unreliable narrators, first person narrators, abusive relationships, that poor dog. 3.5 stars.

Up Next: Did You Ever Have a Family? by Bill Clegg

August 2016

I saw a man

I read this one a while ago, and didn’t have time to do a reread. I remembered loving it, and was surprised by how much of the story I didn’t remember when we were discussing it. A man, having recently lost his wife, moves in next door to and befriends a couple with two young daughters. One afternoon, he wanders over to retrieve his hammer or screwdriver or shovel, I can’t remember, and finds no one home. He starts wandering around the house, careful not to track mud, and turns a corner, startling one of the young daughters at the top of the stairs. Something catastrophic happens, leaving all involved questioning their morals and how far they’d go to keep a secret. Issues to discuss include: Afghanistan (a side story), What Would YOU Do?. family bonds, marital bonds, atonement. This was split – some people LOVED it and some didn’t care for the characters (not very likable). Side note: pay attention to the dedication. 4 stars

Up Next: Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

July 2016

villaamerica

I was crazy for Klaussmann’s last novel, Tigers in Red Weather. This one, however, didn’t really woo over any of us. Though it was an interesting subject matter (about Sara and Gerald Murphy and the French Riviera), everyone thought it dragged a little bit.

Up Next: I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers

June 2016

ordinary-grace

Another resounding success! I think I am the only one who is getting tired of coming of age stories and young-child narrators. Sigh. This was really great but I’d have liked it a lot more if it didn’t come on the heels of two other coming of age stories. In this one, a preacher’s son and a summer of death. Well, that’s how he sees it. The summer begins with the body of a vagrant and there are a few more casualties before the summer is through. It felt a lot like Stand By Me, at least the town and the railway tracks and the camaraderie between the narrator and his brother.  Issues to discuss include: seeing your parents as adults/people, mercy vs justice, marital sacrifices, loss. 4 stars.

Up Next: Villa America by Liza Klaussman

May 2016

grandmother

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Everyone loved Backman’s other title, A Man Called Ove, and looked forward to reading this. Although different from Ove in pretty much every possible way, this was was also a big hit. It’s the story of a young girl who lives with her parents in an apartment building also occupied by her beloved grandmother. The other occupants seem to be a rag tag group of misfits, but wouldn’t you know they all have a reason for being there, and the young girl journeys to the discovery of their connection. Issues to discuss include grandparent/grandchild relationships, sacrifices parents make, grief and how to alleviate it. I gave this one 4 stars, liked it better than Ove. I think the other members would agree!

Up Next: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger

 

April 2016

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth (1/6/15) by Christopher Scotton

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

Overall thoughts: Everyone but me really loved it. Even the one member who normally HATES anything dark/where people die.

My Thoughts: I read this one in a whirlwind. And it’s not a small book. I think that cramming into 2 day (the 2 days before book club) served me poorly. I thought the writing was sort of simple and didn’t love that there were no fully developed female characters. As in they were poorly drawn, not flat chested. I will say, however, that I was without a doubt the outside opinion in the group. Others praised the writing, gushed over the (male) characters and compared it to To Kill a Mockingbird and also, strangely, Deliverance. Issues to discuss include: small town living, civil rights (gay and race related), personal tragedy, grandfather/son relationships, loss of loved ones. I gave this one 3 stars, the other 12 members of my book club would say a resounding 5 stars.

Up Next: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.

March 2016

image

 

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride.

Overall thoughts: everyone liked, some really loved and some thought it was just TOO dark.

My thoughts: I read this one a long time ago and LOVED it, didn’t hold up that well to a re-reading because knowing what happens takes away so much of what made this book compulsively readable. Very much like the movie Crash, what we as a group decided is becoming a common narrative style: a bunch of different seemingly unrelated narrators that all come together in some (often tragic) way. Really beautiful writing, issues to discuss include but are not limited to: the war in Iraq/Afghanistan, immigrants/immigration, PTSD, foster children/homelessness. I gave this book 5 stars at the time I read it, see the review here.

Up Next: The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton.

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