Category Archives: BOOK CLUB

BAREFOOT BOOK CLUB: SUMMER, 2017: SO MANY BOOKS SO LITTLE TIME


School
 is back in session here in Western Kentucky.  I love this time of year, although I recall it used to start in September.  I may have mentioned, I loved going to school!  I loved it so much that I was still going until I was almost 35 years old and then my husband went back to school, so I lived the dream vicariously through him until he finished seminary, through my children–hockey, football games, marching band contests and parades, through my grandchildren, soccer, baseball, essays, cheerleading, basketball.

Summer is drawing to a close.  Teachers somewhere are assigning written essays.  So here I am looking back on what I read this summer.  You know the old saying, “A Day without a Book is….something I have no clue about.’  Reading has taken me everywhere, made me a time traveler, captured and held me in awe.  SO

WHAT HAVE I READ THIS SUMMER? 

Dis

Fiction:

1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Perfume River, Butler—By far the best fiction book I read this summer. The author is a professor of creative writing at Florida State University. His capture of generational family dynamics and the decisions made, the words spoken and the secrets kept beginning with the protagonist facing his nightmares of Hue, Vietnam and his father’s imminent death delivers an emotional wallop…but then there is homeless Bob and the protagonist’s brother who defied their father escaping to Canada to avoid the draft. Complex, but aren’t all families. Terry and I had deep discussions about this book and the characters which were delightful.

2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Chilbury Ladies Choir, Jennifer Ryan—A book set in 1940 Great Britain as men march off to war and women are left to carry on and support the war effort. Told by different characters from young to mature in a series of letters and journal entries. The only WW2 book I read this summer, believe it or not. Terry loved this one also.

3. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️A Murder in Time, Julie McElwain

4. ⭐️⭐️⭐️The Practice House, Laura McNeal  

5. ⭐️⭐️⭐️The Book of Polly, Kathy Hepinstall

 

 

 

Books in an established series: Suggest that if you want to read any of these author’s series that you start with earlier book in the series. I highly recommend any of these authors but especially Nesbo, Iles, and Silva, but I enjoy all of them.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Thirst, Jo Nesbo–Norwegian author–First book in Harry Hole Series is THE BAT

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Mississippi Blood, Third book in a trilogy set in and around Natchez, MS, Greg iles First Book in this trilogy is NATCHEZ BURNING, but Penn Cage, the protagonist and his family are in earlier Iles Books.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Garden of Lamentations, a Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones Novel, Deborah Crombie

⭐️⭐️⭐️The Likeness, Dublin Police Squad 2, Tana French

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️House of Spies, Daniel Silva

 

 

 

Non-Fiction:  Devotional, Inspirational, Memoir

⭐️⭐️Hallelujah Anyway. Anne LaMott

 

Audio books: What we have listened to in the car—Listed in order of preference. Highly recommend any of these. Good stories, Good narrators

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟Beneath the Scarlet Sky, Mark Sullivan—A large portion of this book is fact taken from interviews with some of the principals and also much research by the author, some that went on after the book was completed. Some of it is the author’s imagining of conversations, transitions, etc. Once again a little known story of heroism, war, and love. Well worth listening to or reading. It is set in Italy beginning in May 1944 in the city of Milan. Mussolini has lost his grip on Italy and lives with his mistress in a fortress castle protected by the Nazis who have invaded and placed what they hold of Italy under German military law. The Allies are invading south and at the beginning of the book the first Allied assault of Milan from the skies occurs. Pino Lela is a 17 year old boy who loves music, women, and movies. His heroism saved multiple lives, but could not save all the ones he loved. Worth the listen or the read.

From Amazon: A Goodreads Best Book of the Month

“Exciting…taut thriller…Beneath a Scarlet Sky tells the true story of one young Italian’s efforts to thwart the Nazis.” —Shelf Awareness

“Meticulous research highlights this World War II novel of a youth growing into manhood…a captivating read…” —RT Book Reviews

“An incredible story, beautifully written, and a fine and noble book.” —James Patterson, New York Times bestselling author

“Sprawling, stirring, like the richest of stories, and played out on a canvas of heroism and tragedy, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is like one of those iconic World War II black and white photos: a face of hope and tears, the story of a small life that ended up mattering in a big way.” —Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of The One Man

“Action, adventure, love, war, and an epic hero—all set against the backdrop of one of history’s darkest moments—Mark Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky has everything one can ask for in an exceptional World War II novel.” —Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of Playing with Fire

“This is full-force Mark Sullivan—muscular, soulful prose evincing an artist’s touch and a journalist’s eye. Beneath a Scarlet Sky conjures an era with a magician’s ease, weaving the rich tapestry of a wartime epic. World War II Italy has never been more alive to me.” —Gregg Hurwitz, New York Times bestselling author of The Nowhere Man

“Beneath a Scarlet Sky has everything—heroism, courage, terror, true love, revenge, compassion in the face of the worst human evils. Sullivan shows us war as it really is, with all its complexities, conflicting loyalties, and unresolved questions, but most of all, he brings us the extraordinary figure of Pino Lella, whose determination to live con smania—with passion—saved him.” —Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Suspicion

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Home, Matt Dunn

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Woman on the Orient Express, Jayne Lindsey Ashford–fictionalized account of Agatha Christie’s journey on the Orient Express after her mysterious disappearance and divorce from Archie..an excellent listen and sent me searching out more about Agatha.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Lake House, Kate Morton

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Camino Island, John Grisham

⭐️⭐️⭐️The Ladies Room, Carolyn Brown

⭐️⭐️⭐️The Late Show, Michael Connelly

Terry and I joined a book club—Listed in order read for Book Club

1. MAY—Victoria, A Novel of a Young Queen, Daisy Goodwin—Historical Fiction Excellent account of a young queen and her relationship with her Prime Minister and later with the man who would be her husband….also a PBS series.

2. JUNE—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💥🌟The Killing of the Flower Moon, David Grann—Nonfiction History—NUMBER ONE for this summer. If you come from Oklahoma which I do, you were required back in the day, at least as far back as my daughter’s day, to take Oklahoma History to graduate from high school. I SWEAR I made an A in that class and yet never knew this bit of history. I lived in Tulsa, OK 27 years before we moved to Kentucky….Tulsa County butts up against Osage County, the Osage Hills. In the early part of the 20th Century the Osage Indians were the wealthiest people per capita in the world. Oil, black gold and the fore thought to retain all rights to underground reservation, made those with head rights and their descendants wealthy. Sometime in the early 1920’s mysterious deaths began to wipe out whole families. Enter J. Edgar Hoover and his new FBI to investigate. A conspiracy that reached enormous proportions began to be uncovered. This book grabbed me from the beginning but it took Terry a little longer to get into it. Nevertheless, he loved it. As he closed the book, he looked over at me and said, ‘It was genocide and no one ever told me about this.’

From Amazon:  An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: In the 1920s, the Osage found themselves in a unique position among Native Americans tribes. As other tribal lands were parceled out in an effort by the government to encourage dissolution and assimilation of both lands and culture, the Osage negotiated to maintain the mineral rights for their corner of Oklahoma, creating a kind of “underground reservation.” It proved a savvy move; soon countless oil rigs punctured the dusty landscape, making the Osage very rich. And that’s when they started dying.

You’d think the Osage Indian Reservation murders would have been a bigger story, one as familiar as the Lindbergh kidnapping or Bonnie and Clyde. It has everything, but at scale: Execution-style shootings, poisonings, and exploding houses drove the body count to over two dozen, while private eyes and undercover operatives scoured the territory for clues. Even as legendary and infamous oil barons vied for the most lucrative leases, J. Edgar Hoover’s investigation – which he would leverage to enhance both the prestige and power of his fledgling FBI – began to overtake even the town’s most respected leaders.
Exhuming the massive amount of detail is no mean feat, and it’s even harder to make it entertaining. But journalist David Grann knows what he’s doing. With the same obsessive attention to fact – in service to storytelling – as The Lost City of Z, Killers of the Flower Moon reads like narrative-nonfiction as written by James M. Cain (there are, after all, insurance policies involved): smart, taut, and pacey. Most sobering, though, is how the tale is at once unsurprising and unbelievable, full of the arrogance, audacity, and inhumanity that continues to reverberate through today’s headlines. –Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review
Review
“The best book of the year so far.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“A marvel of detective-like research and narrative verve.”
—Financial Times

“A shocking whodunit…What more could fans of true-crime thrillers ask?”
—USA Today

“A master of the detective form…Killers is something rather deep and not easily forgotten.”
—Wall St. Journal

“Extraordinary”
—Time Magazine

 

3. JULY—The Other Einstein, Marie Benedict—Historial Fiction Do you know about the first Mrs. Albert Einstein, who was also a brilliant physicist and who probably contributed the mathematics for the 1905 Einstein paper that eventually won him the Nobel Prize?

4. AUGUST—A Thousand White Women, Jim Fergus –Period Fiction

 

I have read a couple of others, but these are the ones that stand out.  SO tell me.  I am always looking for a new read or listen, WHAT HAVE YOU READ THIS SUMMER?

A few others I have read since returning to KY from FL

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Autumn Author Discovery: Kim Radish

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Before we pack up the van with the pile of stuff I have sitting in the corner of my dining area in Kentucky, toss in Max and Emma and head south to Florida, I have to share my new AUTHOR DISCOVERY…Kim Radish.  Now Kim has been writing for a while and apparently from the reviews of her books she has quite a following…in fact, it would appear readers either love her work or dislike it intensely.  I have finished two of her books and am in the “LOVE HER WRITING” Camp.  While after reading, I realize we may have decidedly different world views in some areas, we are dancing to the same tune in others.  Do you ever just know you would like someone if you were to meet them.  In Kim’s case I may be able to make that happen.

Here is the “About the Author” from A GRAND DAY TO GET LOST:

Kim Radish, Author

Kim Radish, Author    ‘Kris Radish is a former journalist, nationally syndicated columnist, and the author of The Elegant Gathering of White Snows, Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn, Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral, Searching for Paradise in Parker, P.A., The Sunday List of Dreams, The Shortest Distance Between Two Women, Hearts on a String, Tuesday Night Miracles and two non-fiction books, Run, Bambi, Run and The Birth Order Effect. She lives near St. Petersburg, Florida where is also co-owner of a wine lounge, the Wine Madonna, and where she hosts book clubs and reading groups from across the country when she’s not working on her next two novels.’

imageI took a chance on the first book of Ms. Radish’s I read, downloading it to my Kindle and immediately found myself drawn in….What woman has not had at least one moment when anger became a living being and she found herself at a crossroads?…Meet Jane, who attacked a collegue with her stilleto heels, Kit, who broke a wine bottle over her brother’s head, or Grace, who bashed her teenage daughter’s boyfriend’s expensive car and then backed up and bashed it again.  Add to the mix a young battered mother, Leah, living in a shelter for the abused and you have the mixed group for Dr. Olivia Bayer’s final Court Ordered Anger Management Class and oh, yes, Phyllis, Dr. Bayer’s dog, who provides the unique dog perspective.  Dr. Bayer is ready to retire and secures permission to take this group on  a less traditional path of group therapy that even she admits could end badly.

No more spoilers…read the book.  Let me know what you think.

imageAfter completing TUESDAY NIGHT MIRACLES I hungered…ok, maybe that is a little melodramatic..for more of this author’s writing so I chose A GRAND DAY TO GET LOST  and entered the world of Emily, age 57, divorced mother of a son who is busy with his own life.  Emily has taken a month off from her library job in Ohio to drive her aunt to Florida to spend the winter.  On the way back from settling her aunt in her winter digs, Emily abandons I-75, throws out her map, both actions absolutely contrary to her nature.  After encountering an alligator in the middle of the road she has embarked on as well as a belligerent male driver, she stops to puruse an Estate Sale.  As an archivist in the university library back in Ohio, she finds things like grocery lists taped above the telephone intreguing.

She ends up with some items of clothing, knowing people often stuff important things into pockets and then forget about them plus three old cardboard boxes filled with yellowing paper.  Those three boxes contain what appears to be a manuscript by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; however, it is dated 1963 ten years after the Pulitzer Prize winning author of THE YEARLING’s death.

“The truth of it all is that risk is part of the package. You can sit there watching the daylight fade and wonder what you might have seen if you would have gotten off the chair, or you can plunge into that first hint of morning light and stop being such a baby. Every day is a grand day to get lost and see what happens. Life is hard, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.”  From A GRAND DAY TO GET LOST, Kim Radish

As Emily explores the possiblities, it appears she is not the only one interested.  She soon finds herself becoming involved with the magic of Central Florida that captivated Marjorie in 1928, with the people, and with others who are a part of the world that was Marjories.  New friends, Silver, an author with secrets, who takes Emily in, and Auggie, Silver’s best friend and a cast of others join her in the quest.  Add to that a mysterious man with a red SUV who seems to be stalking them.

Honestly one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was the information about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, her life, her Cross Creek farm near Hawthorne, Florida and her writing.  Since it is just south of Gainsville, off I-75, I will put it on my list of places to explore this winter.

Additionally, I am delighted to know that Kim Radish co-owns The Wine Madonna and that there are book discussions held there in St. Petersburg, FL.

Take a moment to look up Kim Radish and her books.  I think many of you will find her writing compelling, especially those of you who are remarkable people in your own right….

Barefoot Bookclub Review: The Angel of Zin

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“There were corpses in that train,” Paul said. “A woman begged for water—she even offered her wedding-ring. I wanted to give her the water, but I had no chance.” Reitlinger frowned, his hand resting on the throbbing gear-shift. “Captain, that SS sergeant was Gestapo. They’re in charge of all transport.” “So he told me,” Paul said. “He has the right to arrest you. If you interfered, you would have been risking your life—and for what? They would still have loaded the train.” From The Angel of Zin by Clifford Irving

Paul Bach, widower, father of two children, homicide investigator, Nazi SS Captain, wounded warrior, man with a conscience accepts the fatalist advice of his driver settles into the car and drives on to Zin. There in the dead of winter, he discovers the depth of his own blindness.

Initially, it is the smell, an aroma he cannot identify, with his gut wrenching reaction the source is proudly revealed by his guide, efficient, sanitary elimination and disposal. His shock when barely able to keep warm in heavy coat, boots and fur lined gloves,he asks, ‘you do not heat the barracks during the day?’ is met with a casual ‘we don’t heat them at all’

He moves on with his investigation of a rash of suicides and murders each with a note pinned to the body. Get this over and get back to Berlin. The investigation drags on and then the Camp is to be shut down, supplies, gold, hair, officers and enlisted men are to be transported to the East–the camp and all occupants destroyed. Paul writes a letter to his children.

“I am so deeply ashamed of myself. I was a policeman. My task was to combat disorder and evil. Now I swim in the muck of orderly evil. It was my job to protect the innocent by bringing murderers to justice. Here, the murderers are my own people.”

With their deaths an official order the Jews in the camp rise up against their oppressors of whom, Paul Bach is one. Paul Bach defies orders and aids the attempted escape, but few survive and Paul Bach is not one of the survivors. His letter to his children found by a soldier entering the camp after the uprising ends up in the fire.

The Jewish leader of the camp, ‘Mordecai Lieberman had once said, No earthly power has ever been able to destroy us. But under the heavy sky the earth ran red.’

He was like another Mordecai, the uncle of Queen Esther, but Mordecai Lieberman had no influential ally to which to say,

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?””
‭‭Esther‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Unless that person was Paul Bach. Point blank, he takes a chance and asks ‘what would you do Captain?’ Paul Bach responds by saying, ‘revolt.’

This was a haunting read, followed by a week of disturbing news from around the world and here in the United States.

Would I risk my reputation, my career–pretty safe now since I am retired–my financial security, my family, my life to give water to a thirsty woman, to save a family with whom I do not share culture or religion from an oppressor, to stand up for unborn, the mentally ill, the marginalized and bullied,

IF they would still load the train?

Barefoot Bookclub: A Review of my Summer Reading

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Criticize if you like, but I am winding down my Summer Reading, ready for Fall, ready to transition from Kentucky to Florida book-wise and otherwise. Plus I have to prepare for my 52nd High School Reunion which falls midway in the transition period. Fortunately transitioning from Kentucky to Florida does not require packing away my sandals…so Barefoot Book Club continues.

What I read (and am currently reading) Summer 2015:

Set in the USA South:

The Bone Tree (Greg Iles)–For the people unfamiliar with this author and his books, especially the ones set in and around Natchez, Mississippi or his protagonist, Penn Cage…this is not the book to start with. However, his books are well worth the read or the listen. There are times when reading his books the intensity and reality require shutting down to absorb. He looks at the underside of the government and Southern culture, the complexities of race relations, and the beauty of Natchez and family intertwined. My suggestion is to read The Quiet Game first.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)–Iconic Pulitzer Prize winner that was long thought to be the only novel written by Lee. Set in Alabama in the 1930’s the book is told in first person by 7 year old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Perhaps it is because it is told from a child’s perspective that the book became wildly popular in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. For me at my first reading in my late teens it helped develop my sense of justice and an understanding of prejudice…even my own. Reading it again this summer galvanized my thinking, but it also revealed to me in every character the tendency to keep people in an accepted natural order, not just in accordance to race. For example, when Scout is asked to explain her classmate’s refusal of lunch money from the teacher, she stands up, says, “He’s a Cunningham.” and sits down. Being a Cunningham or a Finch or a Robinson defined your place, your actions, and your potential.

Read it again if you have read it. Read it, if you haven’t, you will not regret it.

Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee) is the prequel/sequel of Mockingbird. Written before Mockingbird, but set in the midst of Supreme Court rulings, the Civil Rights Movement and told in third person not first. I reviewed this book earlier, but as an additional thought this book contains material unexpected by readers of Mockingbird, but in a sense Mockingbird needed to come first, because of the need to understand the relationship between Scout and her father Atticus. Worth the read.

Set in France, Germany, World War II:

All the Light We Cannot See (Andrew Doerr) is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner. I reviewed and did extensive research as I read this book and the next one on this list. Really a story about Blindness…physical, mental, spiritual, and societal…failure to embrace light, obstacles to light and so on. The stories of Marie-Laure and Werner appear parallel, but while widely separated by geography, language, politics and personal circumstances they are destined to intersect as a point of Light in this novel.

While there were some reading continuity issues in the construction of this novel, I am delighted I read it and recommend if you want a deeper read to get it.

The Nightingale (Kristen Hannah) is set in France in the same era as All the LIght, with some scenes such as the mass evacuation of Paris in advance of the Nazi negotiated invasion, highlighted in both books. Since I read All the Light immediately before Nightingale, my imagination peaked as I considered Marie-Laure and her father perhaps bumping shoulders, scrambling for cover from air attacks together with Isabelle and the resistance fighter, Gaetan, with whom she falls completely in love.

Nightingale follows two sisters, Isabelle the younger and the older Vianne as the Nazis invade, down too seemingly different paths as Isabelle becomes a part of the underground French Resistance Movement and Vianne tries to protect her daughter, wait for her husbands return from a Nazi prisoner of war camp, and stay alive while a Nazi officer is billeted in her home. Of course there are sibling issues, father issues compounded by decidedly different actions in the midst of occupation and war.

This was one of those books, that I read into the night…hated to put down even as my eyelids grew heavy.

THE BEST BOOK I READ THIS SUMMER and the LEAST EXPENSIVE ($2.99 for Kindle on Amazon):

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (David James Brown) spans a period of time in the World during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years of the USA , while in Germany Hitler’s Nazi Party is escalating their agenda while building an elaborate propaganda stage surrounding the 1936 Olympic Games. The author as evidenced by the lengthy end notes at the conclusion of the book researched the people, history, and rowing exhaustively. Were it only that, it would still be a worthy read….BUT it is so much more.

It is a book of concentric stories centering primarily on Joe Rantz, a farm kid with a good head, strength and perseverance carrying a boat load of baggage, including losing his mother at the age of three, being sent away, brought back home only to be abandoned by his father and stepmom as they packed up their belongings and left him to fend for himself as a young teen. The circle widens to include the people who helped him, the girl he gave his heart to and never looked back. Another circle includes the Washington University Crew, rowing team shell builder, coaches, and team mates. Another yet the sport of rowing, the teams and people who had made it great while another circle involves the 1930 era of depression and dust in the United State. And then there is the World Circle that centers on the advancement of Nazism in Germany, the image and propaganda campaigns that for a long time, way too long, fooled much of the outside world. All these stories spiral into the Race for Gold at the 1936 Olympics.

The book is an incredibly easy book to read which given so many side tracks is amazing in itself. I admit I love stories of adversity, courage, and triumph, many which are rooted inJoe Rantz’s generation.

All I can say is go to the library, download, or purchase the paperback or hard cover of this book. I give it 5.5 stars out of 5….so A+.

Currently I am reading The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis but am not into it enough to review.

Also, having traveled a number of miles this summer, we have listened to some books, which I will talk about later.

So kick off the shoes, get a cup of coffee, glass of wine, lemonade, iced tea (sweet or unsweet) or soda, find a comfortable spot with good light, curl up and open a good book.

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: Finding the Child

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Both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman deal with some serious issues. I suspect there will be discussions around racism, feminism, and even familial abuse–Uncle Jack pushed Scout’s face into an ant bed in Mockingbird and slapped her in Watchman. Will there not be now, from our lofty throne of 2015 where we know what is right, just, and acceptable for EVERYBODY, an outcry?

Let the debates rage on, but don’t let them keep you from finding the Child and the Humor in Watchman

Go Set a Watchman was written first. In a time when Harper Lee, like many of us, was grappling with the culture that had nourished her, the South she loved and the people she loved. People she loved and trusted were behaving in foreign ways. Scout’s father attending white city council meetings to deal with the NAACP and Calpurnia, the woman who had raised her, turning distant and formal. The reclusive Harper Lee has not revealed her reasons for setting her Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird two decades before Go Set a Watchman.

Harper Lee unlike many women who have never married or had children had an uncanny ability to capture childhood, at least a childhood where children ran free, created their own games, and discovered the world by doing–a sharp contrast to heads bent over electronic pads like the one I am using right now.  Perhaps, after writing and reading her Watchman, she recognized that the flashback scenes to Jean Louise ‘Scout’s’ childhood, the innocence, the lessons, the relationships, father/daughter, brother/sister, housekeeper/children, adult/children, extended family and friendships were the window she needed to explore her own conscience, her own watchman.

One thing I fear is that people will get to discussing these two books, honing in on the serious issues, examine them to death and overlook Harper Lee’s keen sense of HUMOR, her understanding of growing up. If you read Watchman and do not laugh out loud at least once, you will miss some of the most appealing aspects of this book.

Who cannot laugh when Jem, Scout, and Dill decide to play Summer Revival complete with a naked Scout being baptized in Aunt Rachel’s fishpond, only to have Atticus show up with the visiting evangelist for dinner; Or, when Scout, filled with misinformation and misinterpretation of information goes through nine months thinking she is going to wake up with a baby next to her after a kiss; Or, when her falsies end up on a patriotic sign at school:

“Following Mr. Tuffett’s finger, Jean Louise looked at the billboard. She read, IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTR . Blocking out the last letter and fluttering softly in the morning breeze were her falsies.”  Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee, 2015

Both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman remind me that children are watching, they are listening and they are learning from each other and the adults in their lives. They don’t always get it…they misinterpret…but they learn. Even when they play, especially the imaginative play of these books, they are learning how to live in this world, they are learning how to become adults. As a Christian adult part of my responsibility is to represent the love, acceptance and humor that will help them grow up responsible, able to think for themselves, and be examples to the next generation.

Harper Lee takes us inside the Scout’s very being both as a child and as an adult, but she does it best with the child. She makes it clear, I may laugh  with children, I may laugh at the exploits of children, but I need to mindful to never laugh at the child, for as William Wordsworth put it:    “the child is father (mother) of the man (woman)”  [paraphrase mine.]

Barefoot Book Club– The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, a Review

imageAfter All the Light We Cannot See [Doerr], The Bone Tree [Iles], and Wolf in Winter [Connolly], a SANE person would pick up a Chick Lit beach read.  Obviously I am not SANE, because I did not go that direction.  However, in my defense, The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah is about two CHICKS…I mean WOMEN.

The novel begins in 1995 in the United States with an invitation, and then catapaults the reader back to the days before the invasion of France by the Nazis.

Two sisters, ten years apart in age, shoved away by their father after their mother’s death grow up to face the world and the war in decidedly different ways.  Vianne bids farewell to her husband as he goes to fight,  desperately trying to protect her young daughter Sophie, trying to keep her head down as the Nazis invade their town, an officer billeted in her home, and the insidious way the evil forces her to behave just to survive.

Isabelle, eighteen and dismissed from yet another boarding school, pushes back against the invaders making more and more decisions that place her sister, niece, and herself in the cross hairs of the Germans. Two sisters, passive and aggressive, but both as it turns out true to their sire name ‘Rossignol’ which means ‘nightingale’.  While one becomes the path out of France for downed Ally pilots, the other becomes the savior of Jewish children and their father, the ‘nightingale’ who abandoned his daughters physically and emotionally, martyrs himself to save the one he can.

Set in World War II France, some of the scenes for example Isabelle’s flight from Paris will remind those who have just read All the Light We Cannot See of Marie-Laure and her father’s journey to St. Malo.  In fact, while reading that section, I had the feeling the characters could be brushing shoulders in their flight.

You often hear the phrase, especially from people who have ‘gone through the fire’, “We did what we had to do.”  So this quote from the book sums it up for me:

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
― Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

I have tried not to ‘SPOIL” the book, because it is one I think everyone should read.

Not light reading, not without tears, but definitely worth reading.

Barefoot Book Club: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (My Thoughts and Opinions)

imageHaving chosen ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr as the first Barefoot Book Club book and knowing that the author had spent ten years completing the manuscript, I decided to spend time with it, rather than racing through it to see what happened.  I am so glad I did.

I hope some of you out there in Cyberspace, who have read this book also will share your insights and opinions about this work, because besides the wine, tea, coffee and desserts, ISN’T that what book clubs are all about?

The diamond with its haunting myth of eternal life with eternal personal misery for the possessor presented an apt description of hell. Beautiful and dangerous, locked in total darkness, worth a king’s ransom and yet until Marie-Laure no one dared consider the simplist solution of all RETURN IT TO THE SEA.  Throw the damned thing away.  Five Eiffel Towers could not make up for the loss of her father, Madame, the destruction of St. Malo or her vision.

Marie-Laure has her sight until she is six years old, but her father, locksmith for the Museum of Natural History refuses to allow her disability to define her. He builds a miniature of their neighborhood, he fashions puzzle boxes for her to solve, he teaches her to negotiate the streets and to read braille. One of her most treasured gifts from him is Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.  Every birthday he gives her a puzzle box to open and when they flee Paris, he builds yet another city’s neighborhood and hides a precious object in a puzzle house for her.

Werner and Jutta have active inquisitive minds, but no prospects of using them.  Werner is told over and over again that his future is set. When he is fifteen, he will go into the coal mines, the very place that took his father’s life.  Still he records the questions he has about “how things work” in the world he observes. Until he finds the pieces of a radio, which he brings to life. The siblings crouch around the instrument night after night, listening to music and to a broadcast from France.  A broadcast with science lessons for children.  From the moment the radio parts are found, Werner’s life path alters in such a way he could never have imagined, a world that enlightens his mind even as the blindness of those around him forces him to face man’s inhumanity to man.

The novel follows both Marie-Laure and Werner as separate stories like pieces of a puzzle, each discovered piece revealing a connection that took the forces of war, the power of radio waves and the illumination of the human spirit to expose.

Marie-Laure chases light with the tips of her fingers on the braille type, on the minature village, and as she gathers shells and tends to the snails, but still a darkness much greater than her blindness closes in. Although as the reader, I know how extraordinary and brave she is, she does not.  One of my favorite quotes from the book expresses this:

“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”
― Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

Werner’s quest for light comes through mathmatics and radio waves but rather than setting him free from the darkness of the mines, it leads him into war and a greater darkness than any mine.  It brings him to St. Malo where as he waits to die in the basement of the hotel after the bombing has trapped his unit  the horrors he has participated in haunt his dreams. There with the radio batteries dying he manages to capture a radio broadcast that brings him hope and leads him to rescue Marie-Laure.

A few hours sharing a can of peaches, revealing to each other memories and feelings are the sum total of these light seekers time together.   As they move from the house, she to safe ground and he to surrender to the Americans she shares with him her secret grotto of protected snails… leaving the diamond in its container to be washed away.

In all of this another line from the book struck me with its truth, for if the brains who have power in this world are full of darkness…well, darkness cannot beget light…

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

In truth, a diamond for all its brilliance is a cold dark object the result of heat, pressure, and time on carbon…it cannot produce light. It has no spark.

Marie-Laure and Werner lived in darkness, but in both was a spark of light…and a Spark is light in the darkness. . .and as the old Church Camp hymn “Pass it On” says, ‘It ony takes a spark to get a fire going..”