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Read With Us: Let's Talk About It!

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . The Women of Brewster Place. Join the discussion (which you're welcome do even if you didn't read the book).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. (Please know . . . that because of the limitations of Typepad, I can't "layer" or "stack" the comments in my comment feed. Remember when I was having so much trouble with my comments last summer? Yeah. It was because of my attempt at "stacking." Sorry. Bear with me.)

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you with this book discussion. Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blogs and your name will be entered in the drawing -- the more you comment and participate in the discussion, the more chances you have to win!

Now, let's get on with our discussion.

The Women of Brewster Place

First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book (or the movie, if you watched that). How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserves the attention it got when it was first written? How does it compare to more recent/contemporary novels you've read?

As I read the book (and, later, watched the Oprah Winfrey movie version), I was captivated by the physical "location" of the walled-off Brewster Place. That wall! It just kept everything/everyone in -- or out. And, then. Well. There was that ending! I know a lot of readers didn't like the ending of Brewster Place, or were confused by just what it meant. So, let's talk about that, too.

The actual street - Brewster Place - and its wall are like characters, personified. Do you agree or disagree? And would you say the street/wall is a protagonist or an antagonist? And does the street/wall, itself, have any impact on the story or its outcome?

Okay . . . that ending! What do you make of it? It's meant to be Mattie Michael's dream-scene, with the women of Brewster Place dismantling the wall brick-by brick. Does that work for you? Or not?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

==

Don't forget: We'll be discussing the book on Zoom tonight - 7:00 pm Eastern Time. There's still time for you to join us! Just let me know of your interest either with a comment or by sending me an email (see sidebar, above) -- and I'll send a Zoom invitation. 

 

Comments

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Bonny

I'll save my most erudite thoughts (ha! not that I have any!) for our discussion tonight, but since not everyone can attend, I'll leave a few comments here. I think Brewster Place and the wall are mainly protagonists. The wall does act to isolate the residents economically and culturally, but it also acts along with Brewster Place to draw the residents together into a necessary community. And the ending ... it didn't work well for me. I'm not sure I really understood it very well beyond the symbolism. It just felt like the book fizzled out at the end and the reader was left to tie up loose ends and answer questions. But maybe someone can help me with that tonight!

Carole

I struggled with the ending. I get that it was symbolic but the rest of the book was so realistic that I just didn't catch on to what was happening for a while. I do think the wall and the setting itself was critical to the way the entire book came together, both creating community within but also isolating the residents from the greater world.

Carolyn

I'm sorry I'll miss the Zoom tonight; I have two Zooms back to back, which were already on my calendar. Disappointed, though, because I'm so curious about everyone's impressions! I'll say--1) I'm kicking myself for reading the book so early. I guess I wasn't thinking about the discussion date when I started the book...and I didn't take notes. And my memory feels so packed & scattered I don't trust it with the details. 2) I typically don't care for stories that are interconnected (except, like Bonny said, Elizabeth Strout's!). It too me about a third of the way through to feel it WAS working for me, and felt more novel like than series of stories. I suppose that's just about how long it took stories to really start overlapping and interconnecting and feeling woven together to me. (That 'third' is a blind estimate. Again, memory.) I gave the book 4 starts on Goodreads: I appreciated witnessing the transition of Brewster Pl over the generations--felt it strongly spoke to our current state of affairs and the work we have ahead of us to undo systemic racism. The established relationships depicted tough love, tension, unconditional love, human nature and its capacity--and threshhold--for fight & defeat. The agony of violence against women versus and our response, versus how we'd envision our response. So much packed into this slim volume. Thanks for hosting!!

Carolyn

woops. Left the wrong contact info :)

Karel

I'll need to watch the movie to better visualize The Wall. Usually a book creates images for me just fine, but from your comment, Kym, it sounds like the film really brings this "character" to life. Still, I was able to see just how oppressive it was, made especially vivid by Mattie's inability to even see over it from her window. (After losing her sun porch! That, and the reason, broke my heart.)

Now: that ending. Initially I was not a bit satisfied with it. But the more I thought about it, I decided it is probably a perfect ending. A book like this, and its characters, doesn't get a happy ending — and that's the point. That's illustrated by our present day Black Lives Matter protests. Because, as with the book, nothing seems to get much better even after nearly two centuries of "liberation."

Patty

I'm looking forward to our discussion tonight and because I also read the book quite a while ago will finish the last 20 minutes of the movie before we chat! I think the wall was a very important part of the story and even more so to see come to "life" on the screen. I completely agree with what Karel said as well - this is not a story that is supposed to have a happy ending. And Oprah as Maddie...just didn't work for me! (And I love Oprah!)

Suzanne

I'm not sure I really liked the ending. The whole wall thing just didn't sit well with me. I will have to watch the movie though as it may help me keep everyone straight and also understand the ending better.

Sarah

Thanks again for hosting the Zoom last night. It was such fun to talk about the book with all of you -- and just to talk with all of you in real time! You have convinced me that I do need to watch the movie (I'm putting it on my to-do list for next week, when I'm off all week), and I'm also thinking that at some point I need to reread the book in light of our discussion.

Kym

Suzanne - We spent a lot of time discussing that ending during our Zoom call last night! I don’t think anyone liked it . . . although as we discussed it, we started to appreciate it a little more. The movie does make the ending much more concrete; it doesn’t seem so abrupt. (I had to read the last bit of the book more than a couple of times to try to understand what was happening.) In the end, I think the women of Brewster Place were trapped behind that wall — and forgotten by the rest of the community. Working together, they may have been able to tear down the wall, but without help from the outside, it was just a dream. (Or something like that???)

Kat

Like everyone... I did not like the ending in the book (or the movie) The book ending just seemed so out of context that it did not make any sense to me. I like what Bonny says about the wall holding them together, but I am not sure if the wall did that or if they did that for each other. It was almost like the Island of Misfit Toys... everyone was broken.

(and sorry I missed last night, but Tuesday nights are FaceTime with Vivi and I don't miss that for anything!)

Margene

Good grief! I think I fell of the edge of the earth this week. I totally spaced it was book group week! This book was written in the 1980s and it feels as if not much has changed in the lives of poor Black women. Novels of today have the a similar message, but the stories can be more realistically written. I felt Mattie's dream sequence didn't work very well, but I understood what Naylor was trying to say. That wall was important imagery and Naylor's portrayal of each woman and her sorrows was well told.

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