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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 . . . Leave the World Behind. 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. Sorry. Bear with me.)

Let's begin. . . 

Leave the World Behind

First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book. How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserves all the media attention and award nominations it has received since its publication last October?

Next . . . Leave the World Behind is a work of fiction, written before the COVID-19 outbreak and the societal uprisings that have shaped 2020. If you had read the novel before 2020, do you think you would have had a different response to it? If so, in what way?

Last . . . In Leave the World Behind, the families grapple with the sudden loss of communications technology --- cell phone, internet and satellite services all fail. What is your relationship to technology? Do you embrace it? Do you wish our society handled its role in our lives differently?

When I read this book, I was completely creeped out. The whole not-being-able-to-communicate (or find out what was even going on) thing just gave me the chills. When I think about how online-connected all of us are now and how much I've bought into digital-everything, it was nightmare-inducing to even think about this for me. And I'm pretty sure that reading this during the pandemic just heightened all the "creep" for me. This was certainly a book that brought out a lot of "feels."

I can't wait to hear what you think!

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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. 

 


Quick Reminder

Just a little Friday reminder here.

Our next Read With Us book discussion is coming right up!

Read With Us

First, the book . . . 

Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. If you haven't had a chance to read it, you still have plenty of time. It's a quick read and quite a page-turner! (The tricky part is getting hold of a copy, if you're relying on your library. It's a popular book right now, and wait times can be long.)

Then, the discussion.

We'll be talking about the book on Tuesday, March 2 -- both on our blogs and with a Zoom meet-up. 

  • Bonny, Carole, and I will each post a different discussion question on our blogs on Tuesday, March 2. Feel free to post your thoughts about the book by commenting throughout the discussion week.
  • Later that same evening, we'll be hosting a Zoom meet-up at 7:00 pm to discuss the book "live" and in person. (Yeah, I know there are limitations with the timing, especially if you're on the west coast. But Bonny, Carole, and I are all in the Eastern Time Zone . . . and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) If you want to join us (and we hope you will; we all had a lot of fun with our last Read With Us Zoom), all you need to do is . . . let us know! Just RSVP by leaving a comment on any of our blogs beginning today -- or you can send us an email. I'll be sending out the Zoom information prior to the meet-up -- AND I'll be sending out some background information about the book and the author that will deepen our understanding of the book prior to the discussion.

If you've read the book - or are still planning to - we hope you'll join us for the discussion on March 2.

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I wish you all enjoy a restful weekend, with plenty of time for reading.

 


Take A Bite

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Some books are just . . . chewier . . . than others.

A little grittier.
Harder to swallow.
Stuff gets stuck in your teeth.

They're the kind of books you may not like, exactly. But you keep thinking about them. And you really want to talk about them with anyone else who's read them.

In short, they're perfect for a book group read! Because there's usually quite a bit to talk about with one of those chewy books. Ideas to work out. Blanks to fill in. Endings to ponder. That kind of thing.

Well. Have I got a book for you!

Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam, is our current Read With Us book selection. And it is definitely a chewy one!

A true "genre-bender" (NPR calls it a "slippery and duplicitous marvel of a novel"), it defies categorization. Thriller with dystopian overtones? Satirical comedy of manners? Coming of age/hero's journey tale? Check. Check. Check. The novel lulls us into thinking we're headed in one direction, when it suddenly veers in another. And pretty soon, we can feel the walls closing in. Or maybe it's the ground falling away under our feet.

However you categorize it, it's definitely unsettling.

Anyway. It's a book worth reading - and it's especially fitting, given The State Of The World.

You've got plenty of time to read the book. (I read it almost in one sitting - it's very compelling and not very long at 256 pages.) We'll be posting our blog book discussion questions on Tuesday, March 3 -- and we'll be hosting another Zoom book discussion later that same evening at 7:00 pm Eastern time. (I know that makes it early if you're in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, but Bonny, Carole, and I all live in Eastern time -- and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) I hope you can make plans to join us for the Zoom. We had a great discussion last time - and it's fun to get together with blog friends, too. 

Because the book is still new and popular (given it's timely "buzz" AND as a finalist for the National Book Award), you might encounter a longer wait if you're on hold at the library. If you're interested in getting a copy for yourself, the book has recently come out in paperback, and it's currently available on Kindle for $12.99.

I do hope you'll join us.

Take a bite.
And chew!

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PS - If you're wondering about the lower ratings for the book when you look at Amazon or Goodreads, I'm just going to say . . . a lot of people don't like the ending. At all. (Chewy, I tell you. And good for discussing with other readers.) If you'd like to check out some other reviews before reading, you can click into the NPR link in the post above. Here are a few others for you:

From The Guardian

From The Washington Post

From the LA Times

 

 


Hold On To Your Hats

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Batten down the hatches . . . we've got a live one here!

Yep. Our past Read With Us selections* have run the gamut from memoir to historical fiction to books by authors of color. Good books, interesting books -- but this time . . .  Bonny and Carole and I looked to recent releases.

We looked at lists of books up for awards in 2020 this time, walking right into the Best-of 2020 lists. And we chose . . . 

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Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

It turns out, all three of us had this book on our "to read" lists -- and according to Goodreads, it looks like a lot of you do, too.

It's one of those . . . rather chewy . . . books. Y'know. Lots to think about and digest. 
Racism.
Classism.
Inequality.
Climate change.
Overreliance on technology.

So. Nothing comfortable, then.
(Especially during a pandemic. But hey.)
But great for book groups! Apparently it's very well written (I haven't read it yet), with a storyline that sounds sort of reminiscent of Jordan Peele's Get Out. It was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award. And . . . well. . . it's already in development for a Netflix series with Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts.

Lots of potential.
Certanly lots to discuss.

This book is getting a lot of buzz.
We want to check it out -- and we hope you'll join us for what looks like a really interesting read. 

One potential drawback: it's a new release, so there aren't really any "deals" out there if you're looking to purchase the book. It was recently released in paperback, though (about $17 on Amazon), and it's available for Kindle ($14.99). I've been on my library's hold-list for some weeks now, but I'm finally next-in-line.

We'll be talking more about the book and providing some background information in January. Mark your calendars now for our blog book discussions AND a Zoom discussion on Tuesday, March 2 (probably 6:30pm Eastern time).

C'mon along! 
Read with us!

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*
Previous Read With Us book selections:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

 

 


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!

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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. 

 


Updates and Changes and Zooms . . . Oh, My!

So.

Wasn't TODAY . . . supposed to be THE DAY we all discussed the latest 

Read With Us

book selection . . . The Women of Brewter Place????

The Women of Brewster Place

Oh, yes, my friends.
Yes. It was.

And I sincerely hope you'll . . .
understand,
be okay with,
cut us some slack for
. . . making a last minute substitution here.

You see, well. The election and resulting exhaustion got the better of us. We hope our change in the "starting lineup" won't be disappointing for any of you, and that you'll stick with us for a week.

Here's the adjusted plan:

Next week - on Tuesday, November 17 - each of us (Bonny, Carole, and I) will post a book discussion question on our blogs. As always, we encourage discussion-by-comment through the week.

But-wait-there's-more! Also on Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time we will be hosting the FIRST EVER READ WITH US ZOOM book group meet-up! To join in, all you need to do is RSVP to either Bonny, Carole, or I. You will receive a Zoom invitation next Monday. We hope you'll join us. Come along to talk about the book, share a glass of wine (or your beverage of choice), and just . . . hang out with us for a while.

So. If you haven't read the book yet - or if you're not quite finished - you've got an extra week to do it. And if you want to supplement your reading (or substitute your reading altogether), you can watch the story unfold before you on Amazon Prime. 

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Oprah Winfrey's The Women of Brewster Place is available to rent for $3.99 (or you can purchase if for $7.99) on Amazon Prime right now. I rented and watched a couple of weeks ago, and found the movie version follows the book very closely. If you don't have time to read the book - or if you just want a refresher - I highly recommend watching this film version.

So.

I hope you'll forgive us for this last-minute change in plans.
And I really hope you'll join in either the discussion or the Zoom meet-up or BOTH next Tuesday!

And, as always, thanks for reading with us!

 


Read With Us: The Women of Brewster Place

Read With Us

As we announced last month, the latest Read With Us book selection is . . . 

The Women of Brewster Place

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.

This book was first published in 1982, and was awarded the National Book Award for First Novel in 1983. The book is not very long - only 192 pages - but, boy! Does it pack a wallop! Now considered a "contemporary classic," the story is told in 7 interconnected stories -- technically not short stories -- but 7 related stories. As in . . . characters we meet in one story appear in another story. (Think Olive Kitteridge. Or Girl, Woman, Other.

Why did we choose this particular book? Well . . . we know that many of you - like us - are on your own journey in understanding racism. We're trying to be/become allies. We're learning together. We're moving forward. So we thought a book from the Zora Canon might resonate for many of us right now.

Bonny and Carole and I landed on The Women of Brewster Place because it sounded like a book we'd be interested in reading as a sort of fictional "partner" to the non-fiction books we've also been reading: The Warmth of Other Suns, Caste, How To Be An Anti-Racist, I'm Still Here, etc. The women characters portrayed in Brewster Place . . . represent the very women described in those non-fiction books. It's like they come to life in novel form -- a great way to expand our understanding and make the issues more relatable.

Here's a quick summary description of the book (from Goodreads):

"In her heralded first novel, Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak inner-city sanctuary, creating a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and open-hearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home. Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple eloquence and uncommon intuition. Her remarkable sense of community and history makes The Women of Brewster Place a contemporary classic—and a touching and unforgettable read."

You have plenty of time to grab the book and read along!
We'll be hosting our blog-based book discussions on November 10.

 I do hope you'll Read With Us . . . The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. 

 

 


Read With Us: Now In Its 2nd Year!

It was last September, almost exactly a year ago now, that Bonny, Carole, and I asked you to come on along on a "bloggy-book-group" adventure with us. We invited you to . . . 

Read With Us

Like any new book group, we're figuring things out as we go along. How to enourage people to  . . . read with us. What type of books to select. How often we should "meet." And - most challenging for us - how to host a meaningful and interesting book discussion via our blogs. We thank all of you for reading with us and supporting us as we work out the kinks and figure out how to make this work!

Today is a special day for us . . . as we announce our next Read With Us book selection.

The Women of Brewster Place

Earlier this summer, I discovered this list - the Zora Canon - of the 100 best books by black women authors, and we decided to choose our next Read With Us book from the list. It was not an easy choice! There are so many excellent books on the list, but the The Women of Brewster Place rose to the top for us. It was a book none of us had heard of before, but all three of us immediately wanted to read -- and we thought you might enjoy it, too. Published in 1982, it's now considered a "contemporary classic," and is often taught in literature classes. The author, Gloria Naylor, won the National Book Award for First Novel in 1983 -- and the book has even been made into a television series. Twice.

I'm half-way through the book now, and I think it will be a good selection for us to read together. It's a series of interconnected stories about 7 women who live in Brewster Place, an inner city housing complex. There is much depth to the stories and the characters, and I think you'll really enjoy reading this one. I had no trouble getting the book from my library (your mileage may vary), but it's also available for Kindle for $2.99 right now (limited time offer, so don't delay if you're interested).

We'll be talking more about the book next month, and then we'll host the blog-based discussion in November.

I do hope you'll Read With Us!


Read With Us: So, What'd'ja Think?

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Wild Game. Join the discussion (which you can do even if you didn't read the book, you know).  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. 

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you (and I promise it's not any surprising "wild game"). 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.

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The book begins with an epigraph: Mary Oliver's poem, The Uses of Sorrow

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The Uses of Sorrow
Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

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In the book, the author certainly works her way through the "darkness" of her adolescence over the course of her growing up, although according to this interview, I wouldn't say she thinks it was a "gift," exactly. (The writing process itself sounds like it was very cathartic for her; a chance to understand and forgive her mother.)

Do you think the epigraph - Mary Oliver's poem - was a fitting way for Adrienne Brodeur to begin the book? Do you see the darknesses in your own life as gifts, or would you wish some of them away? Is growth possible without suffering?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

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The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver originally appeared in Thirst, published in 2006, Beacon Press.

 


Get Ready to Talk About It

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Y'know, one of the best things about being in a book group . . .  is reading a few books you'd never in a million years read on your own! Book group selections can certainly challenge our reading habits in whole new ways -- and I know our current Read With Us selection did that for many of us.

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Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur was not a book I'd ever have read . . . left to my own devices. I actually enjoy memoirs, and tend to read a few every year. This one, though? I'm gonna admit that it didn't appeal to me at first. Then, I heard the author speak with Gretchen and Liz on the Happier podcast (it was their book club selection last fall), and I was a little more interested. There was more to the story than the book blurb seemed to suggest.

It's . . . uncomfortable reading, subject matter wise. A mother coerces her young teenage daughter to "help" her hide an affair with her stepfather's best friend? Really? So . . . juicy, for sure. But also not something I could relate to (thankfully). I mean . . . my family, one of very modest income living a very modest life and eating casseroles thrown together for dinner with no cocktail hour ever, was about as far-removed from Adrienne Brodeur's complicated life and even more complicated family than I could imagine!

So I read the book like it was fiction. Because it seemed like fiction to me.

But, if I'm really honest about it, there were some very relatable things in this book for me. Not relatable in a lifestyle or family-structure or situational kind of way. But there is something very universal about wanting your parents' attention and affection, about separating from your parents as you grow into adulthood, about letting your children go their own way, about secrets. And I think, in that way, there was more to this book than its rather juicy foundation would imply.

I'm looking forward to delving into this one with you next week.

Join Bonny, Carole, and I next Tuesday to talk about the book together. Each of us will pose a question for discussion on our blogs. We look forward to hearing what you have to say! (As usual, there will be a booklovers prize at the end, so be sure to join the conversation.)

In the meantime, this book is a quick read -- so even if you haven't read it yet, there is still time. Yes, the subject matter will be a turn off to many. Just do what I did and pretend it's fiction! (Because most of us read fiction with this kind of storyline all the time now . . . don't we?) The writing is very good, and the story flows quickly from the more uncomfortable child/mother relationship to The Aftermath and the author's struggle to find her self as she grows up.

If you want to delve into the book a bit more - either as reminder for yourself or just because you're interested in the author - here are a few links to check out:

An interview with the author on NPR. (You can read the transcript OR listen to the interview using this link.)

A summary of the discussion from the Happier podcast. (You can link in to the actual podcast episode from this link, too, if you want to listen.) Note: If you scroll down in the link, there is a photograph of The Necklace so talked about in the book. If you've read the book, I'm sure you'll be curious to see what that dang necklace actually looked like -- so this is worth the scroll down to see.

A link to the author's guest appearance on Dani Shapiro's podcast Family Secrets. (I listened to this podcast last night, and it is quite interesting.)

I'm looking forward to discussing this book with you next week.

Happy reading!