November 11, 2011

November 2011

As the wind whipped around us, we were reminded that it was the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  This time of year the winds are particularly strong due to the cold air mixing with the relatively warmer air around the lake.  And although the evening started on a brisk note, it ended with sweet pralines and a phone call from my friend Erika Marks who is the author of Little Gale Gumbo.  Twenty years felt like a drop in the bucket reconnecting with her again and hearing her voice.  Little Gale Gumbo is a spicy concoction of romance, tragedy and friendship, and I can’t wait for her next one The Mermaid Collector out October 2012.

Here’s what else we’ve been reading:

The Living Great Lakes – Jerry Dennis
A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Home – Marilynne Robinson
Cane River – Lalita Tademy
Titanic Victim Speaks Through Waterbed – short story by Robert Olen Butler
A Small Hotel – Robert Olen Butler
Please Look After Mom – Kyung-sook Shim
The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grisson
George Washington – Willard Sterne Randall
Philosophy for Dummies – Tom Morris
Happiness Key – Emilie Richards
Minding Frankie – Maeve Binchy
All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat – Suzy Becker
Blood, Bones & Butter – Gabrielle Hamilton
Go to her restaurant Prune in NYC
While in NYC go see Sleep No More
The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio – Terry Ryan
Phantom – a collection of horror stories edited by Paul Tremblay
Death of a Perfect Wife – M.C. Beaton
The Agatha Raisin series – M.C. Beaton
The Great Stagnation – Tyler Cowen
Little Gale Gumbo – Erika Marks

From Mary Lou in Maryland:

A. Manette Ansay, River Angel (1998). Town legend has it that from time to time an angel appears and performs miracles in the vicinity of the bridge in Ambient, Wisconsin.  Ten-year-old Gabriel Carpenter is abandoned there on his Uncle Fred and grandfather’s farm on Christmas Eve by his handsome vagabond con-man father.  Fred’s wife Bethany and her two sons are not pleased by the encroachment on their orderly household.  Gabriel is fat, unhealthy and lonely and his 5th grade teacher Anna Grey dislikes him on sight and doesn’t know what to do with him.  The women of the story meet weekly for their Circle of Faith prayer circle, which makes the men (including the clergymen) very nervous.  Each chapter begins with an excerpt from the Ambient Weekly and then we get the real scoop on the families of Ambient..

Santa Montefiore, Last Voyage of the Valentina (2005).  This novel weaves two tales, that of British naval lieutenant and torpedo boat captain Thomas Arbuncle in Italy in 1944-45 and that of his daughter Alba living on a houseboat on the Thames in the 1970s.  Alba’s mother Valentina died shortly after she was born and Thomas brought her home to his Hampshire, England country estate.  There Thomas marries a robust woman (whom Alba calls The Buffalo), has several children, and refuses to tell Alba anything about her mother.  Alba grows up angry and estranged.  When she discovers a portrait that Thomas drew of Valentina, she sets out for a tiny town on the Amalfi coast to discover the truth about her mother.   At each stage of Alba’s quest, the novel presents the parallel story of her father’s time in Italy.  Alba is an unattractive character at the beginning of the novel, but she is transformed as she learns the truth in interactions with her mother’s family.  The two tales resolve nicely into one by the end of the novel. 

Lorna Landvik, The Tall Pine Polka (1999).  I didn’t find this quite as entertaining as Angry Housewives and surely the tall evergreens in northern Minnesota are spruces, not pines.  Nevertheless this is a very enjoyable tale.  Lee O’Leary escapes an abusive husband and ends up running a café in the north woods, the Cup O’Delight, renowned for its coffee.  It is the gathering place for the town’s eccentrics, delightful characters all.  Hollywood (represented by even more eccentric characters) chooses the town as the site for the movie Ike and Inga and a considerable clash of values and culture ensues.   

Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian (2005).  This is a proper suspense novel for Halloween.  It builds a tale of intrigue and suspense as the historian finds a magic book and then seeks an explanation for the mysterious disappearance of his major professor and mentor.  In the course of his search through libraries of ancient rare books he encounters a mysterious fair maiden and together they investigate the legend of Dracula. 

From Pam in Huron:

I finished Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper and really liked it. Harper is from Toledo, taught high school English in Westerville, another Columbus suburb, and at OSU, and left teaching to write full time in 1984. Her story supports the possibility of Shakespeare's writing all for which he is known. Harper takes all the Shakespeare history and weaves it into her story, embroidering it with plausible circumstances to make for a compelling story. All the playwright contemporaries get a mention; Queen Elizabeth, the hauling of the playhouse across the frozen Thames to rebuild on the South Bank as the Globe, the impact of the plague - it's all here. Good book!

Next I finished Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, who wrote Bel Canto. This is nonfiction. I had no idea what I was getting into and it was quite a story. Lucy Grealy, a poet and writer, and Ann Patchett met at Sarah Lawrence College and moved on to University of Iowa's writing program, Iowa Writer's Program. They worked hard to carve out success but always remained strong support for each other when times were tough. And the life of a writer is tough. Grealy had additional struggles with multiple operations to her face to correct a misshapen face, the result of Ewing's sarcoma at the age of nine. It is one powerful story.

From our sister group in Oklahoma:


In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson
The Short Life of Sophie Scholl by Hermann Vinke
Alice through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll; with discussion of the         
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Africa by Richard Dowden
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Our Lady of Kibeho by Immaculiee LLibagiza

Scherrey’s memoir research: Further discussion of Scherrey’s memoir of growing up in Arkansas and the Montreal Expo of 1967. Recent talk at OHS about German genealogy.


Vietnam series on the History Channel
CCTV: China Cable TV (Dish 265)


White Rose (German 1982)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (German 2005)
Tree of Life
The Way (Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen)


Bandersnatch (original play at Midwestern State the weekend of November 18th which is a collaboration between the theatre and engineering students.)

Discussion: Earthquakes (Nov. 5, 2011; 5.6  earthquake in Oklahoma)

Thanks to everybody for making this one heck of a fun book club!  Without all of you it certainly wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season and see you next year when we meet on the first Wednesday of the month.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you all so much for hosting me! I wish you all a wonderful holiday season with lots of time for cozying up with wonderful books!

    Laura, dear, can't wait to catch up with you again soon!