Our next book!

Our next book is a recommendation from the local Loudoun County Virginia Public Library.

13438524Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior “transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman’s narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire.”

I went with this recommendation in part due to the important topics-big and small-included in this acclaimed novel. From the role of science in a faith-based community to the evolution of one woman’s identity through her life, Kingsolver takes on world-changing issues and life-changing experiences with the same brave gusto. These were the reasons that I picked up the novel, but the the luxurious language Kingsolver uses to portray such poignant themes was the reason I kept hanging onto it.  “In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia,” Kingsolver brings the sublime to the most mundane and everyday task.

We’ll be discussing this book on March 12th. Pick up your copy today and join us here to bring the sublime to our discussion.

Read the New York Times Sunday Book Review of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior here.

South of Superior- Ellen Airgood

South-of-SuperiorEllen Airgood’s debut novel South of Superior introduces us to Madeline Stone, a nondescript heroine whose struggles range from the everyday to the tragic. It is her universality that makes this book appeal to so many. She could be any one of us, which makes this book the perfect pick for women’s book clubs. Some of the plot elements seem a little forced but the emotion, that of a woman feeling overwhelmed by life’s obstacles, is very real. Set against the harsh yet majestic wilderness surrounding Lake Superior, the town of McAllaster breeds residents that are tough, enduring, and a real community. Through enduring struggles with these remarkable people, Madeline comes to realize the real value of hard work and how to be truly rich.

For the ladies’ book clubs out there:

– How do Madeline’s priorities change through the book? Why do you think this happens?

– Madeline is initially critical of Randi as a mother. What do you think?

– Madeline moves to McAllaster to find out more about her family. Do you think she is happy with what she finds? How does it impact her own journey?

– What do you think of Gladys and Arbutus’ relationship?

– What does the hotel represent for the various characters in the book? Is it the same for each of them?

– There are a lot of strong, albeit flawed, female characters in South of Superior. Who did you relate to most?

Find out about the real-life inspiration for McAllaster and its cast of characters at Ellen Airgood’s website.

Flowers for Algernon- Daniel Keyes

This week’s book is a thought-provoking one, full of moral, social, and existential questions. So settle in for a serious few minutes. Grab a coffee, turn the ringer off on your phone, check Facebook one last time if you need to….


Okay, ready? Let’s get talking…

Daniel Keyes’ novel Flowers for Algernon tells the story of Charlie, a developmentally impaired man of very low IQ and his remarkable journey to experimentally increase his intelligence, following the success of the same procedure on an mouse named Algernon. Keyes tells the story through a series of journal entries, termed “progris reports” or “progress reports,” depending on the stage of Charlie’s journey. This novel can be found in almost every secondary school English classroom, as required reading at some point in the curriculum. I read it when I was in high school just as students read it today. Why do you think it is so widely read?

Charlie’s story is pure fiction. The technology to make this kind of progress does not yet exist. But what if it did? It would be hailed as a scientific miracle but is it really? Charlie’s intelligence, and by extension the man himself, is seen as a problem to be fixed. Professor Nemur, Dr. Strauss, and even Miss Kinnian encourage Charlie to participate in the experiment because of his curious nature and kind spirit. But, as readers will see, as Charlie’s intelligence rises, some of the qualities that made him such a good candidate start to diminish. What is the ultimate cost of Charlie’s increased intellectual abilities?

Keyes looks to explore these and other questions. Here are some more to get those neurons firing:

– Why do you think that Keyes chose to tell the story through journal entries? Why not tell it as a running narrative from Charlie?

– Charlie lives most of his life with a very low IQ. How does experiencing the world differently influence his participation in the experiment?

– As his IQ increases, Charlie’s intellectual development moves much faster than his emotional development. What does this say about the different types of intelligence? Is it possible to be smart in one area but not another?

– What is Charlie’s greatest strength? Greatest weakness? Do these change as he becomes smarter?

– Why do you think that Charlie is so attached to Algernon? Do the other characters understand their connection? Why or why not?

– Charlie begins the novel believing that he is deficient in some way and that everyone around him is almost god-like, but as he later learns, each character has some sort of weakness. What does this say about the idea of “perfection?”

The Fault in Our Stars- John Green: Book Club Questions

Here are some things to think about as you read and discuss John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.


– Hazel and Gus purposefully do not act as we “expect” cancer patients would. Why do you think Green portrays his characters this way?

– Towards the end of the book, Van Houten reveals why he treated Hazel and Gus the way he did in Amsterdam. Do you think that his reaction and explanation are understandable? What did you think of Hazel’s treatment of him?

– How does Green portray Gus and Hazel’s classmates? Do you think that this is an accurate depiction of what would happen in real life? What is Green saying by including this in the book?

– What did you think of Green’s depiction of a teenage girl? Was it convincing?

– Is this a cancer book or a love story? What do you think is the central theme of the book?

Find more at Lit Lovers: An Well-Read Online Community and read a Q&A with the author on his website.

The Fault in Our Stars- John Green

9780525478812_custom-7eb6cc16a8a3f2266865895e1718ac9e9d6232e0-s6-c30Last week I read The Fault in Our Stars. I’m guessing that those of you who have read this book understand why I don’t offer any other explanation. It is simply not necessary for, or even worthy of, the magnificent book that John Green has created. Don’t expect to feel uplifted and happy about life’s troubles after reading this book– it is a “cancer book,” after all. But about the human spirit? Absolutely.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, today’s post is not going to focus on the fictional teenagers at its center. As I started researching the movement around John Green and the seemingly endless praise for his work, I realized something very remarkable. So many of the comments on  his website and Twitter feed are from teenagers. A generation that we, productive adults, have counted out as lost. Kids today, we say, they just don’t get it. We complain about their sense of entitlement. We complain about their lack of personal responsibility. We even complain about their communication, their text-speak. But, reading the comments of these tweens and teens, it struck me how much we have been missing about who that generation really is. We overlook the fact that they feel entitled… to choices and opportunity, and are willing to correct situations that don’t offer them. We don’t see that they take responsibility… for their own expression, doing whatever they can to find out who “me” is. And as we are shaking our heads at their LOLs and YOLOs (by the way, TFIOS=The Fault in Our Stars–it’s a thing), we fail to realize that they are communicating… to each other and the world at a rate never before available or seen.

Go over to John Green’s website or follow him on Twitter, @realjohngreen to find out more about him, his work, and his amazingly wonderful readers.

Book club questions coming tomorrow!

Someone- Alice McDermott


The Home Book Club is back after a brief hiatus with Alice McDermott’s quiet and beautiful novel, Someone. Returning from  her own seven-year hiatus, McDermott tells the story of Marie, a girl growing up in Brooklyn to Irish parents, later a woman with a family of her own on Long Island, through the lens of the everyday. Beginning with the death of a young girl on Marie’s street, the novel softly begins the job of building a life. Marie experiences heartbreak, love and marriage, motherhood, and aging, of herself and her family. Without fanfare and including the mundane with the life-changing, Someone captures the reader from the very first sentence.

McDermott is no stranger to works fused with delicious description of the seemingly common. In an interview with PBS Newshour’s Jeffrey Brown, McDermott expressed the importance of language in her writing.

We are surrounded by story. Story is very accessible to us, more so than ever. But what I think literary fiction does is raise the level of the sentence to be as important as the story the sentence tells. The rhythm, the beauty, the music of it is as important as character or plot.

Featured in The New York Times Sunday Book ReviewSomeone is a treasure. A small and delicate treasure full of the exquisite, sometimes surprising, beauty and pain that makes up an ordinary life.

Discussion Questions for Someone:

– How does Marie’s internal observation differ from what she communicates to the world?

– What does the novel say about family and community?– What roles do Marie’s mother and father play in her life? How does their perspectives influence hers?

– Each passage seems to offer a different view of Marie: daughter in a power-struggle with her mother over baking bread, young woman at her first job, sister offering help to a hurting brother. What does that say about the experiences that we get in life?

McDermott’s other works include Charming BillyAfter ThisThat Night, and others. They have been awarded the National Book Award, finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and have been featured in literary magazines and newspapers.

Watch the PBS Newshour interview here.

Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn


Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl begins in the sleepy, somewhat run-down, town of North Carthage, Missouri. North Carthage is the kind of place that barely warrants its own place on the state map and most certainly doesn’t make an appearance on anything larger scale than that. Set against a backdrop of predictable failing businesses and dusty townsfolk, the drama soon becomes anything but mundane.

Nick and Amy appear to be your typical mid-West couple. He, a small town boy returning from the big city. She, his perfectionist wife intent on making a home in this town after her glamorous upbringing in the city. But read past the first paragraph and you’ll soon see that neither is the poster child for their own archetype.

It begins when Amy disappears and Nick, the last one to see her and, unfortunately for him, the one without an alibi, becomes the prime suspect. He soon faces his friends, family, and the ever-present media with a closet full of skeletons. Amy’s account, left in a diary, show us her growing unhappiness and fear in the days leading up to her disappearance. But she is not without skeletons of her own.

Gillian Flynn guides the reader through the despicable choices of a selfish husband, the vengeful plot of a scorned wife, and the twisted misery of a failed marriage. Gone Girl lives up to its suspenseful title and thriller reputation. Find a discussion guide at www.gillian-flynn.com.