Would My Book Club Like This?
- Becky Meloan
- May 31, 2012
A recurring feature showcasing recently released books that book clubs may find interesting.
By Becky Meloan
by Toni Morrison
Lotus, Georgia is the kind of town you leave behind with only the clothes on your back. “Nobody in Lotus knew anything or wanted to learn anything…Maybe a hundred or so people living in some fifty spread-out rickety houses…Any kid who had a mind would lose it.” Frank Mooney looked out for his little sister Cee when nobody else in his family would. The army led him away from home, and Cee found her escape with a man who married her for her borrowed automobile.
After returning from Korea, Frank finds his life’s disappointments haven’t gone away. When a distress letter about Cee arrives, his girlfriend Lily takes the opportunity to send him packing. Angry and barely scraping by, he sets off home to Georgia to rescue Cee, who has made a series of bad decisions with possibly tragic consequences.
Bottom line: Written with elegant simplicity, the story is told between the lines as well as through them. A vivid sense of mid-century America emerges, warts and all. Casual tolerance and even acceptance of racism is shocking to see. Book clubs that read The Help might enjoy drawing comparisons between the worlds in each book. Don’t forget to talk about that whole “a lotus is a flower whose beauty blooms from mud” metaphor!
by Ron Rash
As in any respectable Southern gothic novel, the Cove is almost a character itself. The Cove is “dark and submerged and silent,” and locals hang charms and bits of colorful metal from tree limbs to keep evil away. The woods are filled with rotting chestnut trees, toadstools and hemlock, and the air is dank. “A place where only bad things happen” is the prevailing sentiment about the Cove, but it’s home to Laurel Shelton and her brother, Hank. Laurel is ostracized in town due to a prominent birthmark, and spends her lonely days tending to the farm. Hank is back from the trenches of France and missing a hand, so when a mute stranger turns up in the Cove and is willing to help out, fences get built and wells get dug. From a note, Laurel and Hank learn the stranger’s name is Walter and he is traveling to New York. His meager possessions include a silver flute, which he can play “like nobody’s business.” Laurel welcomes Walter into her home and soon, her heart, but when she unravels the truth about his identity, she realizes what kind of danger they may all face.
Bottom line: A beautiful and heartbreaking tale of Appalachian life during the First World War. The politics of patriotic fervor suggest parallels to today’s world. Ron Rash has been compared to John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, and book club members may enjoy making their own comparisons.
Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale
by Lynda Rutledge
Faith Bass Darling hasn’t attended church in twenty years, yet on the last day of the millennium she receives a midnight revelation from God in which he tells her to hold a garage sale. Being that Faith is the matriarch of the founding family of Bass, Texas, the richest old lady in town, and owner of antique-filled turn of the century mansion, this will be a garage sale to remember. Teenager neighbor boys are drafted to help haul everything into the yard, and Faith pays them with gold coins. The townspeople descend to snap up Spode china, Queen Anne tables, Spanish lace tablecloths, and Louis Comfort Tiffany lamps, and Faith tells them only “Pay what you can!”
When Bobbi Blankenship, the town’s antique shop owner and longtime friend of the family, gets wind of the shenanigans, she swoops in to declare an “antiques emergency.” She tracks down estranged daughter Claudia Darling, and with the help of Deputy Sherriff John Jasper Johnson, they try to talk some sense in to Faith, who they learn is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Faith insists that this is her last day on Earth, and that she must settle up with God before she dies. Before the New Year dawns, everyone is compelled to consider their own role in the Bass family saga, and whether our possessions or our memories define us.
Bottom line: Great fun for fans of “Antiques Roadshow.” Book clubs will enjoy discussing the different roads to understanding that each character follows. Questions are ripe for pondering: how important are our possessions? Our memories? What must one do to “let go?”
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
by Jenny Lawson
It turns out Jeanette Walls wasn’t the only one with a twisted childhood. If Walls’ bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, had been penned by Bossypants scribe and “30 Rock” star Tina Fey, you’d end up with Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir). Jenny Lawson, aka “The Bloggess” to her devoted online fans, grew up with a bow-hunting, armadillo-racing, taxidermist father and a mother with a “decade long infatuation with homemade prairie dresses and sunbonnets.”
When the family landed in “violently rural” west Texas, Jenny distanced herself by embracing the “goth” look (“Pro-tip: your faux-Victorian, emo self-portraits in graveyards will look slightly less stilted if you take off your Swatch watch first”). Her childhood embarrassments, courtship and marriage, miscarriages and motherhood, and her battles with anorexia and anxiety disorder, are all served up with her biting, sarcastic sense of humor.
Bottom line: Ready for a good laugh? Is your family ready to have you demand to read them passages aloud? Instructions for Book Club readers are on page 4: “if someone in your book club even mentions Snausages or leukemia, they are a liar and you should make them leave and probably you should frisk them as you’re throwing them out, because they may have stolen some of your silverware.”