4 reviews

Commune of Women
by Suzan Still

Published: 2013-09-10
Paperback : 366 pages
13 members reading this now
6 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 4 members
On an ordinary Los Angeles morning, the lives of seven women are about to become inextricably entangled, as they converge upon LA International Airport for various purposes. Suddenly, the morning erupts into chaos, as black-clad terrorists charge into the terminal, guns blazing. As the ...
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On an ordinary Los Angeles morning, the lives of seven women are about to become inextricably entangled, as they converge upon LA International Airport for various purposes. Suddenly, the morning erupts into chaos, as black-clad terrorists charge into the terminal, guns blazing. As the concourse becomes a killing field, six of the women dodge a hail of bullets to find refuge in a tiny staff room. Betty, a Reseda housewife, Heddi, a Jungian analyst, Sophia, a rugged and savvy mountain woman, Erika, a top-level executive, Ondine, an artist just returning from France, and Pearl, an ancient bag lady, all traumatized or injured, barricade the door and cower down, hoping to survive. As four days drag by, their expectations of an early rescue dashed, the women find a way to dominate their panic and terror by telling their life stories. As their situation becomes increasingly grave, the women begin to reveal their most intimate secrets, as their stories descend deeper into the dark shadows of their lives–and they discover that part of survival is simply surviving one another. At the same time, in a similar small room close by, the sole female terrorist, dubbed simply X by her so-called Brothers, has the task of watching a bank of surveillance monitors. Apparently forgotten by her co-conspirators, she nevertheless is the best informed of the happenings in the outside world--happenings that are not easily understood. Why are the police and FBI so slow to respond? What has motivated this attack? Who are these terrorists and what do they want? And will the women survive to tell their tale? Answers to these questions slowly reveal the terrible web of conspiracy and deceit into which they all have fallen. But the most profound revelation of all is how each has betrayed herself.

Editorial Review

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Discussion Questions

Commune of Women is composed of seven intertwining story lines: those of Erika, Heddi, Betty, Pearl, Sophia, Ondine and Najat. Which character did you prefer? Why? Is one voice more or less authentic than the others? If you could go out to lunch with only one of these characters, which one would you choose as most interesting to dine with?

Discuss the ways in which interior and exterior spaces, houses, rooms and gardens define each character. Are you interested in such spaces, their aesthetic quality and distinctive characteristics? Recall the significant space of each character. Does any of these spaces become a character all its own? What kind of space most authentically defines you?

What did you know about the political situation in Palestine—and Gaza and the Rafah Camp, in particular—before reading Commune of Women? Or in Rwanda, Iran, Bosnia, Chechnya, or Kurdistan? How did this book teach you about, or change your impression of, these important chapters in world history? Did it change your understanding of terrorism to read the individual histories of the terrorists? To what extent did the author take artistic liberties with this information?

Suggested by Members

Look into a brief summary of depth psychology for background since I think this might have been helpful when reading the book and for discussinon.
by maril (see profile) 01/18/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from author Suzan Still:

Commune of Women explores the dynamics among women trapped in a small room under terrifying circumstances. Extremely diverse, they still find ways to prevail, through sharing everything: their food and medications, their hopes, psychological foibles and fears, and their life stories, which grow deeper, darker and more intimate during four days of captivity.

Women are sometimes portrayed in literature as two-dimensional, cardboard figures. I wanted to write a novel that explores women in their fullness. I’m also interested in issues of social disenfranchisement. The socio-economic extremes among the characters allowed me to explore that theme with relish. Terrorism is a phantom that haunts our modern lives and it became important to me to investigate it as both political and personal tragedy—and as the character of Pearl reveals, it’s not such a new phenomenon, after all.

By book’s end, each character has made the decision to live more fully into her own life and being. I’d like my readers to be inspired by the courage, compassion and resourcefulness of the women of Commune of Women; to consider how precious their own lives are; to determine to prevail; to live large and joyfully. I want them to join the Commune!

Book Club Recommendations

food theme
by maril (see profile) 01/18/12
For refreshments we chose to have all items from vending machines and other details from the book. Made an interesting book discussion by our group trying to recreate a bit of the book for our meeting.
by alsgal (see profile) 11/21/11
We are going to the cheesecake bistro to have cheesecake and cocktails because I believe these women's stories warrant a good glass of wine.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Different read for me"by Carolyn M. (see profile) 01/18/12

Our book club won this book from BookMovement and also had a conference call with the author! The book was long but a fast read. I thought it was interesting and not necessarily something I would have... (read more)

  "Commune of Women"by Marilyn C. (see profile) 01/18/12

Interesting concept of a group of diverse women trapped in an airport by an attack . Their survival and growth individually is the story. They evolve and grow as they share their stories and lives.

  "So good"by Teresa G. (see profile) 12/05/11

  "Best Read This Year"by Ronni P. (see profile) 11/21/11

Suzan Still has outdone herself. I loved how she introduced each character and then slowly brought us into their worlds. I felt at times like I was in that break room with them.
Prepare yo
... (read more)

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