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Interesting, Slow, Beautiful
My Antonia

Considered a "classic," it was pleasantly nostalgic for a time and place in the development of the US. Neither action-packed nor profound, overall our group might've preferred reading something else but liked it well enough. A character study and mild social commentary told through the observing character only and thus more a recollection than the typical novel format. Our group discussed context, pioneer/immigrant life and women's roles.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Informative, Beautiful
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Our group focused more on the topic of the internment of Japanese in the US during WWII than on the writing of the book. The characters were drawn well enough, which generated the emotional response to the historical aspects of the story. However, while many were entertained by the coming of age story, family dynamics or the friendships and love story, overall the reaction was that the book was very light reading - especially for one centered on such a tragic time. Most agreed that this book could almost be categorized as "Young Adult" lit. Nevertheless, the group was glad the book was included on our reading list as it's generated so much attention.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Interesting
Cutting for Stone

The title is not only a metaphor or a reference to the main characters' surname, but comes from a line in the Hippocratic Oath, which points to the importance of medicine in this book. While in agreement that the manuscript could've been more extensively pared down, (and that sometimes the way the story was moved forward seemed contrived), most everyone in our group seemed to appreciate the characters enough to share their journey in this beautifully written "epic" saga. This is another selection where the character's journey is literally a journey, with the theme of the immigrant experience in addition to the love stories.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Let the Great World Spin

This selection was initially a challenging read for everyone in our group, but we felt it was worthwhile and most actually liked it. It's no wonder this author has garnered so much attention and awards for this novel. His almost poetic writing truly seemed to capture the "voice" for all the many characters. Through their connection or lack of connection he shows us something not only about NYC in the early '70's but about the world that endures. Through the highs and lows of life through the social strata there were themes of balance, connection, the ephemeral moment and continuity - the tightrope walk of life that we all walk. This was quite a book!

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Fun, Insightful
Major Pettogrew's Last Stand

Yes, the novel was formulaic, but what a comfortable old formula! Endearing characters and some laugh out loud moments in this romantic comedy of manners, with homages to Jane Austen and P. J. Wodehouse (and Kipling!) A light, pleasant read for the summertime; most of us really enjoyed it.


The Little Book: A Novel by Selden Edwards
 
Book Club Recommended
Fantastic, Interesting, Confusing
The LIttle Book

The backstory about the writing of this book was almost as interesting a discussion as that of the book itself. Time travel books are popular with some in our group while others like historical fiction, so many were pleased with this selection. For many the plot line seemed complicated but the story was engaging. However, the characters (with their various aliases) were not deeply drawn or very convincing. The whole thing was more a hero- worship fantasy than an epic journey, but it was entertaining.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Gloomy
Olive Kitteridge

There were some in our group who did not like the book because they felt the main character was so unlikable, other who felt similarly about Olive but liked the book, and others who truly liked the book on all its merits. In any case, we had a full turnout for the discussion and it went longer than usual. This is a book that ordinary people can relate to, there are aspects of the characters that resonate for everyone, and somehow the discussion of the book became very revealing for many individuals. It was a great book club selection.

The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Our discussion ran long!

No one in our group disliked the book, and everyone found it a compelling read. This book may not qualify as "literature," but the screenwriter-turned-novelist's debut novel has an imaginative and suspenseful plot with characters whose back stories led to choices that made for meaty discussion.

 
Fun, Optimistic, Inspiring
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Southern coming-of-age fiction; a notch above "chic lit" it could be a selection for young adult literature, but for the rushed holiday season something light was okay. Several members did love the book; it made them laugh and made them cry. (The discussion questions provided through the publisher were weak, mainly because they asked readers to discuss their own experiences more than those of the characters in the book.) Our group managed to have a good discussion, changing the minds of members who disliked the lack of substance - perhaps there was a bit more to it than just sweet cotton candy fluff with little impact.

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