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Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
 
Confusing, Interesting, Difficult
Everything is illuminated

It was difficult to anchor myself in time to the story. Was I in the far past, recent past during the holocaust, or inexplicably I found myself in the present. Alex's (Sasha) grasp of English magically improved dramatically in his letters. And when did Jonathan (now the hero) get back to America? The most moving part of this story was the meeting with Augustine (who was not Augustine). Her memories were lucid and powerful, and of course, the consequences to grandfather Alex was devastating. The ending was just nonsense and I skipped through most of the non-writing to be able to say I finished the book. Foer also couldn't decide whether he was writing comedy, myth, pathos, or history.

Peony: A Novel of China by Pearl S. Buck
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Peony: A novel of China

Pearl S. Buck has earned her reputation as a major author. Her characters are drawn with compassion and complexity. Against the background of history, we experience real people living, struggling, surviving in their society. There are no villains and heroes; just like all of us today we are products of our times and cultures. As one of our members pointed out in this discussion, Buck is an antropologist who also happens to be a great novelist.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Informative
The Plot Against America

A plausible what-if scenario with the most evil regime on the planet conquering civilization during the period of the late 30s. A unique perspective through the eyes of the author as a child living in this dystopian history. Well written and scary.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
 
Book Club Recommended
The Testament of Mary

Not a message for everyone. But a soul searching insight into a mother's heart.

 
Book Club Recommended
Suddenly Jewish

When a person grows up with a view of themselves as belonging to a religion, a country, or a particular family, to find that you are not biologically who you that you were can be devastating or welcomed. Those people interviewed honestly reveal their emotions.

Hush by Eishes Chayil
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Brilliant
Hush

This is a story that daringly exposes a situation that unfortunately does occur in the closed world of Hassidic Jews. Even in the secular society, rape and incest, are kept hidden and not talked about for fear of the shame and consequences. The narrator, a young girl, sees her best friend, suffer emotional agonies climaxing in her suicide. As she matures, she can no longer conform to the silence of her ultra-religious community. The narration is simple yet intense and gripping. A must read for those who would like to learn a bit about the Hassidic community while also experiencing the intense emotions of the characters involved.

The Source: A Novel by James A. Michener
 
Slow, Interesting, Adventurous
The Source

As with all of Michener's books, this is a massive undertaking. The level of detail and the research involved is amazing. But, I don't think it's book club material. Too much to discuss satisfyingly.

J.B.: A Play in Verse by Archibald MacLeish
 
Book Club Recommended
J.B.

A challenging read. The subject and the handling of the subject generated a wonderful discussion. This is a verse play that actually needs more discussion and interpretation than one evening can provide. We all would have like to see the play performed and attend a short class or seminar on the various aspects presented.

 
Unconvincing, Poorly Written
The Rabbi and the Nun

Hated the characters, ridiculous story, and the author has no idea how to write dialogue. Would have been much better as a series of essays as he was trying to make a valid point.

Not Me: A Novel by Michael Lavigne
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Dramatic
Not Me

Gripping story and an intriguing mystery of identity and forgiveness. Concentration camp portions difficult to read emotionally as is all Holocaust related material.

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