Sunday, April 9, 2017

Little Sister & I Chat About This Month's Favorite Novel . . . & Her Fabulous Book Club

What are the odds that you and your sister would read the exact same book at the exact same time, neither one with the slightest idea of what the other was up to?

I kid you not.

But that's what happened this month as the two of us grabbed copies of Christina Baker Kline's A Piece of the World: A Novel, completely clueless that the other was falling in love with the same beautifully spun chapters.

Kindred spirits we are.  

Over breakfast this past weekend, we chatted for the first time about this elegantly penned, instant New York Times best seller ... comparing notes on this haunting, compelling, absorbing tale set on the rugged Maine coast.

We both were captivated by this fictionalized story of artist's Andrew Wyeth's inspirational muse, Christina Olson, whose figure on a hillside field, crawling toward an old Maine homestead, has become the focus of one of the 20th century's most admired paintings.

'Later he told me that he'd been afraid to show me the painting.  He thought I wouldn't like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind.  The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy.  That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won't stay hidden.'

The author deftly captures the unusual, complex relationship that Christina and Andrew shared.  Christina's determination to survive shines through despite a life filled with heartache and challenge, past the bitterness in her spirit and the physical pain that daunts her.  And Andrew captures her simple existence, her very essence, with his artistic genius, his paintings stunning, mesmerizing.

Little Sister and I observed that when you choose bitterness you choose isolation.  

And we both agreed that we couldn't put the book down ... not because it was action-packed or filled with suspense.  But simply because we had been so utterly transported to Christina's world.






And then we continued sipping our mugs of hot tea as we moved on to the subject of the book club she's been attending since 2001.

Each September, 7 - 9 faithful readers kick off another year at the same Thai restaurant where they share their summer readings with each other.  In their 16 years together, they've read about 120 volumes ... a wide variety of genres that range from 'blood and guts' to historical fiction.  Poetry.  Volumes about other countries, world wars, women's issues.

And a number of New England and Boston writings, set on streets that are familiar as the back of their hands.

Books she admits she never would have pulled off the shelf on her own.

The leader kicks off the discussion by asking, 'So what did you think of the book?' and then they take off from there.  The conversation is freewheeling and they don't bother with the suggested questions tucked in the back of the book.  If you thought it was a boring read or you didn't get to finish it, you come anyway.

Differences of opinion are common in the judgement-free zone of their conversations together.  They've chosen not to gather a clique of friends, instead inviting participants with diverse opinions, their ages ranging from their 40's to their 70's.

The hostess-of-the-month has often served snacks that meshed with the subject at hand.  France?  Little croissants.  A concentration camp where the prisoners survived on rice and crumbs?  Matzoh.  A southern theme?  Glasses of lemonade with lots of ice.

On those occasions where they gather to watch film versions of favorite books, individual boxes of popcorn and candy are ready and waiting.

And while the members don't socialize outside of their regularly scheduled meetings, the women in this club give each other sweet, steady support as they lose spouses or launch children.  Wrestle with family issues, battle cancer ... or begin to venture down dementia's long road.

I asked my sister if she'd share their Book Club's 2001 - 2017 Reading List with the readers of this blog ... and she said YES!  To receive your copy, simply join the discussion in the comment section and then email me at lindastoll@juno.com and I'll be glad to send it your way.

No strings attached.  Promise.

So ... let's talk about what you're reading right now.  And your book club experiences.

P.S.
Speaking of sisters, I just finished Susan Meissner's Secrets of a Charmed Life, the story of two young sisters lives forever altered by one's ambitious, selfish choices in the midst of the chaotic tragedy of the London bombings in 1940's.  Yet another superb piece of fiction.




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47 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing- this sounds like a good book and that's fun that you and your sister were able to read it together. The book club sounds good too. I've never been part of a book club but I know when I've heard other people's thoughts by chatting in person or reading online I often get more from the book than just reading myself, and I think it's great to hear people's different opinions.

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    1. Lesley, I completely agree with you! Almost always I glean more from a book when it's been discussed in depth with other kindred spirits.

      It's the icing on the cake, isn't it ...

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    2. Marilyn (Little Sister)April 10, 2017 at 3:02 PM

      Lesley,
      The best thing about reading the same book is you don't have to be part of a book club, youu just need one other person that has read the same book! I agree that it is fun to hear other's opinions, sometimes they see things in the book that I never even thought about!

      Delete
  2. Would love to have a copy of your sister's book club list for those many years. What fun to have that prolonged experience!

    I belong to my church book club, and still hit the library for many fill-ins. Just read Clarence Thomas's autobiography ... and am reading an Amish mystery novel.

    Also, wanted to thank you for listing books by Susan Meissner. I borrowed a book by her from a church friend several years ago. I loved the book ("The Shape of Mercy"), but could not recall the author's name (or title!)

    Thanks for making me check her out on Amazon, and solve that mystery! Eager to check out her other stuff!

    {via email}

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    1. I know you're going to love the Susan Meissner book I mentioned in the P.S. in the post, D!

      Such outstanding writing deserves to be shared, passed around, talked about.

      My other reviews of Susan's books -http://www.lindastoll.net/2017/03/6-books-taking-breather-from-break.html

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  3. I read Secrets of a Charmed Life---agree it was excellent. Have put your latest rec on my list to read. Always glad to get recs! Miss my book club!
    Blessings!

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    1. I miss my book club, too, Lulu. Haven't seen one 'round these parts, and I don't know that I want to start one right about now.

      But I do love the monthly dialogues here ... and enjoy being at Anne's place for book talk and the latest updates http://www.modernmrsdarcy.com

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  4. How delightful that you and your sister were reading the exact same book! It sounds like something my sister and I might do as well. :)

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    1. I'd love to hear your sister book-stories, Lisa!

      ;-}

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  5. Looks like a great book. I've always liked Wyeth's work, too. And the book club sounds groovy.

    Right now I'm reading "Highest Duty", Chesley Sullenberger's autobiography...yes, he's the Sully of the Miracle On The Hudson, and the recent film. It's a good book. Makes you think.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/04/your-dying-spouse-294-famous-last-words.html

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    1. Yep, Andrew, I remember that as a super-inspiring book ...

      Now THERE'S a hero. For sure.

      Wonderful.

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  6. "When you choose bitterness, you choose isolation." So true, Linda. Right now, I'm reading "The Joy of Missing Out" by Christina Crook. It is the best kind of book because it is making me think about and actually change some things that I've been doing--and I'm only halfway through!

    As far as book club memories, you've reminded me of the time when my former book club read Jan Karon's little book called "Esther's Gift" during December because we wanted something easy for the holidays. As you may know, the book is mostly about "Esther's Orange Marmalade Cake," which has made my mouth water through every one of the Mitford books. I actually made the cake and brought it to our meeting ... it was a lot of fun! :-)

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    1. That IS fun! Our book club tried, rather unsuccessfully if I remember, to do the food thing as well. Unfortunately, it didn't work. I think the idea of linking up with other cultures fascinating ...

      I do love to eat.

      ;-}

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  7. Sounds like a fantastic read, Linda! Thanks so much for the recommendation, my friend.
    Blessings and happy reading!

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    1. To get a thumb's up from an author is always a very good sign. Thanks, Martha!

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  8. I always look forward to your recommendations, Linda, and how fun that you and your sister were reading the same book! I'd love to be a fly on the wall at one of her book club meetings :) Have a blessed week, friend! I hope warmer weather has come your way . . .

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    1. It would be fun to buzz on over there together, wouldn't it, June.

      Pun intended.

      Morning humor ...

      ;-}

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  9. That's so cool that you and your sister ended up reading the same book, Linda. Yes, kindred spirits. So it sounds like she's quite a reader, too. I love how her book club invites diverse opinions and ages. I think we can learn so much from each other. Blessings and hugs!

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    1. Good point about learning much from each other, Trudy. I value that ...

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  10. That painting the author uses as a subject is a painting I grew up. With my eldest sister has had it for as long as I remember. I forwarded this blog to her! Book clubs are so much fun especially when some don't like the book and some loved it. My book club is reading Beth Moore's fiction book she released late last year. Happy reading!

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    1. Thanks for sending the post along to your sister, Lynn! I've always been a huge Andrew Wyeth fan ... 'Evening at Kuerners' has hung over my sofa for decades.

      http://www.awyethgallery.com/andrew/evening.html

      I've seen his work in several museum exhibits and my sister and I are talking about heading up to Maine to take in another.

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  11. Loved reading your blog! Love your book choices and I am adding them to my list. Also, I would love to receive a copy of your sister's book list for 2017!

    {via email}

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    1. I'm just so glad you're here, dear friend and mentor!

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  12. I live near about 20 miles from the Olson house where Christina's World is set, and so, naturally, I have to read this book. The Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast just did a great little conversation about it as well.
    What a fun and sisterly post!

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    1. You . will . love . it! Let me know!

      20 miles. Just too wonderful ...

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  13. Hey Linda-- we were just mentioning this book in your former book club and my first thought was you and your love of Wyeth. We will read it at some point but we haven't been hitting much I have really liked.lately.

    I just read An Accidental Life by Pamela Ewen. Characterization was not deep but the plot was so informative and engrossing. It is about live-birth abortions.

    I miss your probing questions at book club and your counselor's mind. Wish we could skype you in LOL

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    1. Dear Carol ... I still miss book club. Lots. I can't help thinking the gang would appreciate this book ... and also try Susan Meissner's book mentioned in the P.S. above. 'A Fall of Marigolds' is fabulous, too ...

      And give everyone my love. Please. Hard to believe it's been 2 years, huh?

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  14. I'm a poly-reader so I'm reading like 3 books and haven't finished one yet. :D

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    1. Poly-reader. I had to check that out on Google! I like it, Lux.

      I'm a one-book-at-a-time kinda girl. Not a multi-tasker? Like to get caught up in the subject at hand?

      Not too sure ...
      ;-}

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  15. How amazing that you and your sister were reading the same book at the same time! That is quite something... enjoyed hearing about how you really were enthralled by the skill of the author's writing. I will have to remember this book to read someday. The book club sounds amazing, nice to get together and hear other people's opinions of books, and a great way to share lives together too. Hugs :)

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    1. Hey Marilyn, you're using your name in your signature! I'm a huge fan of bloggers using their names. Makes it easier for us readers to find you ...

      ;-}

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  16. I'm currently reading a David Baldacci book. I read more fiction than non, a good break from the day to day. I've also been a long time fan of Wyeth's work. Love, love his painting style and it was probably that specific painting that first drew me to his work. I think my biggest take away from this post of yours was the line you wrote about choosing bitterness is choosing isolation. I shared that in our graduates group. So very true.

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    1. Praise God for the takeaway for your graduates, Debby. I'm so grateful ...

      And yes, I agree with you. I seem to be reading more fiction in this season. Could be the work we do ... and the weariness of all the books we had to read along the way?

      * mmm *

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  17. It is me again.....good books abound. Your former Deeper Life Group is reading and discussing The Neext Christians by Gabe Lyons. I really do not enjoy non-fiction anymore because they are so lengthy and focus on things unimportant to me BUT this one is a must read for all Christians.

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    1. Carol ~ I miss you guys ... loved those Friday nights together, the coziness, deep iron-sharpening-iron conversation, loving concern for each other.

      Interesting that you said the same thing Debby did right before you about fiction vs. non-fiction in this season ...

      I'm with you both.

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  18. Hi Linda! I was just thinking about you today because our autism article came up on my FaceBook feed! Do you know how I can access that again? The old link to the creekside blog no longer works. Books! I love books! Have you read A Man Called Ove yet? Loved that one! I'm ordering the one you recommended right now. Love to you and Tim!

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    1. Dear Jennifer! What joy to hear from you!

      I was just looking at that article recently, and yes, thinking of you. I hope you guys are all well.

      Here you go
      http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2012/04/mothering-special-needs-child.html

      Feel free to share ... and to send your people over to my new site!

      ;-}

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  19. Now I have two more books to add to my to read list. I love fiction and treat myself to a fiction book while reading non-fiction. I love that you and your sister happened to be reading the same book at the same time. I can just imagine how fun that conversation was for both of you.

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    1. What an intriguing idea to balance out non-fiction and fiction. Cool! That's something to consider, for sure, Mary ...

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  20. Love the story of your sister's book club! Would love to find something similar in my area, and would love a copy of the list. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I'd love to find something just like hers around here, too, Susan.

      Please be sure to send along your email so I can send you the list, ok?

      lindastoll@juno.com

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  21. Yours is the second recommendation for A Piece of the World I've gotten in the last 2 days. I'm reading Hallelujah Anyway by Anne LaMott - just started. I would love to have your sister's book club list.

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    1. A friend gave me an Anne LaMott book awhile back ... maybe it's time for a re-read with fresh eyes.

      I'd love to hear what you think about A Piece of the World!

      Please be sure to email me for that book list, ok?

      lindastoll@juno.com

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  22. This sounds like the most fantastic book club! I tried to host one once and it went well- we read The Devil in the White City and served 'Lady Killer' cocktails- but my friends seem 'too busy' to keep it up :( I'd love to see the list! I'll send you an email.

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    1. I hope you're able to find some hungry-to-talk-about-books friends so you can get that club going again!

      Sounds like you're missing the group, Tina ...

      Thanks for the email!

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  23. I kept seeing this pop up in the past months on the QuickLit linkup and after your review, I am adding it to my TBR list. I enjoyed The Orphan Train (though "enjoyed" seems the wrong word for such a sad book).

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    1. I just finished my 2nd reading of Orphan Train ... powerful for sure. I look forward to reading your review of A Piece of the World in an upcoming post, Elle!

      ;-}

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda