Archive | January, 2015

Friday 56, 30-January-2015

30 Jan

Welcome to the ‘last ditch attempt to finish a book day’ edition of The Friday 56 hosted by Freda on Freda’s Voice. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

I’ve gotten into a new book this week from my book club’s selection. It’s Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat and I’m really enjoying it so far. Here’s a great quote from page 56. Two of the characters are debating what to name their daughter and the mother has proposed the name Rose.

Whatever she’d proposed would have been okay with him, because he was convinced, just as the doctor was, that the child would not live even an hour, much less a day.

I didn’t expect to like this story so much but it’s impressed me very quickly. I’m a fan and I think it will be a good book discussion.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Library Writers Group: Motivation and Goals

29 Jan

After taking the holidays off, I met with my library based writers group last week. It was a big group, the largest we’ve had since we began meeting. It derailed us a bit from our normal practice, but it was good to see so many faces excited about writing. We had a good theoretical discussion and I wanted to share some of our points with all of you.

Many of the new members wanted different things out of the group. A lot of people are looking for editing help and critique partners. I’ve found mine through a writing group so I have to agree it’s a great place to meet people. Another reason, which I thought was great, was to find help with your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses, maybe grammatically or with an aspect of character development, and a writers group is a good place to find people whose skills can complement your own. The overwhelming reason people were at the meeting was to find community among other people who wanted to write. One member said she was looking for people who would encourage her to write every day. “I need a group of fanatics.” I loved that. What do you want out of your writers groups?

A lot of us were in a lull with our writing and hoped the group could kick us back into gear (I’ll admit that’s part of why I go). We talked about ways to get started again. A great way is to look at things you’ve started before and maybe not finished. Something that you jotted down in your idea notebook or started and abandoned. Trying to pick up the thread of an old thought can get you thinking again. A few people said they read books about writing or writer’s memoirs to inspire them. Sometimes as someone who’s 25, it’s hard to remember that most writers don’t find success until well into their 30s or later. I still have time. Reading other work can be inspiring as well. Reading a book you love or something by an author who inspires you. The main thing we stressed was the accept any amount of time you do get to write. It might be five minutes, but that’s five more than the general population. How do you get yourself out of a writing slump?

We had a good discussion on goals. Why do we write? What are we trying to accomplish? To be honest, a lot of us would love to see our names in print; it’s a sense of accomplishment we’re not going to get in many other forums. It’s also a validation that what you wrote is good and someone wants to read it. Some people write to connect. A member gave an example of a memoir essay she wrote about a disability she’d been struggling with. It brought her a lot of feedback and comments from others who had disabilities they struggled with and allowed her to connect with others who felt the same way. And some of us feel like writing is what we’re called to do. We think that the story inside us needs to be told; needs to be shared with the world. We’ve got to let it out because it’s our duty as writers and we just want to share. Why do you write? What are you trying to accomplish with it?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. It would be great to continue the conversation with y’all!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-January-2015

28 Jan

After speaking with MizB at Should be Reading, I’m going to take over as host of the WWW Wednesday meme! The image has changed but everything else is the same. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I used National Readathon Day to make progress on The Domesday Book by Connie Willis. It’s getting really good and the stakes are getting high. I might power through this one soon. I renewed it this weekend and my goal is to finish it before it has to be returned.
I listened to California by Eden Lepucki on my phone while cooking during the Readathon. Less than an hour left on this one and I’m glad it’s almost over. This really failed to keep my attention.
My husband and I got through a bit of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway this weekend but not enough to brag about. I hope we can get through the last three disks some time soon.
Audio for The Diviners by Libba Bray is going well. I’m over halfway and I’m looking forward to long drives so I can keep listening to this one.
One of my resolutions this year was to read a book in Spanish and I’ve picked La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I read a good amount of it during the Readathon (I’m saying 50 pages is a good amount when you’re reading in a foreign language) but I’m still only a quarter of the way done. This may take a bit.
And finally, Read-Along 3 has begun! The book is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and I’m almost half way done with the book, at the end of the second stopping point. We’ll see how soon I can get questions from Nicole and get the post about it published.
My book club met on Monday and I got a copy of our next book, Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. I’m not far into it yet so stay tuned to see how this one goes!

Recently finished: Aaaand I still haven’t finished anything! I’m getting close to the end on so many that it’s frustrating but sadly, nothing to report here.

Reading Next:  None on the radar now. I’ve got to finish the ones I’ve started first! Once there’s an end in sight, I’ll think about what’s next.

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Spread the word, WWW Wednesday is back!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Could Mark Zuckerberg influence your reading habits?

27 Jan

This post started off very differently from this. Mari (a friend of the blog and friend in real life) sent me an email to let me know she’d found an Facebook-based discussion group around on of her favorite novels, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I went looking to see if I could find discussion groups for some books I’ve enjoyed in the last year and I had intermittent success. I couldn’t find anything for Rainbow Rowell and a search for Gone Girl turned up a lot more movie discussions than book discussions.

So I turned to Google and searched ‘Facebook book discussion’ and found (what I think is) a very interesting article from The Atlantic. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a New Year’s Resolution to read a new book every two weeks. And of course, because he’s Mark Zuckerberg, he’s inviting the world to join him.

A Year of Books is a moderated page where participants are invited to discuss the current book and add their own comments and thoughts on what they’re reading. The business major in me freaked out when I read this. Zuckerberg is hand picking best sellers and making Amazon run out of copies of his choices. His books aren’t exactly up my ally (“cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies” here sounds very non-fiction-eque) but I have to wonder if I would read something because Zuckerberg picked it.

Now yes, I’m sure there are other people helping pick these books. As the first book discussion included a live chat with the author, I’m sure there are other considerations besides Zuckerberg’s personal preference. But still, it seems like he’s been given a lot of power to decide what will sell.

Reader, I’m curious what you think. Will you choose to read a Zuckerberg pick? Did you like the page? I did already. This has the potential to be the world’s largest book club. I only wish they handed out copies for free like the Ford Audiobook Club did.

Leave your thoughts in a comment below, I’d love to hear more from you all.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

National Readathon Read-Cap

26 Jan

If you hadn’t heard, the first ever National Readathon Day was this past Saturday, 24-January. The day was sponsored by the National Book Foundation, Penguin Random House, Goodreads, Mashable, and some other wonderful sponsors with the goal of promoting a lifelong love of reading in America. (Here’s the main page.) I saw this very late in the week and decided my husband and I were going to give it a try.

My goal was to make progress with a book I’m struggling through, La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It’s hard for me to read in Spanish for a long period of time and I wanted to challenge myself. I’m proud to say I made it through 54 pages of the book and it’s a wonderful story. I also sampled from two other books, California by Edan Lepucki and The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. California is an audiobook on my phone and I listened to about 25 minutes of it while I cooked lunch for me and my husband (no excuse to stop reading!). Willis’s book is an ebook I’ve been reading off an on for a few months and I got to a really great plot twist while reading on Saturday. I got through 10% of the book that day alone because I was so hooked.

There were times during the four hours when I wanted to go do a chore that was bugging me or I wanted to turn on Netflix and watch just one episode of The Office, but I kept reading. And in the end, it was really nice. My husband read all of Beowulf and got a chunk of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline read (by my recommendation!) and he really enjoyed the experience as well. I look forward to next year and hopefully there will be something in the community about the event so it doesn’t feel as isolated. I think this is a great idea and I can’t wait to see it take off in the near future!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Friday 56, 23-January-2015

23 Jan

Welcome to the “get to see my niece tonight’ edition of The Friday 56 hosted by Freda on Freda’s Voice. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

I’ve given a quote from the books I’m reading now, so I took a look back on the shelf and found one I read before I started this meme. This quote is from Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. I really liked this book and recommend it as a great quick read.

Nollop said as much, even challenge the pert stenographer to come up with a sentence of her own measuring thirty-five letters or less and containing all of the letters of the alphabet. She tried. She failed.

This adorable little book focuses on the fictional island of Nollop where Nevin Nollop (the man who penned the pangram ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”) is praised as a deity. This particular sentence comes from a letter written by the island’s high council explaining why the citizens should follow the divine will of Nollop and remove the letter ‘J’ completely from their vocabulary. This isn’t as much of a shock as you would think because ‘Z’ and ‘Q’ have already been removed.

It’s a great little book; I highly recommend it!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Read Along 3: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Parts 1 & 2

22 Jan

Read Along 3With only two of us participating through this first part, Nicole and I have decided to go at a slightly accelerated pace; whatever pace we read the book. I have an idea for how I want to change my Read-Along series in the future so stay tuned for some developments there. But for now, let’s dive in to the first section!

Questions from Nicole: We notice that Tereza’s mother is very open with her sexuality and her “nakedness” when Tereza is a child. Her mother walks around naked and even when Tereza is inclined to protect her mother and her dignity she is laughed at. Now as an adult, Tereza recalls when her mother would say that the female body is replicated and identical to other women’s bodies. How do they view relationships and love differently? Are they similar or vastly different? How do you suppose that Tereza overcomes her need to protect her dignity? Tomas seems to see no difference in the fact that he adores no woman more or less based on their bodies – but uses sex as his way of showing he adores them. Does this make things more difficult for a true love to blossom between Tereza and Tomas?

Tereza’s mother sees herself as no different from any other woman. I think this idea stems from her relationship with her husband; she’s his wife but there are many lovers. Her body is no different to him as the other women he is intimate with. She’s one of many and has (sadly) accepted this. Tereza refuses to accept she’s a clone of the other women Tomas loves. She fervently wants to believe that there’s something special about her that makes her better than all the others. I think Tereza believes that her modesty is something that sets her apart. She believes that if a man loves her, he’ll spend time getting to know her before he sees her nakedness and will love her despite it. Tomas shares the same mentality about woman’s bodies as Tereza’s mother which makes it hard for Tereza to see herself as special to him. He separates love and sex in his mind but to Tereza they are the same. I see this as the main problem in their relationship.

Also from Nicole: I found the theory/idea of chance happenings to be very interesting. The “chance happenings” seem to be more of a reflection on their actions leading them up to a certain point. This seems to be a very romantic approach to the storyline and a very modern idea/theory. How do you feel about the approach of the story being written as a theory? Is it realistic or a struggle for you to accept this story line as real or do you feel of it as more of a fictitious piece (regardless that this story is considered a fiction novel)? In other words, the majority of this story is based on theory and chance-happening for it to work, does this make it seem more real or less real?

I think all of life is a series of chance happenings. My parents happened to buy a house that’s down the street from the church where I went one day where my husband happened to be because his family happened to move to Michigan because his dad happened to have gotten a job in the area. As it happens both needed someone to hang out with the summer after Freshman year and choose each other. There are so many points along the way where something could have been different or never have happened at all, but the fact is that it all went the way it did and it’s the only way I got to where I am. The fact that Tereza thinks about this is a little different from my experiences with other novels, but it doesn’t detract from the plot for me. The chance happenings are believable and I don’t think the author is taking liberties to force the plot in any way.

And finally, here’s the musing topic that I choose for this week: Tereza seems to have accepted Tomas even though she knows he is flawed. She wants to be his wife but knows he will be unfaithful. What are some things in your life that you’ve accepted even though they are flawed?

There are a lot of easy answers to this one. My second-hand furniture, my family, etc. But I think the one thing I find hardest to accept the flaws in is myself. I have very high standards for myself and it’s hard for me to accept when I don’t hit those standards. I’ll have people say to me that I’m involved in too much but when I find myself with free time, I start thinking of other things I could be doing to fill it. When I find something new (my latest has been grad school), I give myself a goal (4.0 GPA) and push myself to achieve it. I’ll stress and worry about it and if I fall short, it’s hard for me to get over it. Like Tereza, I have to realize that there’s a lot good with myself and even though there are flaws (like a 3.8 in one class) the overall picture is pretty great.

If you’re interested in joining us in the read-along, it’s never too late! Send me an email and let me know. We’d love to have you.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 21-January-2015 (It’s back!)

21 Jan

It’s back! I’m excited to announce that after speaking with MizB at Should be Reading, I’m going to take over as host of the WWW Wednesday meme! The image has changed but everything else is the same. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I’m making forward progress on The Domesday Book by Connie Willis. I hope I can keep it checked out for a while!
The audiobook on my phone is still California by Eden Lepucki. I’m getting toward the end and losing interest, so this is a bit slow. I hope to get some progress on it soon and just finish it up!
My husband and I are still listening to The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway but it’s slow going when we can only listen to it on weekends when we remember to bring it into the car with us. Oh well.
My audiobook in my car is The Diviners by Libba Bray which I’m really enjoying so far. I’m about half way through now and I hope to finish it soon!
One of my resolutions this year was to read a book in Spanish and I’ve picked La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It’s about 550 pages and I’m about 100 in. Expect this book to be here a while.
And finally, Read-Along 3 has begun! The book is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and we’re about 80 pages in at the first stopping point. If you’re interested, you can learn more here and send me an email to join in!

Recently finished: This is embarrassing. I haven’t finished anything lately! I finished so many right at the end of the year and as you can see, I’ve started a good number so I haven’t finished any titles yet.

I’ve done a few reviews! Okay, more than a few. Check out my reviews for The Handmaid’s Tale, Ready Player One, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Attachments. And for once, I’m caught up on reviews. Winning!

Reading Next:  To be honest, I’m in the middle of so many that I haven’t thought about what to read next for a while. I’ll get a new book club book next week, Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. I have high hopes.

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Spread the word, WWW Wednesday is back!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

20 Jan

The lovely ladies I work with and I sat down over lunch to have a discussion on our latest cute little book, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I was fortunate to find a list of discussion questions on the Penguin website so I’m going to follow that format to tell you about our discussion. We reserve the rights to skip questions we didn’t like.

  • Who is Lincoln O’Neill? How would you describe his character when we first meet him? What is your opinion of the status of his life?
    • We thought the best word to describe Lincoln was ‘shmuck.’ (Spell-check doesn’t agree.) He was a very unfocused person who didn’t know what he wanted to study in school or what he wanted to do with his life. He was a very over-grown teenager and reminded me of some of the characters in the movie Failure to Launch with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey. He never saw a reason to grow up.
  • Much of what we learn about Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner–Snyder comes from their email exchanges. What impression do you get of these two women? What draws you to Beth’s character?
    • We liked the story of Beth and Chris. It was cute that she was attached to this rock star she was still in awe of after so long. Though most of their emails were really short, we liked the long ones that really moved the story. The problem we had with the emails was that the two voices were really similar. Both were well spoken and witty, which isn’t a bad thing, but it made it hard to tell them apart some times.
  • Lincoln’s job, among other things, is to monitor company email. How would you have acted given the same position and why?
    • We work in a highly competitive industry where we know our emails are being read and could be pulled up in a court of law if it were ever necessary. That being said, I will still send an email to my mom from work if I want to ask her a quick question. Would Lincoln flag it? Maybe. One of the women in our group would have flagged Beth and Jen’s emails. I’m not sure if I would have flagged the first one because I think one or two aren’t killing productivity, but there’s a threshold when he should have done it.
  • When we first meet Beth through her correspondence, we hear about her relationship with Chris. How would you describe their relationship? What draws Beth to Chris?
    • Chris is the opposite of Lincoln at the beginning of the book: not a shmuck. They’ve been together so long they don’t really know how to be apart. Beth is drawn to the ‘cool’ factor of Chris. And hey, he’s been faithful and never given her a reason to doubt him. It’s his bandmates she doesn’t like.
  • How would you describe the fate of Lincoln’s college relationship with Sam? How does that relationship inform his actions throughout the book?
    • He clung to Sam. It was hard to read about the time leading up to the beginning of college for them. It was something we’d all  seen before and knew it was going to end badly. It was bad of her to string him along so far. She seemed to know before they left for California that it wasn’t going to last. But Lincoln needed a woman to guide him. After Sam, it was his mother, and then it was Christine from the D&D group, and then his sister, Eve.
  • Beth’s longest email to Jennifer recounts the events of attending her sister’s wedding. What do we learn in that email? What does that email reveal about Beth and what she wants? What effect does this email have on Lincoln?
    • Even though Beth claims that she’s happy with Chris, it’s obvious that she wants a wedding and a marriage. Being in the state of limbo she was in with Chris wasn’t making her happy. She needed the next stage of commitment from him. Lincoln had been waiting for something to be wrong with Chris; something Beth couldn’t stand and he could provide better than Chris had. Maybe it was a little much for him to have walked by her desk, but this finally gave him something that made him a better choice.
  • What impact does his brief reunion with Sam have on Lincoln? What significance does the timing of this reunion carry within the story?
    • Lincoln was just starting to make a change in his life. He seemed reluctant to do it for a long time because he seemed to think that Sam was going to come home and they could pick up right where they’d left off. He thought if he stayed the same, she would too. Seeing her confirmed for him that it was time to move on. She’d obviously changed and it was time for him to keep going as well. It reinforced for him that he was no longer in love with her and that he could like Beth. Woo!
  • Jennifer is dealt a devastating blow late in the novel. How does this event change her? What is your opinion of Beth’s reaction to the news? How do you feel about Lincoln’s knowledge of this event?
    • It really bothered us that Lincoln ‘figured it out.’ It didn’t seem like something that was intuitive based on a lack of emails between the women and there wasn’t something about the way Jennifer looked or acted that should have let Lincoln sniff it out of her. To us, that was one of the flaws of the book. We felt bad for Jen because she did want to talk about what happened to her, but Beth wasn’t there for her when she needed it. She ignored it because she didn’t know what to say. It was sad that Jennifer had to lose a baby to realize how much she wanted one.
  • Describe your reaction to the moment between Lincoln and Beth in the movie theater. What strikes you about this moment? Knowing what Beth knows at that point, would you have acted as Beth did?
    • All three of us were a little bothered by then ending. It seemed to ‘clean,’ very forced by the author. There were a million ways they could have gotten together and this one wasn’t a favorite of ours. It went too far and kissing in the theater was a little too out of character for both of them. She was angry with him, why would she have done that?
  • Attachments brings up the interesting notion of “love before love at first sight.” Do you believe in this idea? Is it possible? What do you see in Beth and Lincoln’s future?
    • In today’s world, Internet relationships can be ‘love before love at first sight.’ It’s interesting that Rowell set this novel in 1999, right at the cusp of the Internet boom and the beginning of on-line dating. The only difference is that in Internet dating profiles, you don’t know what’s true and what is someone trying to put on a good face. What Lincoln saw of Beth was only the truth. We hoped that they would stay together.

Well that’s it! We haven’t picked a new book yet but there’s been an idea of a mystery being thrown around. We’ll see if we find something we like!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

19 Jan

The discussion my book club had on The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the best ones I can remember. This was a very controversial book not because people disliked it, but because the story Atwood gave us had a lot of elements that evoked strong opinions.

Many of us felt that this dystopian story was more timeless than other dystopian classics such as 1984, Brave New World, or A Clockwork Orange which seemed dated. The problems those novels took to an extreme felt more dated but the religious extremism we witness in Offred’s story is still present around the world. With the publishers’ date on this, it’s likely that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was a big influence on Atwood’s plot. She compares the idea of a religious government takeover to the Puritan roots of the US. “You often hear in North America, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but it happened quite early on. The Puritans banished people who didn’t agree with them, so we would be rather smug to assume that the seeds are not there (interview with the NY Times). And as with all of Atwood’s other works, she’s brought something that has happened in history and resurrected it to haunt us again. The frightening thing is that some people, extreme fundamentalists, might want this in our nation’s future.

There was one line a woman pointed out in the book that shocked her. This is from page 174 in my copy, “It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.” This book was first published in 1986, 15 years before the September 11th attacks, this seems ominous.

We found it interesting that Harvard, a liberal place of higher learning, was turned into the halls of the Eyes. Many famous political figures (and even Atwood herself) study at Harvard and it’s a hot bed for influential people. One of our members commented that Boston was one of the most liberal places he’d ever lived and that putting the book there was even more ironic.

The commander reminded a lot of us of a modern conservative politician. Many politicians that preach family values and conservative politics are caught up in sex scandals or other scandals that discredit their messages. Look at how fidelity and marriage came into play in the 2012 Republican primary when candidates such as Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich were brought under the microscope for not following laws or having alternative persona lifestyles. The commander was a high-ranking man who helped form the Republic of Gilead, yet he wasn’t fully in line with what the government was teaching. He thought of himself as above the law, thinking that laws couldn’t touch him because he wrote them.

Offred’s visits with the commander were a clear demonstration of power. The commander slowly let Offred think she had some power when they began meeting alone. Letting her play Scrabble was a terrible trick because it let her remember and think that things could go back to how they had been. The commander knew she wanted something so taboo and was flaunting it in front of her. She would win games of Scrabble and was given small conveniences that made her think she was special to him. Finding out that her predecessor had been given these same privileges made her question any power she had over the commander and her trip to Jezebel’s confirmed that she was at a loss to do anything to defy him.

The woman bore the majority of the oppression in the story, but the men were oppressed in some ways as well. Because of Offred’s narration, we don’t know what the men are doing most of the day, but we can see servants such as Nick who don’t have a lot of power to carry out their own wishes. The men in power, such as the commander, are truly the only ones with any sort of freedom. The Aunts seem to have the most power of any female characters, but their influence is very limited to the Handmaids.

Offred tied herself to a man at every point in the story. We thought about the timeline and she must have been young, in her early 20s, when she and Luke began seeing each other. She was willingly ‘the other woman’ with Luke. She never thought about his wife and was content with their relationship. Then she becomes ‘of-Fred’ and is defined by the commander. This time, she has to think about the man’s wife because she is forced to hold Serena Joy’s hands and walk through her garden each day. And in her ultimate defiance, she defines herself by Nick. She’s waiting for a man to save her.

Moira never defined herself by another person in this way. She wanted to survive by fighting back, not by obeying like Offred did. Granted, Offred had a family to worry about where we see no evidence of Moira’s family. Offred was very passively rebellious because she was worried about how her daughter would be affected. Both were still alive.

There was a similar difference between Ofglen and Offred as well. Ofglen was very involved and passionate about fighting back whereas Offred was interested in fighting back and seemed to want to be a part of the underground movement, but as soon as she started seeing Nick, she almost forgot about the efforts. It’s the difference between signing a petition and leading a march.

Janine was the only Handmaid who had a name. Offred never referred to her as Ofwarren and always used her real name. We figured that this was because Offred knew her before she was Ofwarren, before names were gone and they could whisper them in the night to each other. But it helped make her more human. We could sympathize with her because she could be identified.

Okay, so that historical note. If you read the book and didn’t read that part, go back now. The speaker is still really sexist and makes very demeaning comments about Gilead and it’s culture. However, we’ve seen that whoever wins the war writes the history books so this isn’t very surprising. He seems very dismissive of the transcript because it’s an unidentified woman’s story and he doesn’t even know if it’s true. I pointed out that it’s as valid of an account of life in Gilead as Anne Frank’s diary is of the Nazi prosecution. Just because it only happened to one person doesn’t mean it’s not valid and it’s important because it did happen to that one person. You can’t look for a ‘catch all’ story and anything out of the ‘normal’ can’t be written off because it’s true and did happen. Many times, it’s the exceptions we get to hear about.

So the big question is if Offred made it out. A bigger question to me is where and when her tapes were recorded. Was she on her way out and recorded it as a record for those working on the ‘Underground Railroad,’ or was it even a recording that was made after she was captured and was a form of punishment? Was this a testimony that was meant to be destroyed when the regime ended and it somehow escaped? I kind of like that we don’t know what happened to her because it means I can hope for good things.

The book talked about how there are two types of freedom; freedom to do something and freedom (protection) from a thing. The women gave up the freedom to do many things, but received a lot of freedom from things (pornography, rape, etc.).

Freedom from and freedom to. No longer have freedom to but do have freedom from.

Could this ever happen in the US? There are a lot of topics in Atwood’s book that have been debated for years. Abortion, birth control, rape victim’s rights, sexism, slut shaming, women’s rights in general and a million others. Maybe there are those out there who think Gilead would solve all these problems. There are examples of tragedies that have already taken place throughout Atwood’s book. This book was scary to some of our members who read it upon its release almost 30 years ago and reading it today, it still gave me shivers.

This was a great book for a book club discussion and I hope others can enjoy it as well!

Until next time, write on.

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