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Book Club Reflection: Dodgers by Bill Beverly

23 Apr

My book club met a few weeks ago to discuss Dodgers by Bill Beverly. I’m so behind in posts (so many books to talk about!) that I’m getting to this a bit late. That’s why I take notes.

One of the biggest surprises to me was that the author was a white man from Michigan. Those who read the physical books saw the picture of Beverly on the back cover, so they weren’t surprised once the book was over like I was. We wondered how much he knew about his subject matter and what authority he had about it. Beverly now lives in DC and he lives and teaches in an area where he interacts with primarily black people. He’s also written a non-fiction book on criminal fugitives, so he does have some background on the subject. It still doesn’t seem like a fit, but I honestly wouldn’t have guessed he didn’t match East’s background until I looked up his photo. I wonder if someone from that background would feel the same way.

Some readers pointed out that the difference between the beautiful descriptions in East’s head and the eloquent way he thought was a rough contrast to the rough and rude dialogue of the boys. It made the words feel like they didn’t fit.

The shoot out at the beginning had a lasting impact on East and what he felt through the rest of the novel. It was a small team of boys, like the team in the van and something didn’t happen that should have, making the whole thing fall apart. One reader likened it to a school project where one person doesn’t do their part and the whole thing comes crashing down.

We all enjoyed the scene where the boys are buying guns. It emphasized how young they all are and how out-of-place they are in that world. They were trying to get out of a tough situation and felt they were finally making progress when they ditched Michael just to fall into an even tougher situation.

We find out during the novel that the boys didn’t necessarily need to kill the judge, they just needed to be out-of-town for a while. We wondered if Ty might have known. East was a rule-follower and he wasn’t going to deviate from the task, so he would never have suspected. Ty might have. Finn knew he couldn’t tell the boys just to leave town for a while, he had to give them a reason to be out-of-town and killing the judge seemed like a legit reason.

The characters in this book gave us a lot to talk about. Michael Wilson was the idiot of the group. He was impulsive, and it got him in trouble quickly. We wondered why he was referred to by his first and last name. Were there a lot of other Michaels? Or did it give him a level of authority, like his age, to be in charge? He wasn’t much of a leader.

We all agreed that we liked Walter better. He knew more than anyone else in the van except maybe Ty. He knew how they got the IDs and seemed to understand Finn’s operation a bit more than East and Michael Wilson.

As I said, Easy was a rule follower. He sometimes followed his own rules, but he followed them. He was meticulous about the things he decided were important. We have many examples of him keeping himself clean and showering while on the road. He kept the range clean after Perry died because that was his habit. The book ends with him not following a rule for once and running East.

We all felt there was something more to Ty that needed to be explained. Something must have made him the way he was, but we don’t know. He’s clearly a sociopath with no empathy and no possessions. A boy who stops coming home at nine and is moved out by eleven needs help and his family didn’t have the means to get it for him. From early in the book, when we first meet Ty, it’s clear he’s going to be the one to pull the trigger.

Martha Jefferson was a great character. Her plotline came up only because Walter was there. East never would have been able to charm her or been quick enough to join her on his own. We think Martha instantly felt bad for the boys. She understood how lonely it could be as a black person in rural Iowa. She may have known something bad was going on right away but went with it because she felt bad for the boys. We think she must have realized something was wrong by the time they got to the airport. She probably kept moving forward to avoid something worse happening to her.

There were a lot of parallels between East’s life at the beginning of the book and his time at the paintball range. There was a gang in town, the Christian Wolves. It was a white gang, but gangs are born of poverty and it was there in Ohio. The men who come are described as addicted at times, spending their whole paychecks on paintball and ignoring their families to be at the range.

In the end, East heads east. We talked about how historically, people struck west in the US to seek their fortunes. That wasn’t East’s way.

Our next book is The Power by Naomi Alderman. I’ve already finished it and I think it will be an amazing 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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Book Club Reflection: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

15 Apr The Gilded Hour Cover

After much delay, my book club was finally able to meet and discuss The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I finished reading this book back in December and we were supposed to meet in January to discuss it. However, Mother Nature had other plans and we pushed the book back to March to accommodate. So here we are, finally.

We found out the sequel to this book comes out in September. We’ll finally figure out who the murderer was! (The ambulance driver? One of the doctors in the inquest?) There was so much content in this first novel that we must imagine the second and third books will be bloated with content as well.

We asked ourselves if a situation like the one presented in this book, of dangerous abortions, could happen in the US if Roe v Wade was repealed and abortion was criminalized again. Anthony Comstock was a real person and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was real. Could we see these again? Many felt it was likely. With the availability of oral contraceptives, it might not be as prevalent, but it could still happen. With the way US law works, the decision to criminalize would go to the states and its likely some more liberal states would decriminalize it while more conservative ones would outlaw. It would be like recreational marijuana is now.

The majority of our discussion revolved around Ana. She was a very modern woman for her time, something that bothered me a bit while reading. Though every time period must have some progressives, some modern women. Ana was a women’s lib fighter before there was women’s lib! She was not the common woman of her time because she was rich and educated but that doesn’t mean she’s unbelievable. Even still, we were surprised she continued to work after she got married. She was a bit of an odd duck, but she was protected by her aunt’s wealth and status, it was OK for her to be a bit different.

Ana and Jack’s relationship was a little surprising because of how outspoken Ana was. Jack was also very progressive and accepted her easily. He was hard to surprise because of his profession, seeing things that were unusual. He made her vulnerable, which was hard for her to deal with at first, but he wore her down and then she couldn’t resist him.

Her dedication to the Russo children was a bit hard for all of us to wrap our minds around. One reader explained it as Ana seeing herself in Rosa and being reminded of losing her brother. She never felt she got him back, but she wanted to help Rosa get her brothers back as best she could.

I may be the only one in my group who goes on to read the second book. I adored the writing and how intricate the world was, even if it did seem a bit long-winded. Maybe I can talk them into 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!

Book Club Reflection: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

14 Feb

My book club met this week to discuss Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. I’m glad I got my review of the book finished before we talked because there were a long of strong opinions in the group!

We started with a little background about Trigiani. Her family is from Roseto Valfortore and her grandfather was the mayor at one point. They visited the town and had automotive trouble getting there because the road was so bad. This helped explain the random-ness that was the Italian road (more on this later). Strangely enough, her brother is named Carlo and her friends were teasing her about the title of her book.

My questions about the cover were shared. The flowers and the woman on the cover made us believe this was a uniquely ‘feminine’ book. We can’t imagine a man reading it! Apparently, the woman on the cover isn’t a specific character from the novel, but a fashion model from the 50s who’s supposed to give the book a period feel. We felt the title was misleading as well and gave the idea of a romantic plot. One reader pointed out that Trigiani is a well-known author and that she has an established audience. That audience is mostly female and she’s probably not trying too hard to create a male fan base.

Someone brought up how the fight between the Palazzini brothers felt like a Shakespearean feud. It was like Dom and Mike’s dad wanted there to be a fight between his boys and the way it split the family was reminiscent of a Romeo and Juliet style family fight. We felt the story could have paralleled a Shakespeare story better if this was the intention. Or it could have dropped the feud and been a little more focused. There were so many people involved because of it that we needed a family tree to figure out who was the child of who and if they got along with someone else. Ugh.

Hortense felt a bit contrived for some people. She kept to herself at work and had a solitary job, but she was very close to the family. It seemed like a little too much. Maybe if she’d worked in their home it would have been more believable, but with her job in the shop, we didn’t buy it. She also seemed very bicultural and working in that environment didn’t seem like enough to give her that level of fluency in Italian American culture.

Calla was very modern for the time period. She felt more like someone in our modern world than a girl of the 1950s. Cutting her own hair and wearing pants was one thing, there are always those rebelling against fashion. However, going to the bank and being in charge of her own finances and business seemed like a bit too much.

We spent a lot of our meeting time talking about parts of the story that seemed illogical or nonsensical as part of the book. Even though I enjoyed some of these parts, I had to admit they weren’t very logical and some didn’t move the plot well. I’ll bullet to save space.

  • Nicky going to Roseta. Why wouldn’t he just skip town and lay low? Why put himself in such a visible position?
  • Hortense and Minna becoming friends. She’s such a recluse she never leaves the house yet becomes life-long friends with a weekend border?
  • Peachy figuring out where Nicky was. What would make her think that the filer she finds in the trash at his apartment is where he is hiding? That’s a huge leap in logic and a long shot at best.
  • Elsa being Jewish. We wanted so much more out of this unlikely (and slightly unbelievable) marriage. She wanted to go to temple, but we never find out if she does or how the family feels about it.
  • Nicky’s jerk attitude toward Calla before they get together. It was so obvious they were going to wind up together, why was it dragged out in this way? And what was his motivation for being such a jerk? Based on his conversation with Hortense before leaving New York, it seemed clear he went home for Calla!
  • The man dying in Nicky’s cab. We didn’t see how that would be such a ‘wake up’ moment for him. We also didn’t see why it was such a big deal that the man had sullied the cab and they had to get another one. That scene felt like a little too much.

Overall, the book could have been a lot shorter and a lot more streamlined. I’m hesitant to read another book by this author, but I’ll be hearing her speak in April and would normally buy a book as a souvenir. I have some time to decide.

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: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

21 Jan

We had our biggest group ever for our discussion on Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. We had to be moved to a bigger room to accommodate all of us. I missed taking notes for the first part of our meeting because I was eating an amazing crab cake BLT (yummmmm) so I apologize if I missed anything and I hope any fellow readers from the meeting can add what I may have missed.

We noticed that Gil was the only character whose body wasn’t recovered or found from the crash. If he has ‘gills’ like a fish, did he maybe escape? He had the skill set to do it and be stealthily hidden away! He was very perceptive and seemed to be the only one who was suspicious of the fight between Charlie and Emma. He was a very thorough person. We had a debate if he’d been able to find out about Charlie if he’d known the personnel for the flight. He knew about the co-pilot that was booted. If he’d stopped or even delayed the flight, would he have dug up anything about Charlie? Personally, I doubt it. The FBI had weeks to look into Charlie after the crash and didn’t turn up anything suspicious. What would he have found in five minutes about Charlie?

Scott’s character is very central to the plot. His relationship or lack thereof, with Maggie becomes the first mini-mystery. Why would she invite him on the plane? We felt that Scott could tell that Maggie was more grounded than the people she was surrounded by. He knew that she understood him and his working-class life even though she lived in the big house. Some readers felt that the Jack LaLane plot line was a bit too much. If Scott was inspired by him to swim, then what motivation did he get from his sister’s death? Couldn’t the death of his sister be enough to encourage him to swim and join the team? I’ll give my personal opinion here again. I’m a swimmer. I can see being motivated to fitness by LaLane. I can’t see being motivated to swimming for fitness by the drowning of another. I can see that as an encouragement to learn to swim for survival. Survival swimming would not take you eight miles in open water. That requires a level of fitness that LaLane inspired in Scott. I think both were necessary.

The book itself was both a mystery and a thriller. We felt it was a bit more of a mystery, though. The ending was abrupt and came just after the mystery of who crashed the plane was solved. A lot of plot lines were left unfinished. Was Bill arrested? Did Eleanor and Scott have a romantic relationship? The abrupt ending was much like a tragic accident. It happens without warning and changes things. One reader felt that sudden, drastic life changes were the major recurring theme of this book. Ending the story like one was keeping in line with this theme. The ending also started rearranging events. Many readers (including me) were confused about the timeline of Scott hearing about the black box recordings. At first, I thought Scott remembered what had happened. The more I thought about it, I realized that Gus had told him, that the reader had gotten the story out-of-order.

The criticisms of the conservative news were very thinly veiled. I jokingly called Bill Cunningham Bill O’Reilly and for the rest of the meeting, people would mix them up and refer to the character as O’Reilly. We were all disgusted that Bill would parlay the death of his ‘friend’ into a way to keep himself on the air. He was supposed to be taken off the network but with David’s death, he became a personal touchstone and was able to prolong facing consequences for wiretapping. We were all surprised that Scott would agree to speak to such a man, especially on television. We reasoned that he did it for JJ. Scott felt that he needed to clear the air about himself and Maggie so that JJ wouldn’t grow up with the idea that his mother had ever been unfaithful or that Scott was in some way involved with the crash. He wanted JJ to grow up in a world where people didn’t whisper behind his back.

The sudden, dramatic change of circumstances of the characters developed as the plot went on. On top of the crash, we saw Kipling face pending charges that would make him lose his business, Maggie marrying a billionaire, and Scott’s sister’s death. Scott’s paintings continued this trend, covering sudden, irrevocable changes and loss. It was his way of processing the sudden death of his sister. The last painting in the series said ‘We are sorry for your loss.” This is what we say when we don’t know what to say. It’s what we say when we are not affected and can’t understand the sudden change someone else has gone through.

It was a great discussion this month. I apologize for anything I missed because my food was so delicious. It was worth 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!

Book Club Reflection: Old School by Tobias Wolff

4 Dec

I was so excited to discuss Old School by Tobias Wolff with my book club. I was delighted to find many loved the book as much as I did!

Wolff would be just about the same age as the narrator in the time period given so we wondered how autobiographical this book might have been. One of our members commented that Tobias Wolff is a Jewish name so the main character might have been a reflection of Wolff. However, our biographical note included that Wolff has a sister named Mary Elizabeth. That’s not a very Jewish name at all. Wolff also moved to Washington state with his mother. The cover image of the copy we had was supplied by the author and consisted of boys in matching uniforms sitting at rows of tables with their heads bowed in prayer. Reading the legal notices also told us that many of the short stories in the novel were previously published in the New Yorker. We’re assuming this is Wolff’s work. It all points to a fairly autobiographical work.

It was strange that the protagonist didn’t have a name. One of our readers picked the name Arthur for him while reading and we used this for him while we discussed him. Arthur seemed to have some strange ideas about how someone became a great writer. He talked about wanting to be anointed by Frost when he visited as if a touch could transfer his greatness. He later copied Hemingway’s stories, word for word, as if he could learn how to write his own by copying these. He needed to live to have his own ideas on how to write. Later in life, we hear he is a great writer but we’re not sure how he learned to write. The process of becoming a great writer seems to also involve becoming yourself and being unique. There was a danger that Arthur walked in copying those he admired without trying to be original.

A few commented that the kids seemed very well read and mature for high school students. We understood that this book was written in hindsight, but he made his high school self very mature. Arthur talks about the strong literary community at his school but we only see a few people who are involved in it or who Arthur agrees are ‘good.’ It seemed a stretch that high school students would produce writing that was good enough that the likes of Frost, Rand, and Hemingway would want to read it. We find out later they only send a few, but it still seemed a bit odd.

Ayn Rand did not get a good representation in the book. We were surprised she agreed to come at all. She was quite radical, and the school seemed very conservative and traditional. I wouldn’t think she would agree to do something like speak at a private high school, but it did help make a strong point.

A lot of us felt the ending was out of place and that it could have been cut or shortened. It circled back to questions the boys asked Makepeace at the beginning about Hemingway but most of us forgot that had even happened. Focusing on such a different character made it seem like a separate story instead of the ending of a novel.

However, it shared similar themes to the rest of the book. We identified honesty, identity, and insecurities as major themes. Arthur and Makepeace must deal with not being honest about something and pretending it’s true. Arthur is searching for his identity as many teenagers do. He has a lot of insecurities about being Jewish and about being less well off than his peers. This book does an amazing job of telling his story and we all just loved it.

We’re taking December off and have our next meeting at the end of January. We’ve got a 900 pager to keep us busy until then.

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: Not Me by Michael Lavigne

26 Nov

I’m always glad to go to a book club meeting and enjoy what my fellow readers have to say about a book I disliked. It’s usually eye-opening and sometimes changes my opinion of the book. I can’t say my mind has been swayed this time, but I have a bit more of an appreciation for the book now.

We started off with a question that I hadn’t thought to ask. When does this book take place? With each year, we have fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors around. We thought this book may be set a few years back, possibly 2000 or 2001. There was a Starbucks and Michael had a flip phone, so it seemed somewhat modern, but still a little dated.

It takes Michael the entirety of the book to start coming to terms with his father’s history and process the story in the journal. He’s a very self-absorbed character. At first, he doesn’t want to learn about his father. The distanced relationship the two have is comfortable for Michael, and he doesn’t want to leave it. He has a similar distance with his son, Josh. The relationship seemed to emphasize how self-centered Michael was. Maybe Heshel’s focus on his philanthropic endeavors kept his focus away from his son. Michael may have assumed such a relationship was normal and formed a similar one with his son. The first time we really see Michael do something for someone else is when he kills Karen and puts her out of her pain.

I wasn’t the only reader who questioned I the journals were factual. Because they’re written in a third-person, novel-like format, it seemed plausible that we’d get to the end of the book and Michael would discover they were from his father’s imagination. He finally believed it was all real when he read his mother’s letter. Writing in a third-person voice may have helped Heshel distance himself from the terrors he witnessed and committed.

We talked a lot about why Heshel made the change he did. He seemed to have a ‘come to God’ moment when he was in the hospital, realizing what he’d done to Moskovitz and feeling responsible for all the other crimes he’d committed. We questioned if he was a con artist his whole life, deceiving others to think he was a great, big-hearted man when his motivation was to make amends for his terrible actions. He felt that his daughter’s death was some form of retribution for his actions earlier. He was given accolades for his actions, but his motivation was far from honorable.

One of the loose ends that bugged us the most was Israel Rosenheim. We assumed he was the one who left the journals for Michael to read, assuming he’s real. We also guessed that Israel was the one visiting Heshel in the nursing home. This would have meant that Israel was in Florida so we wondered why Michael wouldn’t look for him.

This book had a lot of other loose ends. We guessed that Israel and Heshel had a long relationship because of references to money that had been paid to some unknown source. We guessed this was school payments of some sort. The relationship with April was a big question mark at the end. The relationship with Michael seemed superfluous. She seemed to be there just for Michael to find out his father brought orphans over from Europe. April being one of them was a bit too ‘clean,’ especially the way we found out. We all wished that April had been the one to leave the journals. That would have given us a lot more closure.

I didn’t leave this meeting liking the book anymore. I understood why some others may have liked it a lot, but it still wasn’t a book for me. We’re not meeting in December so it will be January when we have another one of these great talks.

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: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

6 Nov

I’ve been looking forward to our group discussion of Dark Matter since I read it. Apparently, not everyone was as thrilled with this title as I was. Some really disliked it and there were others who loved it as much as I did. Some said it read more like a screenplay than a book as if Crouch knew it would be adapted for television. A few complained that the middle dragged while he was going through door after door.

The premise required a solid suspension of belief. It reminded me of The Flash a bit because of the other ‘Earths’ that Jason visited. There was a lot jammed into this book and it left some of us wondering more about dark matter. A few people recommended two books, We Have No Idea by Jorge Cham and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. The different worlds showed infinite possibilities and how profound the Butterfly Effect can be.

We started to wonder about our own lives and the different versions we might find. Something beyond our control, like a decision a parent made, could produce a drastically different world. It might not be any relation to you, but that decision could mean you were never born. While there are big decisions in a person’s life that make you wonder, it’s probably the small ones that make large differences. Jason went looking for happiness because he missed it. But the happiest Jason pined after the success he could have had. Everyone lives with regret. For Jason, family was the right choice, but that doesn’t mean it is for everyone.

We had a lot of questions about the box. Jason sees himself at some point. Does that mean there are infinite numbers of every person who’s entered the box somewhere in the box? Is there a doppelganger of Jason 2 wandering around in there? What about the other people who went into the box and never came out? Are they in there, too? In a way, all of the Jasons that return are deserving of Daniela and Charlie. Jason2 is the only one who’s not.

When the plot first switched to Daniela and we see her welcome ‘Jason’ home, it’s not obvious that it’s Jason2. Some of us thought life was continuing like there was a reality split somewhere else and in one version, Jason had come home with no run-in. We wondered if the Daniela in Jason2’s world was happier. Maybe her career and being an artist was her best path. It seemed odd that she completely stopped being an artist to be a mother of one son. We thought she could have kept it up a bit at least.

We wondered about the world Charlie would create for them to live in. Would it be unpopulated? Similar to their own? They were leaving with nothing and taking only memories with them. It reminded us of immigrant stories around the turn of the century. It must have been terrifying.

We’ll be meeting again just after Thanksgiving so I better get reading quickly! 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: Artemis by Andy Weir

30 Oct

Yes, I’m already in two book clubs. Also, yes, I tacked on another one. But just this one time. Probably.

One of my librarian friends told me her SciFi/Fantasy group was reading Andy Weir’s Artemis and I groaned because I knew she would talk me into reading it and coming to the meeting. I loved Weir’s first novel, The Martian, and I had to see how his Sophomore attempt measured up. It seems a few other readers were in the same boat as me.

We had a lot of questions about life on Artemis. At the same time, we didn’t want too many details because it would have weighed down the story. We did wonder about the education system and how you’d put together a school system for so few children. Was there enough demand for teachers?

The book felt a lot like a Western. There was one sheriff, a lot of vigilante justice, and death from the elements was just a hair’s breath away. Only instead of angry Native American tribes, cholera, or snakes, it was temperature, pressure, and lack of oxygen. None of us would want to live on Artemis. First of all, no paper books! That would be hard for bibliophiles like us. But also, the lack of justice wasn’t attractive. We’re not the ones to live in the Old West it seems.

Artemis is the Greek goddess of the moon. We wondered why Artemis was chosen and not the Latin equivalent, Diana. It would have made even more sense for a Kenyan god to be selected. Maybe the name recognition or pronunciation would have been more difficult.

We enjoyed hearing about the small differences in life on Artemis. Coffee didn’t taste as good, stairs were half a meter high, how fun! We felt that these changes and new technology were introduced well into the story.

Of course, we had to talk about Jazz. I’ve already said my share in my review, so I’ll leave that out. One reader was surprised by how rough Jazz’s language was. She was very much the rebellious daughter. She was as opposite her father, a devout Muslim, as one could be.

Despite this, the relationship between Jazz and her dad played a central role in the plot. Her father was very proud of his honesty and trustworthiness. It made sense that he found his criminal daughter hard to get along with.

Jazz’s father was many of our favorite characters. Another liked Rudy and his own brand of space justice.

This group alternates SciFi and fantasy so fantasy is up next. I’m likely passing due to time but I’ll keep an eye out for the next book this group picks. I’ll likely drop in as I’m interested.

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 Part 2: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

4 Oct

I read History of Wolves earlier this year for another book club discussion. I wasn’t able to refresh myself on the plot before my second book club met to discuss it last week. I was surprised at how much I remembered, though! We didn’t have a huge group, and some speculated it was a reflection on our feelings of the book. Maddie’s life was very different from ours and that made it a bit hard to relate to her and get into the book.

The teacher’s role in the book was a bit ambiguous to us. I mentioned my feeling that the book had two plots that didn’t mesh together well, and some seemed to agree. His storyline was more about redemption. He felt guilty for what he’d done in California and that he’d never suffered for it. He wanted to suffer, in a way. In the end, it’s Maddie that gives him closure. He doesn’t really have a good closure himself.

We talked a lot about the relationship between Maddie and Patra. It was a very motherly relationship even though the girls weren’t too apart in age. Patra wanted a woman to interact with in her adulthood. Her youth was shortened when she had Paul and she wanted to feel young again. Maddie had such an unconventional mother and childhood that we felt she was looking for someone she could have fun with and be a girl around. Patra’s life and home were very isolated from outside influence. It was implied that Paul was unruly and needed to be ‘controlled’ in some way. Living there provided that. When we thought through the timeline, Leo and Patra decided to move to that home after they knew Paul was diabetic. They knew he’d be far from care in that house.

Leo is fanatical and controlling. Even Maddie, who’s not afraid of anything else in this book, is afraid of Leo. She doesn’t want to give Patra the Tylenol for Paul because she’s afraid of how Leo will react. That guilt stayed with Maddie for the rest of her life. It ran into the guilt she felt for not defending her teacher against Lilly’s accusations though I think she was confused about how it would have played out because of what was found in his home.

Sorry for a short post, it was a small group and no one seemed strongly impassioned about this one. I did enjoy it as I said in my review, but I think it should have just focused on the story with Patra, Leo, and Paul.

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 Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

17 Sep

It was a long summer without my book club but we had an amazing book to gather around last week as we discussed The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. We all liked the book and felt it was important, even when some people found fault in the characters and plot. For a YA novel, it was sophisticated and a bit dark. We pondered that if it had been any darker and if the ending hadn’t had its happy elements, it might have been too much for a YA audience. As it is, the book teaches good lessons to readers of any age. One member compared it to Sherman Alexie’s Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or the movie Lady Bird (which I’m still dying to see!).

One of the complaints from our group was that there was too much content. There were a lot of characters and some of them were very static and seemed more like a representative of a stereotype or ideology. They could have been cut out to simplify the plot a bit. However, it depends on how you view the book. If the book is about Khalil’s death, most characters are superfluous. However, if it’s a biography of Starr, many of the characters were needed because they affected her views and perspective. Still, some could have been combined or simplified.

Another complaint was that some things were too perfect. Starr’s parents were too perfect, busting King was too perfect, and Williamson was too perfect. The Carters may have had difficult pasts but their current situation as almost ideal. They were also nearly perfect parents and always did and said the right things. (This isn’t one I picked up on while reading.) Busting King and getting everyone to snitch at the same time seemed unreal. We felt that the individuals would have been worried about other King Lords trying to get revenge and it was too good for Starr’s story that her father’s store burning down pushed everyone over the edge. Williamson and the suburbs were idealized and almost too perfect while Garden Heights felt too stereotypical of a ‘ghetto’ neighborhood.

Our amazing group moderator found an NPR interview with Thomas. She talked about the inspiration for this book coming from her experience at a liberal arts college during the Oscar Grant shooting and how she felt like Starr does at Williamson. She spoke about the inspiration for Uncle Carlos as well. While the white officer, 115, is shown in a clearly bad light, Thomas wanted to make sure there was an officer in a positive light. She had a cousin that was a cop and he was the one to give her the talk about how to act around police officers.

She also addressed Chris. Thomas says she’s asked frequently why Starr is dating a white boy. Some of us thought his character was unnecessary in the story but Thomas wanted to show him as an ally. He contrasts well with Hailey. I found him very relatable at the end when he was uncomfortable at the protest even though he wanted to be there and believed in the cause.

This book made for a great discussion and I’m so glad our library supported us reading it! Talking about it helped me appreciate it even more.

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