Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 2009 Book Club Meeting

Summary: Set in the Minnesota countryside and North Dakota Badlands of the early 1960s, Peace Like a River is a moving, engrossing, beautifully told story about one family's quest to retrieve its most wayward member. Reuben Land, the novel's asthmatic and self-effacing eleven-year-old narrator, recounts an unforgettable journey riddled with outlaw tales, heartfelt insights, and bona fide miracles. Born without air in his lungs, Reuben is keenly aware of the gift of breath-and, by extension, the gift of life. Time and again, both gifts are bestowed on Reuben by his father, a gentlemanly soul who works as a school janitor and has the power-and faith-to bestow true miracles. But when Davy (Reuben's brother) kills two intruders who break into the Land home with evil intent, and then escapes from prison while his trial is in progress, events seem to have worsened beyond the aid of miracles. Or have they? For, once Reuben and his family set out to find Davy, the reader eventually witnesses rivers, plains, and city lights unseen by mortal eyes.

Equal parts tragedy, romance, adventure yarn, and meditation, Peace Like a River is an inspired story of family love, religious faith, and the lifelong work and trust required of both. Leif Enger's first novel is a work of easy generosity and uncommon wisdom, a book to be shared with friends and loved ones. -- Grove Atlantic

Most of us really enjoyed this month's selection PEACE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger; however, it did take us quite awhile to actually get around to talking about the book. Of course, we found the need to catch up on everything since last month's meeting; and I had to fill in everyone about my trip to New York City and BEA. After an hour and a half, we finally settled down and began discussing PEACE LIKE A RIVER.

I thought this book was just amazing and so well-written, and I think a few people agreed with me. I loved hearing every one's opinions about the religious symbolism in the story -- we all had our own interpretations. It was also very interesting to discuss the various characters and their actions. Overall, I think it was an excellent discussion about the book -- our meeting ended up going almost four hours! One of our members mentioned at the start that she didn't really enjoy this book; however, after we discussed it, she said that she actually liked the book better. I always consider it a successful meeting when one of us gains a better appreciation of the book.

We ended our discussion talking about middle-grade and YA books that might appeal to our children. There were tons of ideas thrown around and even a few websites were mentioned that might give us some summer reading ideas.

For July, we will be reading PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks. I am a pretty big fan of Ms. Brooks' books so I already read this novel when it first came out awhile back. I remember enjoying this book and thinking that it would make a good discussion book. I haven't decided if I'm going to re-read it or if I remember enough of it to participate in our discussion.

Summary: In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book's mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book's journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siele Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city's rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition- era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah's extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra- nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love. -- Penguin


bermudaonion said...

4 hours! That sounds like a great meeting! I do think a good discussion can help me appreciate a book more.

Beth F said...

What a successful meeting. Several of my friends read Peace when it first came out and I've been meaning to get to it. Sounds like I should make a better effort.

I also want to read the Brooks book.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I've had Peace Like a River on my TBR list for YEARS!! I can't seem to get to it.

I read People of the Book last year when it came out in hard back -- loved it! I think G. Brooks is a master at historical fiction. I have the July choice for book group and was going to pick POTB -- but now I think I will pick PLAR just so I can check it off my list!! Thanks for the review.

Unknown said...

I read this book a few months ago. I loved the story and the history but I had a problem with the ending of the book. There is alot of background info on this book. Just fyi. I want to see your reaction to it.