Friday, October 15, 2010

October 2010 Book Club Meeting

Summary: On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself to read and becomes a nurse. But Verna's new life falls to pieces when she is arrested for assisting a black doctor with "illegal surgeries." As the media firestorm rages, Verna reflects on her life while awaiting trial. 

Based on the life of the author's own grandmother and written after almost three hundred interviews with those involved in the real-life scandal, The Blue Orchard is as elegant and moving as it is exact and convincing. It is a dazzling portrayal of the changes America underwent in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Readers will be swept into a time period that in many ways mirrors our own. Verna Krone's story is ultimately a story of the indomitable nature of the human spirit—and a reminder that determination and self-education can defy the deforming pressures that keep women and other disenfranchised groups down. -- Touchstone

This month, we read THE BLUE ORCHARD by Jackson Taylor. If you remember, I was extremely excited about this pick because the novel takes place within a few miles of my house. In addition, I was lucky enough to hear Mr. Taylor speak a few months ago about his novel; and I was intrigued that the book is based on actual events in his grandmother's life. Needless to say, I was very curious to see if the book would live up to my expectations.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book (my review will be coming shortly); and it appeared that most of my book club was very enthusiastic about it. I definitely think THE BLUE ORCHARD was discussion worthy because we found ourselves talking about it for hours (which if you know our group, that's saying something!) Although, I do wonder if the setting didn't make a big difference for us. We certainly had some differing opinions on the character of Verna and her actions, and it was very interesting to hear everyone's thoughts.

We were so anxious to discuss THE BLUE ORCHARD and we obviously had so much to say that we didn't even turn to the discussion questions. I took a peek at them after the meeting and was pleased to see that we touched on almost all of them. I just love it when a book works like that for us!

Next month, we will be reading HALF-BROKE HORSES: A TRUE-LIFE NOVEL by Jeannette Walls. Ironically, it's another historical fiction book based on the author's grandmother. I have been wanting to read this book ever since I heard Ms. Walls' speak at BEA in 2009 -- she was so impressive! I have a feeling that I'm going to enjoy this one.

Summary: "Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls's no-nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town—riding five hundred miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette's memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.

Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds—against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn't fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa or Beryl Markham's West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere. -- Scribner


Anonymous said...

I've been going through a phase of reading books set in and around the Depression but, I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks for the recommendation. This sounds like it may be interesting.

bermudaonion said...

The Blue Orchard sounds like the perfect pick for your book club! I can't wait to see what you think of Half Broke Horses.

Beth F said...

As you know, I've been wanting to read The Blue Orchard. I should make a better effort. I too am interested in what you and your club will think about Half Broke Horses.

Unknown said...

I have been looking forward to Jeanette Walls new book ever since I finished the Glass Castle. Can't wait to read it! Thanks for posting the info on it!