Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 2010 Book Club Meeting

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

This month, we read HALF BROKE HORSES: A TRUE-LIFE NOVEL by Jeannette Walls. I think we all agreed that the book was just okay -- no one really loved it, but no one really disliked it either. It's probably safe to say that it wasn't one of our favorites. What was good about HALF BROKE HORSES, though, was that it managed to elicit a lot of discussion for our group. And some of that discussion was quite lively! Our opinions of Lily were all over the board with some people absolutely loving (and relating) to her, while others couldn't stand her.

For December, we will be reading LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN by Colum McCann. I have heard some mixed reviews of this book throughout the blogosphere, so I'm actually quite curious to read it myself. I'm also anxious to see what my friends think about it. And since it's our December meeting, we will most likely be doing our annual book swap -- I think we still have to work out the details on that!

Summary: In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.

Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.” A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as a “fiercely original talent” (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal. -- Random House


Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Interesting views of Half Broke Horses...I LOVED The Glass Castle, and was eager to read this too. Not sure now.

I have World Spin on my shelf...and the only thing I've heard is that there are some glaring time line mistakes -- like including something in the narrative that hadn't even been invented yet. Because of that, I'm pushed it to the very back. Will be curious to hear what you think.

Sandy Nawrot said...

The Glass Castle is an amazing book, and yes I did walk away wanting to smack her mother. I had heard Half Broke Horses was not nearly as compelling. LTGWS will be one of my favorite books this year. Try not to get caught up in proving or disproving timeline issues...just go with the beauty of the story. If you can, you should try the audio. It is masterful.

bermudaonion said...

I'm sorry to see that Half Broke Horses wasn't a huge hit. At least it got great conversation going.

Beth F said...

I wasn't able to finish Let the Great World Spin -- after I found 4 or 5 factual errors in the first 4 stories I just lost interest. Others loved it (it's an award winner, after all).

Tracey M. said...

Half Broke Horses sounds really intriguing. I love pioneer/frontier related books, even ones for kids. Too bad that no one really loved it. It may be worth a look but at least I'm prepared it might not be stellar.

stacybuckeye said...

I loved The Glass Castle, but haven't read good things about this second one.