Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Booking Mamas' September Meeting

Summary: The breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

Like Everything I Never Told You and Room, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime. It is a dark, beautifully rendered, and gripping novel about coping, about coming-of-age, and about forgiveness. It is also a beautiful illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, finds healing. -- Simon & Schuster

Last evening, my book club met to discuss THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW by Susan Perabo. I haven't been doing these meeting recaps now that we aren't one of Book Club Girl's book club; however, this meeting was so much fun that I had to share it with you! We were fortunate enough to have the author, Susan Perabo, join us... and it was one of our best meetings in fifteen years.

Prior to the announcement that we would be reading THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW, I had already read and loved the novel -- you can read my review here. While I was under the impression that this book would be a thriller and, therefore, perfect for my Mystery Mondays feature, it was definitely more of a literary fiction book. And while it did have an element of a mystery, it was truly a look at how one family was coping with a tragedy. And a fantastic look at that!

I loved having the opportunity to talk with Susan last night about... pretty much everything. She is an professor at Dickinson College, so she's only a half hour away. I honestly wish we hadn't waited so long to invite her. She was extremely gracious, both when we complemented her and challenged her; and I appreciated her honestly. I had already loved this novel, but I appreciated it even more after hearing her thought processes for the characters and the major events in the book.

One of the highlights of the evening was learning why Susan chose to write the ending the way she did. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that some of the feedback she's received wasn't always positive. Many readers didn't appreciate that the novel wasn't tied up neatly with a big red bow. Her reasons for doing this made total sense to me, but I have a feeling that not everything was as okay with it as I was. What I do think everyone walked away with from the meeting last night was how much thought went into every decision in the novel. So even if they didn't agree, they understood and respected her artistic decisions!

Another interesting part of the evening was learning about her writing process for this novel. THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW wasn't the book that she was "supposed" to write. She actually thought she'd write one about Little League baseball and the families that are involved in the sport. (She's a huge baseball fan!) However, when she tried to write this book, she couldn't get anything down on paper. What she did feel she could write was THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW because these characters kept floating around in her mind. Once she committed to this novel and these characters, it only took her six months to write... and it obviously was meant to be!

Of course, we didn't only talk about the novel -- that wouldn't be typical of my book club. Any time you get a bunch of moms together, you always end up talking about kids and parenting. However, this fit perfectly into the discussion of this novel. The mother character in this novel, Claire, definitely is a controversial one. Ms. Perabo has received some pretty interesting feedback in criticism of her. Ironically enough, I loved her and found her to be the most realistic character in the novel -- or at least the one that resonated with me the most. Everyone in my book club agreed with me! Naturally, the discussion of Claire led to some talk about our own lives; and isn't that one of the reasons we all read and belong to book clubs? There is nothing better than reading a well-written novel, thinking about it long after we finish, and then discussing it with friends!

All in all, I had a fantastic time last night and I highly recommend reading THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW. The hardcover is available now and the paperback is coming out in the spring. There is even a reading guide with fifteen questions.

I also want to suggest that maybe your book club invite an author (in person or via Skype) to a future meeting. It's guaranteed to be a special discussion and just might give your regular monthly meetings a little boost!

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

We've Skyped with authors and had one visit and stayed on topic much better when we did. I wish I could have joined y'all last night!