The perils of book club

We now have three quail families who visit our backyard. This is one family. I never get tired of watching them.

I ordered the June selection for book club from Amazon. I’m facing a 500-page book that I have no desire to read. Is it rude to select a book that long? As a new member of our neighborhood’s book club, I realize why I never joined one before. Mostly I was too busy to have to read a book by a certain date. Also, I enjoy reading what I want to read. I have no qualms about putting down a book I don’t like and not finishing it.

I’ve read three books so far for book club. One I despised, one I disliked and then there was Hemingway’s “Old man and the Sea” which was a joy to read.

The latest book is called “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A Novel.” Has anyone read it? Can you tell me something encouraging like you loved it?

I’m not a quitter, but I’m considering that as an option.

Or, I could be a no show for June. We are going to a wedding out of state on several of the dates being considered for the next meeting.

The last book was “Less,” a Pulitzer Prize winning book about a gay man whose love was marrying another man. Arthur Less was an author who decided to accept all sorts of engagements around the world to escape the upcoming wedding.

There were good parts to the book, but I found myself not caring about Arthur Less. He was too self-deprecating and insecure. That made the book drag for me. But there was depth and humor to the story, too.

The conversation at book club got heated between people who “didn’t want the gay agenda shoved down their throats” and those who said “I saw it as a story that the main character just happened to be gay.” It went downhill from there to race and religion — which had nothing to do with the book. I left early to go on a walk with my husband. It went on for more than an hour after I left. I was relieved to get out!

This bird was hanging outside the window while I was writing.
Of course the birds have nothing to do with today’s blog post. I thought you’d enjoy bird watching with me.

What are your thoughts about book clubs? What do you enjoy about them? What do you dislike? Can you recommend any books for book club?

I almost quit reading

Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding bookcover

I’ve been struggling reading the book “Delta Wedding.” I almost put it down for good. But then I decided to give it one more try the day I skipped lap swimming. I was going to start my book club assigned book “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer.

I finally got caught up into the story about plantation life in the Mississippi Delta in the 1920s. I’ve never read Eudora Welty before. My son recommended the book and said it was his favorite assigned book in college.

It’s literary fiction which is code to mean there’s no plot. Or, as Wikipedia says “Literary Fiction is character-driven rather than plot-driven and examines the human condition.”

The writing is detailed and beautiful. It accurately depicts life on a plantation. I finally figured out who all the characters are which was confusing at first. There are three generations in the Fairchild family. Some of the characters in different generations have the same first names. There are eight children in the family and one of the daughters is getting married. Hence the title, “Delta Wedding.”

Here’s another bit from Wikipedia:

Delta Wedding is a 1946 Southern fiction novel by Eudora Welty. Set in 1923, the novel tells of the experiences of the Fairchild family in a domestic drama-filled week leading up to Dabney Fairchild’s wedding to the family overseer, Troy Flavin, during an otherwise unexceptional year in the Mississippi Delta.

A New York Times Review from 1946:

The interplay of family life, with a dozen different people saying and doing a dozen different things all at the same time, is wonderfully handled by Miss Welty so that no detail is lost, every detail had its place in the pattern of the whole. The transitions are so smoothly made that you seem to be all over the place at once, knowing the living members of three generations and all the skeletons and ghosts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Wedding

What books have you struggled with that you ended up loving? Why would you put a book down for good?

Second meeting of book club

Original cover of "The Old Man and the Sea."
The original cover of “The Old Man and the Sea.”

I joined our neighborhood book club. After my first meeting and being forced to read a book I couldn’t stand — I was assigned “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway.

I didn’t enjoy reading “The Old Man and the Sea” in high school at all. The days in the boat fighting to get the big fish dragged. I was considering dropping out of book club.

Surprisingly, decades later, I really enjoyed the book. I guess I have a better perspective with age. Maybe I identify with the old man.

I also learned a lot from the neighbor who chose the book and led the discussion. She was thoroughly prepared. She had pages of typed notes, went through Hemingway’s life and told us the book won the Pulitzer and Novel prizes, and that 5 million copies sold within 48 hours in 1951.

I asked my son’s girlfriend her interpretation of the symbolism of “The Old Man and the Sea.” She’s a Lit major and brilliant.

I’ve read about Christian allegories in the book such as two days and nights in the boat and returning home on the third day. This represents the resurrection of Christ. Other Christian metaphors were Santiago’s bloody hands to the stigmata and him carrying the mast, like Christ carried the cross. In the end, Santiago lies down and falls asleep with his arms out to and his knees off to the side.

This is what my son’s girlfriend sent me when I asked her about the metaphors:

Ernest Hemingway quote
Quote from Good Reads.

I shared the quote with the club and they had a good laugh and then went on to discuss more metaphors.

What are your thoughts on “The Old Man and the Sea?” Was is required reading in school? Did you enjoy it? Do you believe Hemingway DID use metaphors or not?

An attitude of gratitude

Olive cat
Olive giving me that look before she jumps in my lap.

After my free one-week trial, I decided to join the local YMCA. I made my reservations for a lane for three days this week and I felt obligated to go. It’s a quick drive from home, so even if I’m not feeling it, at least I get there and jump in.

I am sleeping soundly thanks to swimming — and being off prednisone. The combination of the two is amazing.

I’m feeling grateful for many things today:

Warm weather and no wind.

Sitting in the back yard reading my book club selection “The Old Man and the Sea.”

My cat who is strangely affectionate this week.

My husband for playing daily ping pong with me. Yesterday I won three zip.

Being off prednisone and the tinnitus is gone. I’m no longer crawling out of my skin from the medication.

For new friends and I’m grateful for the old ones who have reconnected.

Cooking on our gas range. We got rid of the electric stove top.

Every day I’m amazed by the beauty of nature around me.

Im grateful for my new readers and bloggers who are friends and make up a supportive community.

What are you grateful for today?

First book club

Arctic Fury bookcover
Cover from my first book I had to read for book club.

Yesterday I attended the first book club of my life. We had one month to read “The Arctic Fury” by Greer MacAllister.

Before I rant about the book, I’ll tell you about the book club. One of our neighbors hosted it in her courtyard. Eight women showed up, three I knew. We are mostly about the same age, all married, and transplants to Arizona — except for one beautiful woman from Moscow who was at least 10 to 15 years younger. One woman grew up in Guyana of Jim Jones fame. She moved to Arizona after living for years in New Jersey. Others were from Oregon, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Boston.

One woman, who took on the role of group leader, asked us for our opinion of the book. Then she asked us more detailed questions like if we felt the protagonist was a failure, what we thought of her leadership, etc. It was an interesting conversation and nice to get out and meet people.

Now about the book itself.

I didn’t like it in the beginning. It was slow and there were 13 women. I found it hard to keep track of characters. Also, they weren’t that well developed. The book jumped between the Arctic rescue and the protagonist’s murder trial in 1850s in Boston for the death of one of the women. Going back and forth wouldn’t have been a problem except it went from the trial to a narrative by a different woman each chapter. It was confusing and I couldn’t remember who was who.

The last third of the book, I was finally into it. It was a quicker pace. I don’t think I would have read the entire book without bookclub.

This was supposed to be historical fiction from the 1850s — based on a true story. It was startling to read about transgenders, lesbians, race and all the buzz words from today. The author even threw in something about chlamydia. That stopped me and I googled it and read it was first discovered in the 1960s. Not quite the right time frame for the 1850s. It was meant to be an empowering woman’s story, but I found all the issues the author mixed in didn’t add to the story, but detracted from it.

What books have you read for book club? Do you have any suggestions for me when it’s my turn to select the book?

My First Book Club

The Arctic Fury

Our neighborhood is opening up and getting back to normal. I was invited to join the book club by a neighbor.

Most of the women have been members for the length or our neighborhoods existence, which is 15 years. A couple of us are new and moved in during the shutdown.

The book I’m supposed to read is called “The Arctic Fury” by Greer MacAllister.

The copy on the back of the book says:

“Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband, Lord Franklin, and his lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge.”

The book is based on a true story of Lady Jane Franklin’s tireless attempts to find her husband’s lost expedition.

Now here’s the problem. I have never been to book club before. I don’t know what to expect. I’m not getting into the book. I’m going to push through, but it’s not my cup of tea.

At least I know how to spell the word “Arctic.” Maybe it’s the title I don’t like, because when my son was in second grade he had to name the continents on a map. He didn’t get 100%. I talked to the teacher and wanted to know why she marked him wrong for “Artic.” Yes, I had him practice spelling the word wrong — and I argued with the teacher.

What do you do at book club exactly anyway?

Are you the member of a book club? How is it set up? Who selects the books? What do you do when you don’t like them?

A wonderful day in the neighborhood

Crystal blue sky.

Things are opening up in our neighborhood. Finally. I got a call last night from a neighbor who said the social clubs are reopening and would I be interested in joining coffee club or wine club.

I’ve already said yes to book club. Our first meeting is in March and we have been assigned a book called “The Arctic Fury” by Greer MacAllister. Has anyone read it? What did you think? I haven’t heard of the book or the author. It’s historical fiction which I enjoy.

As for the other two clubs, I’ve decided to jump in and give them a try. Wine club is for couples, and since my husband sits in his office all day, I thought it might be good to get him out of the house, too. But, after accepting the invitations, I found out that wine club has NOT reopened. But I could be chairperson and open it if I wanted. Nope.

It was a bright sunny, clear day for our morning walk. And not too cold. It’s been in the low 40s and windy lately which is too cold for my blood. But today was spectacular. Just the right temperature. There’s a couple who lives around the corner and they have a white lab and a black lab. The dogs can’t wait to say hi to us. The owners are friendly too. Another neighbor stopped to chat. Normally, we walk and wave without talking.

People seem happier lately and eager to socialize. It’s kind of hard to get back in the groove of social interaction, but I’ve decided to put myself out there and see if I like the clubs or not.

Also, it’s warm enough for me to sit my zero gravity recliner with my new book and read!

I think it’s the webinar about what makes you happy that’s pushing me out of the house. If you missed it, I wrote about it HERE.

Have you noticed an improvement in people’s attitudes lately? What changes have you seen around your neighborhood?