Category Archives: book club

A Light Touch for Heavy Fare

November 2018 @ China Gourmet Restaurant – missing Karen C (last-minute Mom work), Sue (Florida), & Kitty (still on leave).

We blew into the restaurant in shifts (super-blustery day), some enjoying the available hot tea & others getting icier libations. It took a moment, but the music volume was properly dropped & the glass doors to our room were closed. We simply must have the proper environs, after all. A note about the music – the very unique (read:  strange) mix that has been played in years past has been jettisoned for plain old Christmas carols. No dis to carols, but the quirky audio mix was missed by some.

Chatter:

  • Thanksgiving recaps – who fed whom
  • Thanksgiving drama – short version:  NYC rent makes people crazy; medium version:  sisters don’t always make the best roommates since the older pulls rank; moral of the story:  do not rent out an apartment from underneath your rent-paying roommate (& expect that everyone will be fine with it)
  • anyone reading good books? yes, but nobody had major recommendations
  • calm down, everyone – it’s not until the JANUARY meeting that you must bring your Pot Luck Book Pick title for the next selection
  • trip down Memory Lane for early days of Bootleg, including stories of member (or bossy guest) extreme rudeness and related invitations to leave (consider yourself warned)
  • let’s be clear:  a certain service provider on a certain lane is most certainly not doing anything other than providing top-notch service (in varying industries) and anyone thinking said service provider is providing access to anything related to recreational pharmaceuticals would be well-served to think otherwise immediately
  • our typical brag (or worry)-about-your-kids (or grandkids) segment was mostly replaced by selecting items from the menu; it took a while, but we all ate good stuff

THE BOOK:  Rose picked The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah because it was on her list. Make that… List. It was recommended, it seemed good. The Nightingale

Discussion:

  • was anyone surprised by who survived? Not really… Some read and looked for clues all along, others saw the logical conclusion well in advance of the conclusion.
  • several variations of:  “Oh, man…do I want to read another WWII book? Nope.” and then…”Oh, it’s the French story – this insight could be new/good/super-worthwhile.”
  • VERY simple (almost middle grade) structure and theme development.
    • Wild Sister: Meek Sister (both beautiful! which one is our heroine?!? :: Rebel French : Lame French
    • Clearly Good Nazi (he’s handsome! never mind the oxymoron) / Bad Nazi (he’s ugly, he’s fertile)
  • Yet, the language, word count, and esp. treatment of several topics is clearly for the adult reader.
  • So:  K Hannah did a ton of research and wrote in rather trope-heavy ways in order to launch a hefty theme at the ‘casual, chick-lit, beach-read’ audience
  • reminded us of the Jody Picoult of history (as opposed to bio-med law).
  • Some of us wanted more actual history of the French beyond these two sisters and their small networks. No arguments there (but that’s a different audience)
    • e.g. Rose’s hubby would read that version of the book after he finishes Oppenheim’s biography
  • Point:  just keep publishing highly-readable WWII based books because We Can Never Forget.
  • Distinct Contrast:  at least one of us thought the concentration camp scenes were horrible while at least one other thought the scenes were ‘mild’ (as compared to other books not as compared to normal human standards)
  • Marie shared details about the woman who was the real woman who inspired this book, a Belgian countess named Andree de Jongh. Her amazing work in WWII was only a stop-gap of sorts. After WWII she fulfilled her dream of helping lepers in Africa (as a nurse) until retiring to Brussels when older.
  • Was it ‘okay’ that Nightingale got to see her True Love one more time & just in time before expiring? Pretty much. It completed her character (from abandoned to well-met) and it served the intended reader.
  • Jumping to modern era ‘every 200 pages or so’ was a bit jarring (as opposed to written as smooth interludes)
  • Of course the son turned out to be Perfect (angels singing). We didn’t mind that too much, though.
  • How did Weak Sister become so Stone Cold Solid that she never cracked and told family/son any truth (or had destructive behavior to indicate she had issues)?
  • Some of us were impressed by the sisters’ father’s heroics while others saw it a bit more as a convenient plot-turning ploy. It was both. Related point:  his self-sacrifice put the Nightingale in the camps so he didn’t do her any ‘practical’ favors, but the effort mattered b/c it was meaningful to him, the family, and the ‘do right’ message of the story.

The Dessert Rule – a case study

  1. The previous month’s host always brings dessert to the successive meeting. Historically, the frozen turtle pie from Safeway was the default easiest no-brainer for the person who’d sweated out hosting the month before. Complicating it by creating bananas Foster or similar is the dessert-bringers prerogative.
  2. Since starting November meetings at China Gourmet, the rule has stood. Dessert has been brought in from outside b/c fortune cookies are pretty unfortunate, actually.
  3. Nobody updated newbie Rose on the Dessert Rule. Some of us intentionally (not to trip up Rose but b/c of Thanksgiving Dessert Overload Syndrome).
  4. We all survived.

Happy Outcome 1:  Fans of fortune cookies got to revel in full enjoyment of said cookies. Even though at least 6 of our 8 fortunes were 1,000% lame-o. What has happened in the fortune writing industry?

Happy Outcome 2:  There will be no Dessert Bringer Flurry for the January meeting. It’s Rose’s job. How easy is that?

Next Meeting:  Karen S’s house AND Karen S’s book (because she’s inviting the author; she’s fancy like that).

January 24th-ish (don’t quote me) @ 7-ish (ditto)

Title (probably is):  The Bowl with Gold Seams by Ellen Prentiss Campbell

 

 

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With Friends Like These…

October 2018  Meeting with Rose in her Cozy Home* plus Mary, Marie, Karen S., Liz, Yours Truly, Shelley, & Sue…also, Leo (big, sweet, lug-of-a-dog). Viviane & Karen C were semi-awol; Kitty is on leave.                                          *New location – a delight!

General Chatter:

  • Karen S. is having a GIRL!!!! Well, a girl grandchild. In her gene pool (all eddies) this is rarer than the Hope Diamond x winning MegaMillions x air on Mars x the combined height in millimeters of ALL her boys. March Madness will take on a new meaning in 2019 (due date).
  • Shelley is a cr@ck dealer. Her dealers is onion-creamy and served on toast rounds. And made from 110% legal everything. But still… You. Are. Warned. She’s also getting a (practically) brand new bathroom thanks to an odd leak and a contractor who was not the least impressed or swayed by Ron’s plan to ‘keep everything’ and ‘just tile over stuff.’ Nicely done, Shel.
  • Sue came back for her Not Actually Happening Retirement Not Actually a Party (more like ‘organized, extended Happy Hours). Sadly, since it was left to Former Boss to organize (oh, the strain of sending an email!!!), it never got on the books. Silver lining 1:  we got to see her. Silver lining 2:  she heads back to FL 1 day early.
  • Liz accomplished 3 miles (nice progress, Hip Lady!) of a 4-mile hike at Black Hills Regional Park. Her co-hikers just left her at mile 3. No…they drove through the woods to get her. Actually, it was 2 miles in/out on a drivable path. So, EZ pick up.
  • Rose is DONE buying Christmas gifts – she’s buying the family a trip, instead. Parameters & options well-sifted, we heartily endorsed Vegas, baby!
  • Mary’s working too much. This is not news – not even close. However, her reasons (colleague needs) are totally legit. We’re just glad she had time to join us for a while.
  • Marie’s Margaret has a job in NYC publishing. The 2 principles (it’s a new company) have legit CVs, but the work flow is odd. Take lunch, Margaret!
  • My Katelyn is back home and up to her eyeballs as Athletic Trainer at University of Maryland – Cross Country, Track & Field. She’s insulated from the May tragedy. We’re happy she’s home (socking away all that rent & grocery money!).

THE BOOK:  Sue picked Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russonobodys fool

  1. She’d gotten Everybody’s Fool a while back (at a Russo event) and needed to read our pick since it precedes the book that’d been on her shelf for so long.
  2. She liked Empire Falls (an earlier Bootleg read, btw) and other Russo titles.

Our Comments:

  • Most everyone loved it.
  • It’s real, it’s familiar. It’s ‘all boy’ and ‘men are like that.’ It’s funny. It’s how ‘they’ talk to each other.
  • Small town life is so insular & over-lapping. This is well-depicted.
  • Some favorite characters include Wirf (his napkin notes), the diner staff (esp. ‘the one black man in town’), Beryl Peoples (a voice of reason…except when not hearing voices), and Sully (so many who hate him also love him).
  • Karen S. did find (and others agreed) that there were many scenes of lengthy description. A lot of telling (not enough showing/doing) for long spurts.
  • Katie was the lone dissenter. Not unfamiliar people. But not funny. Writing skill quite good overall. BIG ISSUE:  If you’re going to write about what’s hard, then why must you squash every avenue to (or even small glimmer of) hope? Most all treatment of Rub and young girl – unacceptable. And I’ll stop here.
    • Post meeting recollection: one funny part is the snow blower thievery.

 

NEXT MEETING:  China Gourmet @ 7 p.m. date TBA

Rose’s Book Pick:  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

 

A Long, Strange Trip

September 2018 at Sue’s Shangri-La with Rose, Shelley, and Marie
elsewhere: Liz (b’day), Katie (beach work), Mary (wedding), Karen S. (work work)
sabbatical:  Kitty                         attendance/activity tba: 
Karen C. 

Thanks, Guest Blogger, Shelley!

Rose, Marie and I hunkered down for the long road trip.
Rose was the co-pilot and navigator.  Looking at the directions, “Wait, this is way past Fredrick. Sue said she lives in Fredrick.”

Sue looked fit and fab with her Florida tan and her pickle ball physique!

Lots of appetizers(Sue’s homemade salsa, yum!), Sue made a great pasta dish and Marie filled in as salad queen.

Margaret got a writing job! She’s been working in a restaurant and really enjoyed it but is happy to have a real job (as they say in the biz).

Kitchen Confidential

Shelley’s Pick:  Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Rose and I read the book, Marie read half of the book and then a patient wanted it. Sue listened on tape.

We all liked the book and writing style.
I gave some background on Anthony Bourdain and we all decided the guy didn’t need much sleep.

Those who hadn’t read the afterword were glad to hear that the author writes that many of the practices in the book no longer happen these days.

I related some restaurant stories from my experiences and Ron’s.

An eerie discussion about ghosts seemed apropos in the very dark back yard.

Sue’s deck was lovely with candles,  Tiki torches and a beautiful sunset view through the trees.
Alas, no hot tubing but a very fun evening.

Next Book:  Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo

Pick a Side…thoughtfully

August 2018 Shelley’s House with Marie, Mary, Karen C,. Viviane, Rose & Yours Truly
Liz–35th anniversary in Canada, Kitty & Karen S. work, Sue in FL

CHATTER

  • Shelley’s new kitchen is gorgeous (and so much more space with the just-right updates). New DR is cool-cozy, too! Made the always-delish food even better & it’s like we were eating in a fancy foodie magazine. Well, even better…since Shelley updated (renovated?) Martha’s cold soup recipe, too. Just don’t say the word ‘corn’ to Shelley this month.
  • Speaking of food… the raspberries added to beverages were beyond perfect (thx, Marie) and the blueberry buckle/crumble (ack! which one is it, Karen?) was over-the-top yummy
  • Karen C & family are recent drag racing converts. The real deal (not some over-priced, wimpy county fair version, either).
  • Mary’s son has moved/upgraded his NYC apartment. However, his kitchen is the 10-million percent opposite of Shelley’s. Otherwise, actual living space & a new 3rd roomie make it all work great.
  • Speaking of NYC & kids, 2 of Viviane’s daughters are surviving each other as roommates (the padlocked closet may or may not help). Also, Airbnb-ing their place when out of town lessens the money issues. Silly-but-smart girls.
  • Katie’s Katelyn has a new job:  head athletic trainer for track & field at U of Md. Effective Sept. 17 (sorry, Yale…she’s gotta go)
  • Marie moved 3,000 pounds of rock as a major step in her overall landscaping design (where ‘design’ means undo doggie damage and get something, anything green to grow…this is a common design theme for many of us)
  • Rose has her hands full. Her dad recently passed and helping her mom get oriented (and hopefully) moved is all quite a challenge. It was nice to hear about her childhood home and community, though.

Segue – Somebody said the word ‘America’ for some reason and Shelley quickly called ‘segue to the book!’

THE BOOK:  The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Karen C. picked it because she’d read it long ago and liked it (and she Quiet Americanpicks classics/reading list titles).

  • She did not like it as much as she recalls liking it ‘back then,’ but isn’t quite sure why. This is not an uncommon thing with re-reading after many years.
  • Some of us liked/didn’t mind Fowler, others did not like him much at all. The ones who were more pro-Fowler did not have distinct reasons other than he introduced keen observations on the situations at hand. The anti-Fowler set disliked how it was a point of pride for him to have no set values/standards; he was an overly-droll, snobby coward with a major opium problem.
  •  All were taken by Greene’s awareness of just how complicated Vietnam already was in 1955.
  • Greene’s great economy with words impressed us. So much conveyed in such crisp, tidy phrasing.
  • Pyle was considered the true bad guy by many. Others saw him as the ‘know enough to be very dangerous’ bumbling fool.
  • We considered Phuong to be quite resilient and liked her subtle autonomy (well, except from her older sister). Phuong seemed to represent the most logical (while still not ideal) way to manage horrible circumstances. She was an interesting combo of determination, subservience, and suspected subversive activity. A survivor who revealed little of her true self.
  • The French lived up to all the bad stereotypes about them. The inspector was, we admitted, quite clever & insightful.
  • Some of us were very surprised by the ending and Fowler’s role. Others not so much. Either way, it was quite cynical of Greene (even disturbingly so) that Fowler finally took a stand and ended up more miserable than ever (but it was b/c he finally had a conscience, perhaps).

NEXT BOOK:  Shelley’s pick, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

NEXT MEETING:  Road trip! Sue’s house. Date tbd.

 

Grow Where You’re Planted

Bootleg July 2018:  Guest Post by Liz and Mary

July: hosted by Karen Castle and her fabulous screened porch (new furniture!)

 We only had 5 attend the meeting (Liz, Mary, Marie and Shelley) and only 3 had finished the book, so the discussion was limited. MIA:  Kitty, Karen S (tennis), Sue (Alaska), Viviane (DC dinner), Katie (honoring her Dad), Rose (caring for her Dad).

Chit chat: We toasted to Robert’s save return from deployment. He and his girlfriend are now vacationing in Germany. Catherine has a new job with Gubhub, Tyler and his fiancé have initiated wedding plans with an eye on a 2019 date – location will be Philadelphia.  Liz, in an effort to provide info on how to avoid issues in planning a wedding provided the woeful details of the planning process for Matthew’s wedding, set for August 31, 2019 in Newport.  Key to success is getting the list right before signing a contract on a location! (duh).  Karen’s charming children all made appearances as well as boyfriend to Grace, Nick.  He apparently hasn’t started his summer reading for his senior year – he is leaning toward Catch-22 and so the group, of course, offered their opinion.  Grace will read A Prayer for Owen Meany –and Karen will read it (again) as well. We reviewed the reading list for seniors at Sherwood and were pleasantly surprised by the variety (at least 10 were bootleg books!) but then disappointed with the soul killing assignment.

Jewelweed – Mary selected this book b/c she wanted to read something similar to The jewelweed.PNGBartender’s Tale – that focused on small town, slower pace of life and had interesting characters.

Mary and Liz LOVED the book – every aspect, the writing, the story, the characters.  Favorite characters were August (Mary) and Wally (Liz).  It was noted that it was a very sensory book and we struggled to understand the mystical elements -what was the author attempting? – (this is where additional input from bootleggers would have been helpful). Both Karen and Liz were reminded of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row with regard to the uniqueness of the characters.

Info on the author’s history was shared – a 30 year lapse in writing due to a motorcycle accident that left Mr. Rhodes paralyzed.  Both Liz and Mary are reading the prequel to Jewelweed, Driftless.  Liz had finished and commented that Jewelweed was the better offering of the two.

 Author History from Mary’s research:

Shelley will host in August.  Karen has chosen The Quiet American by Graham Greene.

 

Classic, but…

Bootleg June 2018:  Guest Post by Liz

We had six tonight to discuss Invisible Man, Liz’s pick. Powerful, challenging on different levels, stimulating conversation and questions. We toasted Shelley for her recent birthday (Sunday), saw photos of Kitty and Barry’s new home in Annapolis, welcomed Rose to book club with interest in her family/kids, and were happy to be together. Missed having Katie, Marie, Sue, Viviane, Karen S. invisible man

Liz selected the book because she has wanted to read a “classic” that addressed civil rights in the US as this is still, unfortunately, a problem in the US and doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. 

Most didn’t care for it, as it was verbose and confusing – too long for an allegory story.  Ground breaking for its time and likely popular in haughty literary circles.

 

Talk Now (avoid regrets)

May 2018 @ Liz’s House (missing Mary, Karen C, Sue, Kitty…did I miss anyone?)

NEW MEMBER:  Welcome, Rose S.!

GENERAL CHATTER – So… I’ve been putting off writing this entry due to general busy-ness. And now I’m going to plead the same & pretty much skip this part. Suffice it to say, the food (apps, gazpacho & TWO sides, dessert) were yummy and we’re all doing pretty well. Here are some major announcements:

  • Liz’s Son #1 is engaged!
    • Surprise, surprise: she won’t kowtow Google’s mom-of-groom To Do list
  • Viv & Family US citizenship status continues to progress!
  • If there was something else major, I missed it. Apologies!

THE BOOK:  Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey Ways to Disappear

Viviane picked this book mostly because she likes to select non-American books that aren’t too lengthy and have a rather artistic or at least rather literary bent. This one filled the bill perfectly.

Most of us read it or were pages away from finishing. And we said (paraphrasing):

  • the book’s light, deft, breezy prose delivered increasingly diabolical plot twists and character reveals; not a fun read (for plot, esp.)
  • the translation seemed quite adept and nuanced (we also trusted it due to the author’s other profession)
  • Viviane opined that the setting is an exaggeration – it’s not all mafia thugs and grit
  • did the author/mother ALWAYS write so oddly (and get rescued by her one Super Editor)? or did the latest manuscript reflect her degrading mental status? We leaned toward the former (as in, she was never well…at least since her daughter was conceived)
  • we didn’t seem to really care about the romance (son/brother & translator); it was integral to some plot/character points & not poorly written…but somehow meh
  • one of the most vivid moments/reveals is when the editor explains how and why he finally caved to extortion to save his loved one – a microcosm for why the status quo remains for so many (at least in this book’s geographical reach)
  • interesting contrast to how the translator tries to disappear from her US-based life and doesn’t succeed very well (her fiancé tracks her down pretty easily; she’s often pushed aside as the interloper between siblings or to keep her invisible to the darker forces at hand)
  • wanted to know more about the ‘rich relatives’ who supply some of the author’s funding… some sort of witches around a kettle…er, pile of money???
  • some debate on how author/mom got into such bad debt… was it all due to writer’s block? remorse over hard truths left unrevealed and festering so many years? or just plain desperation/addiction? no clear resolution, but probably all 3
  • some other debate  if the ending equates to the author’s permanent demise or if there’s room for a sequel; we were leaning to the latter

 

NEXT MEETING:  June 28th at Mary’s

Liz’s pick:  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Family Matters

April 2018 Meeting @ Viviane’s  (missing Kitty, Karen C)

Chit Chat

  • Viviane’s new furniture (her family is 110% wrong about the chairs) & the window (!) when it’s still light outside; also a recap of the wall-tearing-down she did to elevate the space (upon move in); PLUS:  dish chargers & platters & entrée w/rice…basically, her taste is IMPECCABLE
  • Liz has her A Game launched for flat shoes (silver sequined sneakers to start); no heels ’til next year (a lemons to lemonade scenario)
  • Viv’s NYC girls are surviving each other (precious: ‘but if I pay all the rent at once I only have $200 left’ …’go out less, walk more’ = perfect)
  • Margaret’s MFA reading approaches…good thoughts to her! (and submit to Poet Lore, girl!); enjoy the event, Mom Marie
  • David’s Yard Sale – he sells all the stuff his parents gave him (yes, he truly has a knack for business)
  • Mary & Kevin go to the Caps game – sure, the Caps won (a wow & esp. for her first game); more important:  they bagged Sunday work to have FUN
  • Sue hoping to host us in Florida in September. Sorry, not a likely scenario…
  • Our kids travel so much more than some of us do (e.g. Katelyn & Michael:  Europe; David, Matt:  everywhere)
  • Karen S arrived quite long after her salad (yum!), but once starvation was quelled she relayed a delightful Grandson’s 1st B’day Recap. And explained with such ‘unfettered joy’ about Christopher’s plans to take her camping [insert side eye here].

So Much More Than Chit Chat

  • Shelley’s family news added an entirely new dimension to ‘family’
  • genetics and generational tracking of features – a cool & fun hobby
  • Ancestry DNA – caveat emptor… as in, be ready for what you asked for

THE BOOK:  Chemistry – a novel by Weike Wang Chemistry

Marie picked it because

  1. It was short and easy to manage in a foreshortened picking period.
  2. She likes reading books of young women resolving family ties issues.
  3. The format was appealing.
  4. Marie likes reading debut novels…perhaps because of the not-so-thinly veiled autobiographical elements

Most of us read most-to-all of it.

  • overall, a thumbs up – mostly for the voice & text format or point of view
  • many did not like the main character – so much whining & not nice to boyfriend
  • but… she was bucking family mores & scared, depressed about lack of direction when science career bottoms out, and short on coping skills
  • the unwinding of the science career scenarios were very well written!
  • why did boyfriend stay with her? he did fall in love when things were steadier and won’t abandon her now; any attention is better than none; it’s nice to be needed
  • Tyler dates a woman who is Chinese…does she think Shelley & Ron are laughingly doting? [yes]
  • post-meeting question 1:  did any of us realize this is  marketed as a Young Adult (maybe New Adult) novel? does that even matter? [no]
  • post-meeting question 2:  is the title just ‘Chemistry’ [probably] and did the cover designer or editor add ‘a novel by’ in front of her name so the SEO wouldn’t think it was a text book? [probably] Related note:  like it better as part of the title, fwiw

 

Next Book – Viviane’s Pick:  Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

Meeting at Shelley’s, date tba

OTHER Next Meeting tba:  Viv’s hubbie & a daughter get citizenship soon; Viv awaits her letter for her (oh-so-solemn) swearing-in date. LAS GRINGAS WANT TO ATTEND!!!usa-1439858_1920

The Baby Will Declare

March 2018 @ Marie’s (technically met in April)
– Missing Sue and Shelley, but full house otherwise…yay! Since they were traveling on the meeting date, we are due some fine bookmarks (Rule 67-#B2.34x).

Chatter

  • speaking of house… Kitty’s sold! So fast – including a quick-change to Family 2. Will Barry now stop ‘haunting’ the yard & stay put in their cute (tiny) condo?
  • To better focus on PT and ‘life,’ Liz is transitioning out of The Writers Center exec. position:  ‘happy to have done it & happy to be done’
  • Karen C. juggling three jobs, mastering all (despite one boss’s quirky managerial style), and waiting to see which one comes up roses (or has fewest thorns)
  • Marie prepping to launch Bootleg’s Deployment Care Package – details tba; Margaret is single & getting bad naming ‘advice’ from her MFA program; Daniel cruising along fine
  • Karen S. relatively low on News, but just one photo of the Adorable Grand Boy (and Proud Papa on the side) says it all
  • Viviane, Mary, and Katie – are we sublimely quiet or a bit boring???
  • Maisie – very well behaved, especially when faced with the Oh, Dread Tin Trays & Pie Pans (or allowed to gnaw on treat-packed things and yummy bones). Good Dog.

The Book:  Juniper – The Girl Who Was Born too Soon by Kelley & Thomas French Juniper K&T French

Katie picked it because:

  1. She heard an interview with one of the neonatologists and the medical aspects of such a young life (22 weeks at birth!) were fascinating.
  2. Read the book and was engrossed in the medicine and caregiving PLUS wanted to see if the parents (authors) told the story ‘straight’ or with any agenda.
  3. The phrase, “The baby will declare; follow the baby,” was so appealing to me and rather brilliantly conveyed.
  4. Bonus points to Harry Potter’s role…

Discussion

  • most everyone got very involved with how much they did not like the Frenches, esp. before they became parents – questionable morals, narcissism; one of us did not read past ~30 pages since they were so icky
  • medical condition and symptoms were trying to read – some kept at it ONLY since they knew Katie picks ‘Disney endings’
  • everyone maintained varying levels of suspicion about the French’s motives for writing the book but agreed they did an excellent job conveying the day-to-day highs and lows as well as the sweeping changes and medical brilliance involved
  • luck, insight, the right expert reading Juniper at the right time, and miracles were all integral to the story and Juniper’s survival
  • was Juniper in ‘too much’ pain? was it ‘too hard?’ maybe. or apparently not since she ‘had many chances to die’ and seemingly declared that she would not
  • so many resources for one small life, is that a dilemma? all life is priceless AND so much expertise is gained for so many other patients when this kind of rare (but increasingly do-able) success occurs; also, no guarantee that a ‘normal’ birth will yield an ‘affordable’ or ‘low risk’ kid
  • many of us wanted more Epilogue – is Juniper really thriving? without any significant learning or growth issues?
    • See for yourself:  she stars in Hermione Granger and the Midwestern Muggle Chickens (a very sophisticated family home movie).
    • Young Juniper (in the starring role) has trouble saying ‘Rs’ and a few other blends and has some ‘goofy little kid’ about her, but her memory, physicality, and spell casting seem on par.

Next Book:  Marie’s pick – Chemistry by Weike Wang

Next Meeting:  at Viviane’s house, April date tbd

 

Life Gets in the Way of Life

February 2018 Bootleg @ Katie’s House with Viviane, Shelley, Marie, Liz, Mary, & Karen S
– we missed the others (such movers & shakers they be)

So. We had our normal chatty preliminaries. But the tinier details were swept away on a current of Big Things Happening in Real Time. LIFE was interrupting life.

To recap:

  • We started with an upbeat interruption of Grand Celebratory proportions.  Mary reported on her mom’s 100th Birthday Party. She shared the oh-so-clever postcard invitations, goodie bag graphics, pink kitty party ears, and happy anecdotes from the day. Such a great gathering of so many lives – all for one wonderful lady.
  • Then there were the phone calls and texts. Most of us got at least one; this is normal. Yet one family was having a bigger case of Life. Real-time angst over roommates, job, and general I’m-still-new-at-adulting issues that demanded multiple cycles of Mom Input (or maybe just listening) to manage. Not a problem for us, but it did impact conversational continuity for the digitally attached mom. Life on the daily sometimes gets messy. #momstotherescue
  • Marie reported that Robert is deployed ‘somewhere remote,’ where apparently there’s no good coffee (among other things). Understandably, she’s finding his deployment (which some may say is to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) weighs on her mind as she goes about each day. To alleviate & support, she’s asked us to bring care package items for Robert & his mates to the next Bootleg meeting. Details TBA.
  • Then the sad news of a Clearbook Lane neighbor’s impending passing was shared (after a 2-year but not-announced illness). Several Bootleggers even left early to sit at the hospital with the husband that night. It was one of the ill neighbor’s last, so that kind community effort was well-timed, for sure. Sometimes the end of life has its own slow and then sudden schedule.
  • Except when somebody pre-empts that schedule. Another Bootlegger received a text from her young-adult child about a recent roommate’s suicide of the night/day before.  It was a shock to all (of the person’s loved ones, mainly. But also to us). And a hard moment for our Bootleg mom to not be able to comfort her own in situ (due to distance). Thankfully, there were others there who could.
    • This incident reminded others of suicide tragedies, too.

So. The book pick was beyond apropos since life truly interrupts life.

Karen S. picked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford because…

It was on her To Be Read pile & coincidentally (well, maybe the fact it’s not a 50-pound tome helped) she grabbed it on her way out for a business trip to…Seattle, the book’s primary setting.

Before the Meeting: Katie was struggling to read the distinctly wrought medical scenes, so she asked Marie if cancer remained a theme throughout the book. Marie replied, ‘No, don’t worry. And it gets much better once they’re in the internment camp.’

Um… Try finding that last sentence uttered or printed anywhere else in the Universe.

Marie meant there’s less emphasis on cancer, which is true. Yet if you’re sensitive to the topic don’t read this book now (its lingers through the final pages).

General CommentsHotel Bitter & Sweet

  • good writing! we liked it!
  • so rich with the mélange of cultures, blues/jazz, school yard bully scenarios played out against (and because of) WWII atrocities, American heart vs citizenship vs loyalties, small-minded business moves vs long-term business goals, romance vs traditional marriage, scholarshipping vs school of hard knocks
  • alternating timelines (’42 and ’86) worked quite well in terms of flow and engagement; hard to see first-hand the older Henry’s (& Keiko’s) lost chances as they play out in his teen years
  • interment camp realities seemed well-described; regarding earlier ‘it gets much better’ there statement:  it seems that at least this one in Idaho (seemingly) managed to allow families to re-create lives (school, outings, Girl Scouts) in some fashion…
  • effectively portrayed such HUGE themes (parenting, political moves, large swaths of history, citizenship both heartfelt and legal, etc.) through the small actions of two teens and their small cohort >>> well done! also, this could be a middle school & up reader, for sure
  • we are so accustomed to thinking of San Francisco when China Town is mentioned, that we all kept having to recalibrate to being in Seattle
  • so much time passed for Henry without Keiko (and vice versa), yet they both lived full lives with much to be proud and happy about…so lovely that they found each other again…life circled back for them – how rare and delightful
  • we all liked the new discoveries Henry’s son was making thanks in part to his fiancé’s impetus (she’s a keeper!); finally, Henry figures out something about transitioning roles/seasons as a parent…Sheldon and Keiko’s parents planted seeds
  • Sheldon! the whole night club scene was awesome; his final message to ‘fix it’ was nicely done on all levels
  • the scene where the news and joyous noise of the war ending sweeps over the hills and consumes everyone as it goes is written gorgeously; Sheldon’s musical homage to the empty corridors is fitting, too
  • the preserved history of the Panama Hotel itself and its basement contents is very cool, esp. since it seems to be true (the Tea Room, too)
  • we agreed it really was Keiko at the Panama Hotel witnessing Henry’s proposal (not just a writerly illusion/allusion): the entire novel’s angst (at least the relationship part) was encapsulated there
  • So, did Henry’s and Keiko’s lives get in the way of their life? Yes. And no. For example, Henry would not have this son if things had gone another way.

Next Meeting:  Marie’s House, most likely the last Monday or Tuesday of March

Next Book, Katie’s pick:
Juniper:  The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley & Thomas French

Sneak Preview:  Karen S already announced her next pick (yes, that’s approx. 10 months ahead of time). Title not recalled (sorry). She also will have the author as a guest to the meeting. It’s a thing she (Karen S) does.