Because It’s Good for You

June 2017 Meeting @ Mary’s House
(small-but-mighty:  Shelley, Liz, Karen C., Mary, Yours Truly)


  • The Parkwood Res. Assoc. approves a Little Free Library (the $$$, too; nice one, Liz)
  • stealing vs. taking without permission vs. absconding (Liz wants Mary’s glider)
  • Grace C’s vocal chord spasm>steroids (Dr. Mom Team diagnosis+cure; drop the stethoscope)
  • dog watching:  running/borrowing Maisie, Matt’s in Greece (how long until Liz & Tim also own a dog?)
  • good vs. legitimate reasons for missing book club – yes, there’s a difference
  • 4th graders free in national parks – who scams the system? do park rangers care? if you can do it, it’s so worth it! Ask Karen C. for tips
  • appreciating Mary’s and Kevin’s big backyard & access way
  • small town moment:  customer phone locked in at Sunflower’s; Ron just gives store key (Shelley was NOT leaving the meeting for such nonsense)
  • crazy names:  Precious, the hyphenated Queen sisters, etc. & names that simply cannot make a comeback (Mabel, anyone?)
  • Karen C – a deluge of pink slips at over-reaching office; may the odds be in her favor, eventually (who wants to give up working at/from home?)
  • email vs. verbal communication:  who can/will read vs. who is lazy or perhaps avoiding the efficiency/specificity of writing it all down & responding
  • swim team socials: keep it simple (or suffer). Do NOT ask Karen C. for tips.
  • Writing a book:  Volunteer Snafus. Chapter 1:  the craft closet
  • NYC – Michael Sing-Kirchner and his rental broker
  • Firefly – no sleeping plan, but at least a sleeping bag? And change of clothes?
  • Praise for Mary’s carrot salad! (started by Liz-who-hates-veggies)
  • Kirstie is staying in Canada with a Big New Promotion: Director. Not bad, eh?
  • Did some people miss book club b/c the book ‘scared’ them? (one person’s concern)

THE BOOK:  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

brave new world huxleyLiz picked the book because:

  1. Return to original goal of this club:  read what you’d not otherwise pick for just yourself (classics/supposed to, different genre, etc.)
  2. Has her mom’s copy of the book from her old book shop jaunts with old boyfriend
  3. It’s on David’s List (son); he read it and did not seem to hate it
  • very modern tone, pace and voice – how did Huxley do that from 1931?
  • ‘1984’ usurped this title from most of our HS reading lists – a shame, really
  • for the record:  pneumatic means plump-ish (but not really)
    • the new terms were fun; for the new-to-us terms, some of us wanted dictionaries
  • story’s emphasis on different head sizes – was it a reflection of Huxley’s oddly large one? or just the clearest way to display genetic meddling
  • Huxley visited the US in the post-WWI era; he found the society to be vapid…this showed up here, for sure
  • genetics – pretty sophisticated prognosticating
  • world building – so clever, but took some careful reading to get the full parameters; no spoon feeding of the reader, here (intentional? unlike the spoon-fed masses in the book? probably)
  • The Savage (also, Christ figure):  only person who could think for himself and had fairly even (depth, not time) exposure to Shakespeare, Native culture, traditional religion, and Society
  • Head Controller also could think for himself; he chose power over autonomy (Savage did the opposite) – unfortunate choice (plot) that the Savage suffered while HC seemed not to…
  • “Economy of Happy” – but is numb/middle-of-the-road the same as happy? no pain/no passion was the goal – was it working? maybe* (esp. with the pressure relieving islands for those who would not accept lack of individuality)
    • *IF you ignore the soma addictions
  • Ford/God – fun and prescient pun (at least in terms of automation-of-all)
  • more predictive genius:  media frenzy, paparazzi, fan-damonium, cruelty of public opinion/mob-induced-by-media
  • was it racist? did the lower castes also all have dark skin?
  • Names were fun puns:  Lenina, Bernardo Marx
  • was it more fun to discuss than read? 50/50 for some, yes for others
  • Recommended: Huxley’s follow up (non-fiction); some books had it included

Mary’s July book pick:  Circle the Sun by Paula McLain 

Meeting at Karen C’s on Thursday, 7/20 at 7:20 – b/c we are just that clever.



Get ‘er Done – means, method, motivation

May 31, 2017 @ Liz’s
(missing Mary; spewing ‘friendly invectives’ at Viviane for late cancel>>No Salad Crisis)

Chatter (Or w/all the good news, should this be Snaps?):

  • Karen S:  Christopher’s graduation & Montana trip!!! New grandbaby, Harvey!!! Bro married significant other of 16 years!!! Drop. The. Mic.
  • Sue’s Utah trip. Pictures for miles! Almost too much to absorb. AND she resolved the No Salad Crisis!
  • Karen C: passed all 4 CPA exams; hours done by end of June!!
  • Kitty’s wedding news!! June 10th!!  Getting ready:  a repeat of worked with Barry  (DC JP); uncomfy-yet-gorgeous shoes; vegan receptions require music…and alcohol
  • Liz’s Savannah Wedding Adventure – location, food stations (fried chicken, shrimp & grits), DJ (better than live), so much dancing!
  • New baby stuff – Bootleg gift to Karen S (The Story Book Knight + gift card); the new stuff is tricky but awesome…old car seat & stroller woes
    • holding babies (infants):  some of us love and some of us defer; point to ponder:  wet nurse as ‘career choice’ (long ago…not now, silly)
  • Our Wedding Stories – Marie’s drunk, sunburnt guests & JP @ Quaker Meeting House; Katie’s fainting & fab reception; Liz’s judge (Catholic/Jewish)>>Unitarian Church on Cedar Ln; Shelley’s Catalina Island & Ron’s white jeans w/Hawaiian shirt; Kitty (see above); anyone else?

Dinner Notes

  • paper towels in lieu of napkins:  grocery store faux pas or themed décor?
  • Mountain Dew as center piece (nice one, Marie)Hillbilly Elegy

The Book:  Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Shelley picked this book because:

  1. At the April meeting Marie mentioned a book and Vivian said something like, “I’m foreign & I know only a certain type of American.” This book presented something very un-20895. (If only Viv had been here…)
  2. Shelley’s mom’s husband started out a hillbilly and rose to mega success. The potential parallel was of interest.


  • Some of us had childhoods with some similarities or had parents who lived this kind of life (albeit not in the same location) – so for some, this book was off-putting and for others it was intriguing/familiar; for others it was just alien
  • thought-provoking
  • sounds like Pat Conroy:  sharing ‘his people’ and some similar milestones of personal development
  • not stark, not lyrical; more family memoir than dense non-fiction sociological treatise = overall style engaging (or at least easy) to read
  • the family had $100,000/year and still lived in disarray and squalor? It’s expensive to clean up civil & social fallout of addicts
  • Vance’s point seems to be you can bootstrap and somewhere along the line it works thanks to important moments with key people (math at the table, books in the house, another place to stay)
  • socio-economic status is major (less so than culture) & access to/use of education
  • military = a saving grace
  • surveys:  totally bunk? usually the questions are so poorly structured, so YES
  • some contentious exchanges on purpose or perceived tone of book – it seemed to boil down to how much anyone thought Vance was trying to push his personal experience and/or philosophy as a solution (as opposed to relaying his story). And if we liked/understood/abhorred what seemed to be his suggested solution options.
  • enabling vs. enriching = the ultimate tricky balance when trying to help somebody (both personal and social program-wise)
  • Is housing aid working? What about if public funds go to helping people move to where jobs are? Would they go?
  • reminded some of us of The Glass Castle – (theme of using whatever you can to get ‘there’)…but not nearly so literary
  • Marie shared Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire and Resilience Questionnaire. Some did not see themselves at all. Others saw self or parent with very high scores on both.
  • agreement:  the solution is closer to home than within top-heavy government; more community, less impersonal policy

Next Meeting:  Mary’s house; Tuesday, June 27th at 7:15

Liz’s Pick:  A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

It’s Who You Know (er..Who Knows You)

April 2017 Meeting @ Shelley’s House (we miss you, Karen C…)


  • Liz’s NC property woes (wood rot)
  • Day of the Book – good crowds, less well-known authors, lots of fantasy & kid books, Read to a Dog station, Poetry Tent (packed all day…who knew?), music
  • Bethesda Lit Festival as Competition – meh:  all indoors, spread out, 3 days, not family fun (true literati only?)
  • T-shirts:  self-printing iron-on = yes! w/a brief  ‘remember when’ nod to puffy paint
  • Velcro on the fireplace remote:  Ron B Designs – available for hire (if you dare)
  • Move stacks of wood or go to the gym = equal options (less driving for wood…)
  • chimney sweeps – bad reps (except for Bert); yet needed 1x per decade, please…
  • Viviane’s wrist PT:  ‘distraction’ = LYING! SO painful. When the PT switches to Spanish you know the pain is coming. Marie concurs (for English-only), too.
  • LONG DIVERSION – innocent start: Karen S, is there baby news? All too soon: Red Tent 2.0… we all have a story or two or more (and some TMI tendencies)
  • Mary’s brother’s well engineered marching sign…weatherproof, too!
  • wedding blues – Kitty’s daughter’s new mom-in-law WILL NOT host rehearsal dinner…bucking protocol not acceptable (wait…is she more Bootleg than we are?)
  • Shelley’s ravioli spinach alfredo – a surprisingly light and delish delight! Ditto on Marie’s mini cheesecakes and hand-dipped strawberries. yum.
  • Viviane and Shelley:  founders of the George Clooney is Meh Club

The BOOK:  The Possibilities by Kaui Hart HemmingsThe Possibilities Apr 2017

Marie picked it because she was looking for library-available books. She liked The Descendants and the light and frothy Hemmings title was not available. Decided this was an okay option (beyond availability) because several Bootleggers are having hard times and this was a ‘meet you where you are in hard times’ book…maybe more of a fit for these moods/states of mind than something silly.


  • a very real and close look at one version of grief
  • unimaginable situation for parent – some of us ‘didn’t really want to go there’
  • appealing characters and easy to connect with or at least recognize as ‘real’
  • dialogue had nice flow; ditto speech  mannerisms
  • noticeably low on physical descriptions; Billy & Kit had a bit than others (this was preferred by most)
  • Sarah’s return to work scenes were painful, real, amusing – Hemmings either knows that biz or interviewed somebody in it (NOTE to Jane Smiley:  that’s how you do satire)
  • Sarah’s dad: quirky funny mix of real Dad Behavior + solid albeit skinny thread of retirement choices theme
  • some/many of the scenes/encounters were quite amusing, realistic or both
  • some of us did not like being in main character’s head – esp. for so long
  • book plot and ‘something else’ kind of fell apart at the 7/8 mark
  • though some thought the ending was very good (go home and consult with your actual family about what to do)
  • 1 (maybe more) suggested the ‘real’ problem – parental grief – was waylaid by the baby discussions; the first topic was sufficient for a book (and was not well resolved by the change of focus)
  • too much drama of all sorts
  • sex scenes were bad/dumb/purposeless and skip-worthy
  • the slow roll out of Cully’s dad (Billy) as a solid person, good father was well done over the course of the book; nice, comforting thread
  • parallels between Kit’s and Sarah’s lives were a bit too convenient
  • the setting was not a character, but it was so key (in many good ways) to character arcs and plot points
  • Suzanne and Sarah – their friendship had strong points, but was odd in some ways…and why did Sarah have to keep saying how it was almost a point of pride that neither of them expressed their true positive feelings for each other?
  • some of us agreed this was written to become a movie; it rang falsely…not coming from the heart

NEXT BOOK:  Hillbilly Elegy (Shelley’s pick; she has 4 copies to share)

NEXT MEETING:  7:!5 on May 31st @ Liz’s (who never would assign herself May…)

No Lie: Friends Provide Undying Support

March 2017 @ Marie’s House
(missing Mary/work; Karen C/family; Viviane/broken wrist!)
special guest:  Kitty’s sister, Margaret (don’t even think ‘Peggy’)


  • dogs:  familiarity, control (or not); poor Viviane
  • visiting adults kids & vice versa – there’s some calculus about the farther away they live the more you see them
  • Shelley is a neat reader; does she wear gloves? sit in a bubble? with perfect posture? (full disclosure:  she re-sells her books)
  • young adult kids & driving in major snow storms – they all do it at least once
    • Katelyn’s hotel room in Bethlehem, PA was sold out from under her…no room
  • redemption movies:  ugh. too much pain for the 10 minutes of relief
  • Katie tuned out a bunch of Hollywood Bad Behavior – blah, blah, blah
  • Kitty in the Hot Seat:  telling her sister what each of us does (in life and for a living). She was not batting 1.000. But it was fun
  • Babies/grand babies:  people, just add 3 weeks to the due date (but have a bag packed)
  • good books don’t always engender good discussion & vice versa, for sure
    • favorite:  when bad book engenders good chat
  • Sue & Steve doing Grand Tour of Utah in May: they are the best travelers
  • DNA Genealogy test:  Liz, Marie, Shelley, Kitty, Margaret. Apparently it’s a thing.
  • Marie had a toast for us. Actually, it was to honor Katie’s dad (he died March 11). Not a dry eye. Read it; you’ll be happy (well, and crying) that you did. Here you go:

    An Irish Funeral Prayer

The Book:  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Image result for big little lies bad guy

Kitty picked it because:

  1. Her sister (and our guest) had suggested it a while back. Kitty liked it.
  2. The recent HBO series reminded her of it.
  • ~98% of us read it
  • overall:  interesting; light, easy page-turner; our genre title:  ‘heavy chick lit’
  • also:  Real Housewives of Australia (was it Melbourne?) – some of his were entertained by the drama/snark & others not quite so much
  • author did NOT over-reveal; clues were doled out with some finesse
    • Jane’s reason for going to PP in the first place = particularly satisfying
    • main gimmick (who died? how?) was engaging/appealing
  • clever chapter format:  the point of view changes and the police interview quips
  • title was good – so many layers
  • each character had a reasonable-to-realistic mix of good & bad
    • helicopter parenting – bitingly accurate portrayal
    • realistic men, for the most part; for the record, we like Ed best
    • Mrs. Ponder – not really necessary, but we’re glad she was there
  • subtle wording  made some of us wonder:  did Perry decide to let go when Bonnie pushed him? his ‘perfect’ life was gone… & would such an athlete really go over so easily or die from a 2nd story fall?

April Meeting:  Shelley’s

Marie’s book pick:  “The Possibilities” by Kaui Hart Hemmings. 

Elephantastic Heroes

January 2017 @ Karen S’s with everyone but Karen C. (she’ll be back!)
Snow earlier today, but no major storm. A variation on the Storm Theme of recent years.

Neighborly News:  Hardware City closing in March (maybe Strosniders coming); Town Planning for empty gas station & Savannah’s = zippo; so many fails at the Frankly Pizza site (but it’s holding); Dish & Dram = new winner (3 pm Happy Hour->KP Moms can hang to 4:15 then meet the bus)

Kitty:  Madeline getting MARRIED June 10 @ JP + Union Station Party
Choosing last names – who, how, why???
Aging well:  Mary’s mom (99), Sue’s aunt (98)

THE BOOK:  Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke

Katie picked it because:
– craving nonfiction
– loves elephants
– despite being wary of yet another WWII theme/setting, this was so unique >> risked it


  • we underestimated elephants before this book (or at least Asians)
  • we want it to be a movie!
  • some patches of writing were ‘fact listing’ and the start was a bit slow while the end seemed a bit rushed – perhaps the pacing was impacted by whether or not Croke had detailed/extensive primary sources…after all, this is not a novel (though it almost reads as one)
  • SO HEROIC – the people (all of them) and the elephants. Wow.
  • Why so much PR on this being a WWII book? It’s so, so much more.
  • Wife Susan was just so cool in the face of the lifestyle & jungle realities (early training with wacky uncle poppy)
  • curmudgeonly mentor relationship – well wrought & ‘entertaining’
  • the return to England = another fascinating chapter
  • relationship with Burmese elephant handler and the layers of reality/hardship of the handlers = so well handled by Croke
  • Oh-So-British: the teas, the cutlery, the protocols for everything
  • priority:  keep it all streamlined & healthy for the benefit of the ELEPHANTS
  • relationship between people and elephants = so nicely revealed
  • his running his hands over elephants to analyze/diagnose them was so organic, advanced and impressively right
  • we liked it!

So disappointing to end such a great discussion with The Stupidest Conversation Ever:  Ryan Reynolds/Ryan Gosling, twins or not? [NOT!]

Next Meeting:  Kitty’s / Karen S’s book

2016’s Top Three & 1 El Stinko

…and the top THREE most popular books of 2016 are (drumroll)
[10 total voters]

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks with 6 votes
  2. A Bear, Backpack & Eight Cases of Vodka  with 6 votes (& 1 el stinko)
  3. The Children Act with 5 votes

EL STINKO:  Ten Days in the Hills with a whopping 4

Sometimes Ordinary Means Bleak

November 2016 @ China Gourmet – our big night out!
Shelley, Liz, Mary, Marie, Kitty, & Yours Truly

Pre Chat:  Lots of catching up & empathy on family health issues…some rather TBD (Katie’s dad), some impressively & lightheartedly long-lived (Mary’s mom), and some a bit icky and fortunately short-acting (Liz’s offspring).

Oh, the conundrum of menu narrowing & entrée selection. We prevailed. Deliciously. After the waitress checked on us – oh so nicely – 3x!

Book Talk:  Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger Image result
Shelley picked it by perusing reviews & noting the setting is 1961 (birth year). Impressions & Inputs:

  • some trouble with suspension of disbelief since one 13-year-old boy, Frank, was responsible for so many key decisions that impacted so many people over a long-ish period of time
  • The Bartender’s Tale had charm & grim reality; this was just pretty bleak, overall…it needed more quirky, a few more twists of flat-out crazy, or shots of levity
  • we hated Doyle for good reason
  • we mostly disliked the mom Ruth, too (shallow, selfish, living in the past & rather a stage mom)
  • Jake = very likeable and realistic
  • Nathan’s/Dad’s job as pastor made it reasonable that this family would know so much about so many situations
  • Warren – intriguingly bitter
  • the concept of grace was handled deftly in terms of showing a realistic span of how different people try to live, share, display grace
    • pastor:  ignore/damp down war PTSD; keep calm & carry on
    • Jake:  allowing others to ignore/deride him – to a point; kind to himself
  • also a good job showing poor examples (boyfriend’s parents)

DESSERT:  Thanks to Hege, we had SUPER YUMMY Norwegian chocolate. So thoughtful. AND she sent us ‘Literary Listography – My Reading Life in Lists.’

The first list is My Top 20 Most Beloved Books. So let’s do this…
Leave a comment with your utmost BELOVED BOOK.

Next Meeting:  The Holiday TEA Party @ Liz’s
Sunday, December 11th 2:30-5:30.
Bring bubbly & a smashingly posh & delish nibble to share.

January book:  Katie’s pick tba. Location tba.



Life…It’s Complicated

Bootleg September 2016 @ Viviane’s House – ALL in ATTENDANCE!!!

Daily Life (Chatter)

  • National Book Festival in DC (Liz & Sue): Stephen King, Richard Russo, signings, lines, fun, dinner
  • …AND they bought 3 mom-of-groom dresses (Nordstrom!)
  • Sue’s dress photo (none of the above) – selected by Stacey; gorgeous!!!
  • Mary got a new FLIP phone; she’s so FLEEK
  • Karen S:  June/Glacier; July/Capon Springs, WV; Aug/Canada; Sept/here…slumming
  • Summer not over – humidity remains (Katie happy. Anyone else?)
  • Driving in super heavy rain = bad. Whiteout fog? Worse.
  • Kirstie (Shelley’s int’l worker bee):  Snap Chat Queen of Toronto, among other things
  • Karen S’s boys – all appear to be walking on sunshine

Surreal Life (Deeper Chatter)

  • Katie – updated on Dad (he survived pneumonia; time to address tumor again, soon)
  • Viviane – her sister could leave Venezuela as soon as niece is legal resident of Canada! [more below]

Dinner Conversation – all seated at the lovely table

  • pumpkin ravioli – yum! (it’s STILL not full-on autumn, though)
  • long update on the situation in Venezuela:  disappeared people, stress (but lying about it), hunger, shortages, fear…WTF?
  • recommended reads:  The Emperor of All Maladies (Viviane), Persepolis [graphic novel] (Kitty), The Invoice (Katie)

Book Talk:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Image result for immortal life of henrietta lacks

Karen Castle picked it because she owned it (from her mom who also recommended it).

  • – it was surreal for Katie to be reading it while seeing the Bromo Seltzer tower & trying to keep Dad alive (cancer, etc.)
  • – so many ethical breeches clear with modern era hindsight!
  • – as much about the Lacks family as the evolution of research ethics and informed consent
  • -Skloot did a masterful job of simplifying but not dumbing down the science
  • – yes, Skloot became part of the story…but thank goodness she did…otherwise the Lacks family could STILL be in the dark about so much
  • – Sue says audio version offers a fantastic interview with Skloot
  • – Deborah’s attitude of ‘don’t take your anger into history’ was impressive and hard to imagine doing, but it’s how she survived and even improved
  • it’d be nice for Hopkins to do something for at least a few Lacks family members (not sure what…but a lecture series does not seem quite enough)
  • – Deborah finding out about her sister!!! Oh. My. Goodness. (and another gift from Skloot & that one doctor)
  • – thank goodness for the researcher who finally showed the Lacks cells to Deb and her bro
  • – Henrietta seemed to really have a special spark (even with ‘revisionist history/glowing memories’); did that actually connect to her super-powered telomeres in her cells???

NEXT BOOK:  The Dinner by Herman Koch (Viviane’s pick)

NEXT MEETING:  October 26 @ Shelley’s House (yes, a Wednesday)

The 10 Days that were 9 3/4 too many…

August 31, 2016 @ Karen C’s with Shelley, Liz, Viviane & yours truly


  • go, Larry Hogan…of course school should start after Labor Day
  • annual oohing and aahing over the fabulous screened in porch
  • Karen C’s new beach house (Bethany)
  • school dances:  0-2 slow dances max (it should be a rule if it isn’t)
  • the VMAs were terrible – no surprise
  • Is cable TV dead (within 3 years)?
  • Can live sports transition from cable/networks?
  • Would you watch golf before or after bowling, poker, pool or bull riding?
  • Olympics: awesome to see; waste of architecture & resources in host cities post games (how to repurpose?); opening ceremonies = overblown; make it stop; March of the Athletes is where it’s at…and the torch lighting, natch.

Our Book:  10 Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley 10 days in the hills by Jane Smiley ~~ Read the first chapter and that was it! Not my kind of book. totally bored me. Closed the book forever.:

Liz picked it because she saw Smiley at Nat’l Book Festival 2015 (fascinating speaker); intrigued by her goal to write a title in each genre/category (tragedy, comedy, satire, a trilogy, etc.) – this was her ‘satire’; Liz owned this book already

  • Smiley lampooned Hollywood, but this was not satire – not witty, not acerbic
  • Smiley seemed to identify very directly with Elena – a distractor to the reader
  • Not a plot, but more like Jane’s political diatribes alternated with sex scenes she thought were needed to keep some readers engaged (through the political parts)
  • We all were so very glad to reach the end.
  • We did enjoy recognizing some of the places being described (those of us who’ve lived there).

Next Meeting:  Viviane’s House (swapping months with Katie) @ 7:15 Sept. 29

Karen C’s pick:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot


Vodka & Salt. But no mumus

July 19, 2016 @ Liz’s with all but Karen S. (vacationing!)


  • Both thanks to Liz:  the new book club drink:  Lemoncello, Blueberry Vodka & Seltzer. Packs a punch AND a blinking light drink cup – Viv’s new favorite accessory
  • Lansdowne Resort – pool, spa, massages, facials; 45 minutes/Leesburg; ask Kitty!
  • Icelandic salt left in the far north (beyond Frederick!); Dresden St. salt (special mix!) replaces & is delightful
  • Mumu vs. Shift Dress/A-line:  mumu swallows up everything from bosoms down; shift is slimming and attractive and comfy

Image result for bear backpack 8 cases vodkaBOOK PICK:  Mary picked A Bear, A Backpack and 8 Crates of Vodka: A Memoir by Lev Golinkin because her Colorado-based book recommending buddy mentioned it a year ago and Mary LOVED it. So despite not being in the library, Mary made it happen!


  • catchy title but not really a good match for the book
  • VERY informative about the era, the transition points for families, the cultural changes & strains
  • Liz’s Dad snuck out of Russia – lots of key overlaps for her and this book that were NOT redundant to what she knew/had read
  • Jewish religion vs. ethnicity: striking esp. via the family that had zero knowledge of only a few faith-based traditions (and tried to practice them anyway)
  • VIVID scene:  the passport/final exit…papers, that horrible family who betrayed those behind them in line, burning/hiding the patent info, those (staying) who accompanied them & then returned home
  • The BARON – key role for years; luck/fate/faith???; what if they’d not crossed paths? His guilt as motivator
  • Babushkas as watchers = quite a force!
  • Lev’s mother – real respect and real buck-stops-here power in Russia vs. little traction/lack of English in the US
  • sister:  no looking back; SO ready to be in the US – facility with English quite a boon (& other personality & braininess factors, of course)

ISSUES with the BOOK

  • Lev clearly hits the wall/bottom at some point in early adulthood. Some of us wanted to know a bit more about how/why. Others were fine with that being in the next book (even if we don’t read it/there isn’t one). Did he leave it out because there IS another book or more b/c whatever the issue is/was, it’s too close to write about now?
  • What’s he doing to earn a living? Is writing enough now?
  • A bit of navel gazing (as is normal for memoirs).

OVERALL – Very good storytelling with a convincing ‘young, confused boy’ tone throughout. Good plot/timeline/pace. Nice balance of detail to settings, people, ‘important moments’ and family viewpoints.

Mary’s Dessert:  Apple Charlotte, a Russian apple cake. Yum.

Liz’s Pick for August:  10 Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley

Next Meeting:  August 31 @ Karen C’s


  1. Souls at Night by Kent Haroof
  2. Wool by Hugh Howie
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys