Moonglow by Michael Chabon

(Book 140) This is the story of a Book Club meeting that went unreported for almost five months. I started a summary — I found it in my email drafts:

 First, Thank You Susan for hosting all of us in your lovely home. It was all so festive and cozy and I love that painting of John Lennon. (Thank you for that, too.)

I should explain that part about the John Lennon painting. Susan bought one of my brother Paul Yohnka’s paintings on Etsy in the shop AcesLastArt. You could too, just click here.

Enough shameless hustling. Let’s get back to the email draft.

Next, Thanks to All for the Appetizers and Cookies. I ate cookies for breakfast, I took a huge tray of cookies to the Staff Lounge today and ate some of  Mary’s Cranberry Jalapeno Cream Cheese dip for my lunch. I’m going to regret it when I go in for my A1c on the 20th but that’s almost a whole week away. 

That’s all there was of the draft. It must have been the sugar. I don’t remember going into a coma, but I’m not sure one does remember such things. Well, next in my searchI found an email exchange in which all the girls were involved. I’ve taken out most of the line spacing to include them here:

Ho ho ho, everybody:
Thanks for everything! Didn’t have a chance to try all the cookies at Susan’s, so unpacking them when I got home felt like Christmas morning. Yum. All the appetizers were delicious. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and wishing all of us a hope-filled new year. 

Since I have a few moments before my family event begins, I thought it would be important to let you all know that I’ve been thinking about our annual exchange, and what a privilege it is to be a part of this group.  What an assortment of cookie treasures that I hope to enjoy and share with family and friends.Teresa, as always, each year you surpass yourself.  Although I can’t seem to decide on my favorite cookie yet. Susan, thank you for the warmth of your home and the bottles of Gruet. Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year!!!  Here’s to good-bye to covid in 2022!!!

So nice to see everyone at Susan’s lovely and festive home! Thank you so much for generously hosting! Loved the evening all the way around. Nothing better than appetizers and wine topped off with dessert! Perfect menu if you ask me! Thank you all for the delicious cookies which will be shared with friends and family!  I too am grateful to be a part of this wonderful book club of interesting and intelligent women!  Teresa thank you so much for all that you do for us every month and every year! You are extraordinary!  Stay healthy everyone. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Look forward to a brighter 2022!
Love and blessings 

Our holiday gathering was warm and wonderful and even healthy if you count those darling mini Santas as our salad!  What a great time!  Thanks, Susan, for your superb hospitality, Teresa for too many yummy cookies, and all of for being such wonderful readers and cooks! Happiest of holidays in this continually crazy time!

There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been  said. I feel very lucky to be included in a book club of wonderful and intelligent women. I certainly did my part to make sure that Teresa would lead this group – I was relentless in my badgering! Happy holidays to all of you. Stay healthy until we meet by again in 2022. All the best!


Could not agree more lovely ladies! I am honored to be a member of THE best book club! Happy Holidays!

xo Susan

Thanks for everything, ladies. It was a really fun evening, and your cookies are delicious and beautiful (not that I’ve tasted every single kind yet, but I’m working on it).  I really enjoyed hearing about everyone’s favorites and least favorites in this year’s books. It just reminded me of what an interesting list it was—and a big thank you to Teresa, for putting all that together, in addition to putting together tons of gorgeous cookies and making those wonderful ornaments. Please pass on my thanks to Fran, too. Have a fantastic Christmas and New Year’s, everyone. I hope I finish the Chabon book in time to read the January one!


Ditto to all the compliments to the hostess Susan and to thank our fearless leader for another fun filled year of Book Club 101! Have a Merry Xmas and happy New Year!


Then I show up in the chain admitting that I am losing touch with my responsibilities;

Oh Girls, your fearless leader has failed you! I’ve looked all over and cannot find where I wrote who wanted to host which month! And I haven’t written my meeting summary with all my thanks to Susan for being such a perfect hostess, to her house for being such a cozy setting, to all of you for being such delightful company and to all of your delicious cookies for maybe being the reason I’m going to cancel my appointment for the 20th for my A1c. Yikes!!But let me just say thank you to all of you for being a wonderful group of women, for the variety of response you bring to each meeting, for your culinary creativity and expertise, and for being such great sports about my obsessive need to theme. That said, is it too soon to talk about a choice of books for 2023? If Chris Monley is involved, I’ve got to give him time. Just kidding — I can wait a month or two. Thank you, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyeux Noel, Frolichte Weinachten, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Mele Kalikimaka, Jolly Jolabokaflod and Happy Happy New Year!  See you 1/18/22 at my house,


Being quite late with my thanks, I am now able to comment on some of the responses.  I laughed out loud at Teresa’s comment about “failing us”.  Considering the creativity, many, many hours and love you put into the book club, the notion that you could fail us is ridiculous!  The fact that I didn’t bother to write down what month I volunteered to host, indicates just how much I dump on your plate!  So many thanks for your leadership and for the addition to my Christmas ornament collection. Ladies, all your cookies are so delicious, I am having a harder time than usual keeping them in the freezer until I have family and friends to share them with.  Susan, your home was so cozy and beautifully decorated.  Thank you for your hospitality.  And I loved seeing your neighborhood decked out for the holidays.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all.  I look forward to more fun, laughter, and good reading with all of you in 2022.


All of this still says very little about the book. We know there were delicious appetizers, particularly those cute little Santa tomatoes that Geri made. We know that Susan provided an abundance of good wine and we know there were more cookies than anyone has ever imagined at one time. I’d like to give a shout out to two that I remember fondly: Sharon’s Fruitcake Cookies and Chris’ Rosemary Shortbread were both amazing and I cried when both were gone from my stash. But what about the book? I found my review stored on Goodreads:

I read this book a second time because it is our book club read for December. It completed our year of books about family and though it was chosen as a book about a grandfather, it gave us a beautiful portrait of a grandmother as well. I’m hoping a couple of members will feel it made up for how much they didn’t like My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

I appreciated this memoir/pack of lies even more during my second read. I particularly loved the moment when Chabon’s mother asks if he thinks her parents were ever happy and his response is a quick enthusiastic yes. Then she enumerates all the troubles they had and asks When did they have opportunity? Chabon’s answer of “in the cracks” just delighted me.

The short review was accompanied by a Goodreads 5 star rating, something that is very seldom given by this reader.  I seem to recall that the book was similarly enjoyed by the rest of the group and we would all recommend it to other readers. Maybe the girls will comment below.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederick Backman

(Book 139) Though I had originally planned to host November, when it was necessary for me to host in August, Mary suggested that I think about allowing her to host in November. Though not a grandmother, Mary is a great aunt and she thought that qualification enough! That’s what happened and it was a great idea.

Strangely, I asked Denny to write the summary of the meeting and send it out with my numerous apologies:  

Hi, this is Denny and I’m going to take some time out from drawing my designs for video game creatures such as DiDongo, Eyelock, Spomth, and Floor Chucha to tell you a couple of things my grandmother (or Grumsie, as I call her) told me to tell you. She thinks maybe she enjoyed the wine more than she should have so she asked me to help her out.

First, Mary, my grandmother told me to tell you she’s sorry, but not sorry for asking you to take on the hosting job that she was originally going to do this month. She’s sorry because she made you have to do so much work instead of her, but she’s not sorry because she said everything was really-really good. I can’t say that smoked salmon with cream cheese, pickled herring, gouda cheese and crackers or cucumbers with cream cheese and dill sound at all good to me, I might eat the crackers, but the rest sounds pretty thumbs down, but Grumsie said those were just the delicious appetizers. The meal part sounded a little better because I do like meatballs, if you could serve mine without the gravy, the mashed potatoes and the reddish pink stuff. She said if I would try it, I would love it all because you’re a great cook, but, you know, I’d probably be pretty full after the meatballs. Grumsie always pretends I can’t have dessert if I say I’m too full to eat the real food, but then she usually starts thinking how the world is so strange it might be the end of days and she lets me have dessert anyway. She said your coffee flavored cake with coffee ice cream was the best, and my Gramps told me to tell you he’s sorry that he can’t say how good it is tonight cause he thinks he’d better wait until tomorrow to try the slices you sent home for him. He also told me to tell you that it was so nice of you to think of him and then he dozed off. He can go to sleep just like that, but Grumsie says you’ve seen that for yourself.

When I asked Grumsie about the book, she said it takes all kinds to make a world and that there are a lot of kinds in the book club. She said some people, like Marcia, liked it a lot cause it felt true to her experience with her granddaughter and I remembered I had a playdate with her once a really long time ago. (Grumsie told me she thought Susan, Rosalie and Mary were in the same group as Marcia.) Then she said some people super hated the booklike Linda and Chris because the author tried to write too many things, borrowed from too many places and tried to make Elsa sound so exceptional. Grumsie said that she thought the book was in-between because she liked the characters in the house and their relationships to each other, but didn’t like all the fantasy jazz. So, I guess I get that because this kid Calvin, whose birthday party I just went to (but didn’t play laser tag cause it freaked me out and I kinda regret that now) anyway Calvin likes these Wings of Fire books with a dragon on the cover so we bought him three of those, but then I asked my Mom if we could also get him the first Mysterious Benedict Society which is about these really smart kids (all smart in different ways) who try to help Mr. Benedict stop his twin brother from doing evil things to the world. So, yeah, people like different things. My grandmother told me to tell all of you who didn’t like the book that she’s sorry you didn’t like it, but you don’t get your money back. I don’t know what that means and honestly, I don’t think she does either. Remember what I said about the wine.

Then my grandmother asked me to tell all of you that she’s sorry about the new book list she gave you for next year and she hopes you don’t all go crazy trying to get two books not to stick to each other. I think I should probably tell you that I’m sorry because if I hadn’t gotten that toy in my McDonalds Happy Meal, Grumsie might not have gone to such an extreme with the game and magnets and all. But I never know what’s going to set her off so, I can’t really be held responsible for that.

OK What else? Oh yeah, the cookie exchange meeting will be at Susan’s house on December 14th.  Grumsie said there was some confusion about  Sharon’s Distribution Process, but she thinks here’s what you should do: Bring 11 bags of 6 cookies. Ten of those bags will be picked up by the other book club members and 1 bag will be put out on a plate so everyone can sample that evening. She says that’s not really what the confusion was about but this way every member can pick up a bag and put it carefully into whatever container they bring and there are some cookies out to try! Remember, I like basic sugar cookies. Grumsie will start an email to reply with the kind of cookies and appetizer you’ll be bringing.

OK One final thing, my grandmother told me to tell you she’s sorry that she milked this sorry thing for all it’s worth.



The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

(Book 138) Geri hosted this month and sent out this email:  Hello friends,  Please join me at gate number 1720 at SMC on Wednesday October 20,2021 for the scheduled literary flight of Book Club 101. The fight was originally planned for October 19, 2021, the  121st anniversary of the first flight at Kitty Hawk, but the wind speeds that day are only forecasted at 5 mph.  An unfortunate delay as is often experienced in the aeronautic world. The good news is the mosquitos will be at bay. Please join in celebration of the Wright family’s achievements. As Bishop Wright instilled in them: family is everything. Wilbur and Orville couldn’t have done it alone (and what about that sister Katherine!)  Departure time is 6:30pm. No need to come early. Book Club 101 members have special security clearance. There is plenty of parking for automobiles and Van Cleve bicycles should you choose to ride.  Please rsvp so we can assign your seats.  Let there be sustaining winds and soft landings, Geri

My email summary entitled Literary Flight of Book Club 101 was as follows:  Members of Book Club 101 were treated to a mosquito-less literary flight on the near 121st anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk on Wednesday, October 20 by club member and organizer Geri Kelley. Members gathered in an outdoor VIP lounge where they were greeted by a handsome young flight attendant who served a selection of red and white wines. (I enjoyed a vibrant Sancerre.) We particularly enjoyed the steward’s consternation after passenger Christine Benton stole into the galley and brought full wine bottles back to the lounge. It was in the lounge that the culinary theme was recognized to highlight the Wright Brothers’ time in France: there were three French cheeses, including a Mimolette that delighted passenger Marcia Bernsten, and a deliciously flaky Alsatian onion tartine. The wine, cheese board and tartines were enjoyed in the embrace of what may have been the last lovely outdoor night of the year.

From the lounge we took the stairs of the airbridge up to the cabin where dinner was served. There was no sight of the tiny compartmentalized airplane food but rather, the table was set with an abundant serving of coq au vin et purée de pomme de terre at each place setting. Geri cleverly used the bird placemats she was unable to use last year to complement the theme of flight. The coq au vin was so delicious that passenger Mary Mabus started to regret her offer to host next month. Both French bread and tasty sweet potato biscuits were available to accompany the main course.

There were actually three desserts: the center stage dessert was the amazing Poire belle Hélène, a lovely poached pear, drizzled in chocolate and served with vanilla ice cream, which was accompanied by a choice of chocolates from Esther Price chocolates one of the only culinary delights to come from the Wright brothers hometown of Dayton, Ohio. The third dessert would have been macaroons but Geri forgot to serve them and texted me in alarm at 10:49 pm. 

The book discussion was marked by the surprise many of us felt to have enjoyed it. As passenger Linda Buckley expressed, she had no particular technical, mechanical or physics of flight knowledge that spurred any interest in the book and yet she found it very readable. Passenger Rosalee Reigle suggested that it was the author’s talent that held our interest, but other passengers suggested that might be taking credit away from the Wright brothers personas — that may not have dazzled us but certainly impressed us with the breadth of their knowledge and the strength of their focus. There were discussions of the intersections in history such as Wilbur being hit in the face by the most notorious murderer in Ohio; that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who designed Mount Rushmore was in the audience for Orville’s 57 and 1/2 circles; that Teddy Roosevelt could have had Selfridge’s seat on the flight that ended in disaster, and that a fashion design was created because Madame Berg tied a rope around her skirt. We all admired a valuable original rendering of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer that Geri cleverly scooped up for cheap on Amazon. We discussed Katherine’s strong presence in her brothers’ lives and the strange “spells” that caused Orville to disown her when she chose to marry and move away. There was great sharing of experiences in small planes and passenger Susan Andrews talked of her travel in a hot air balloon. I was fascinated by the fact that the French inventor and engineer, Clement Ader added the word avion to the French lexicon before an airplane existed. And passenger Sharon Gonzalez was repeatedly bewildered by passenger Melissa Alderton’s out of the wide blue yonder reference to Lee Bailey, not F. Lee Bailey.

After some members had already deplaned, it was decided that the next meeting would take place at the home of passenger Mary Mabus on Tuesday, November 16 (because Chris already wrote it down and she has real trouble trying to change it) to discuss My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman.

Our manymanymany thanks to the Event Coordinator!

May your air be clear, the flight be smooth, the plane be safe, and the sky be blue!

I’ll just stand in the airport by the Arrivals terminal until you get back,


My Sister the Serial Killer by  Oyinkan Braithwaite

(Book 137) Chris invited us to her home with the following email:

BYOB. Bleach, that is, not Booze/Bottle. Korede will take care of the latter, as she takes care of everything. 

Korede (and Ayoola, who will contribute nothing but trouble) cordially invites you to the book club meeting on Wednesday, September 29 at 6:30 p.m. (It will be 12:30 a.m. in Lagos; please reset your clocks, because the party will be long over by the witching hour.) The kitchen girl will do her best to whip up some semblance of West African food, but there will be plenty of wine and beer just in case that doesn’t work out so well or Korede needs to leave to do an emergency cleanup somewhere.

Please leave any males in your possession at home, because, well, Ayoola. You never know what might happen. 

My plan is for us to sit on the deck before dinner since it looks like it will be nice out, but we may eat indoors since it gets pretty cool after dark. Please bring a sweater or jacket in case everyone wants to stay outdoors.

Who’s in?

The meeting was small, only six of us were there; poor Linda was supposed to be there but she was stuck at Heathrow. This was the email summary I sent of the evening:

A small group of the Secret Society of Sister Serial Killers met last night at C’s home (no names — this is a secret society after all.) First on the agenda was determining who would be on the Killing Committee and who would be on the Clean-Up Crew. By a show of hands we had more killers than cleaners but there may be one or two members who can do clean-up in a pinch. Our hostess, for example, told a frightening story of having done a practice clean-up when her husband had an “accident” in the kitchen which required a trip to the emergency room and stitches in his hand. We are all thankful that M is doing well and there was no exposure of the society.

We discussed the book that gave rise to our group: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and the response to it was all quite positive. We appreciated that the book is written so that the reader is never quite sure what to think about Ayoola’s predilection (?) and exactly why Korede is willing to help her. We were disappointed (but not surprised) by the depiction of men who are so very interested in a pretty face, but have no psychological or physical barrier to stop them from hitting/punching/slapping said pretty face. We were in agreement that by the time all is disclosed about their father, there is an “aha” moment for all that has happened before. C mentioned that she loved Korede’s interaction with the coma patient, but G said she felt a little bit bad for his wife. I have no such sentiment for a wife who only wants her husband’s money but I might have some baggage.

Now to the best part of the meeting: After wine, three kinds of Stamper cheese, crackers that M discovered, fresh figs, dried cherries and fun conversation on the back deck we were served the most delicious West African meal! I seriously feel bad for those of you who weren’t there to enjoy it with us. C served tamarind glazed ribs with lime zest, a vegan ground nut stew with sweet potatoes, green beans and kale, and wedged heirloom tomatoes. Because I am so slow to action, the meal has already been discussed and recipes have been forwarded to us all. I’d really like to thank C for all of the time she spent looking at recipes for this event and especially for the choices she made for us to enjoy. Incredible! I would also like to thank her for the Bittersweet cupcakes that we had for dessert and for sending the rest home with me because I was the most recent birthday girl.

I’m going to reiterate here that this was an incredible meal and just for future reference, I’ll add the recipe links

Mothers and Sons by Colm Toibin

(Book 136) Marcia was unable to host due to her recent move, so the girls met at my place. I sent out this email:

Dear Neighbors (Queridas vecinas,)

I am organizing a search party to look for the mother and son relationships in Colm Toibin’s short story collection Mothers and Sons.  We will meet in the small bar near the bus station on August 26 at 6:30. Please sign up here if you will be able to assist in the search.

Your friend and neighbor (Tu amiga y vecina)


The email was a reference to the last story in the collection, a novella really, A Long Winter, because this last story had informed the menu. My choices for book-themed food were limited: I could choose to remodel my kitchen as the mother remodeled her store into a fish and chips shop to make enough money to pay the bills in The Name of the Game, or I could serve the kind of food the family ate in a bar near the bus station in A Long Winter, the short story set in Northern Spain. I didn’t think I could handle the regular smell of fish and chips, so I made bocadillas, lots and lots of bocadillas, and served them with gazpacho, a bag of your choice of flavors Spanish chips and a glass of Cava Sangria. There were white and red wines on offer as well but the boozy fruit in the sangria was quite a hit. The girls had their choice of five kinds of bocadillas and most chose to do a half sandwich of two or more. As you can see in the picture of my menu board, my prices were quite reasonable.

As for finding evidence of mother/son relationships in the book, we found very little. Mostly we found evidence of a lack of any real relationship between mother and son. We found stories primarily about the mother and stories primarily about the son, but few with both. Many of us enjoyed The Use of Reason because both mother and son were such curious characters. I particularly enjoyed this spot of writing:

Between three and four in the morning on weekdays, nothing moved in those streets. It was as though the dead were sleeping. There was silence and you could do anything.

A Song and The Name of the Game were both stories that evidenced almost no relationship between mother and son; and the Famous Blue Raincoat was effectively a story about sisters. Most of us felt that A Long Winter should have been shorter, it went to great lengths to prove the second word of the title, and that was essentially the only complaint about the writing. We talked about some of his other work, some of us had seen the movie Brooklyn and I had only read the book.

For dessert we had the shortbread biscuits, that were not stolen from the store in The Name of the Game, used as the crust and the blackberries found growing wild in Three Friends in a delicious, if I do say so myself, blackberry cheesecake.

Next month’s discussion of My Sister, the Serial Killer will take place at Chris’ home on Wednesday, September 29.

Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan

(Book 135) Sharon hosted a small group, only four of us, at yes, you guessed it, another new home. (I think this is the sixth residence she’s had since she joined us but I’ve lost count.) Once assembled, Sharon came to us from the kitchen and was surprised to find us already talking about the book. I think I’d started it by asking whether others in the group had been aware of Svetlana’s defection when it happened. I remember being vaguely aware of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection, but remembered nothing of Stalin’s daughter. Melissa, our properties mistress, brought along a copy of Life Magazine in which Svetlana was interviewed and we had quite a discussion about her life. (Svetlana’s, not Melissa’s.) Karen brought up that it was strange to read that in Russia, abortion is regarded as a means of birth control, and I told my story of a Russian manicurist that I used to go to saying to me conversationally “When I had my first abortion…” We talked quite a lot about Svetlana’s need to be in a relationship, to be in love, to have someone in love with her even though she was such a strong, independent woman in other aspects of her life. We discussed the extent to which her father was responsible for this weakness, and of course we spent some time marveling at how so many people were certain that he wasn’t responsible for all the death and imprisonment of their fellow Russians. Sharon mentioned that the way his death is described in the book is exactly as it was depicted in the movie The Death of Stalin and we had to talk about the movie just a bit. We considered Svetlana’s unfortunate relationship with the Frank Lloyd Wright community at Taliesin. Sharon wondered about the accuracy of that information and said she’d like to read more about it. One or more of us remarked that the author may have tried to use every single bit of her research and that the book may have been better served by some editing, but that in general, it is a fascinating read.

Sharon’s new place is lovely, as Linda mentioned, it has a tree-top view of the world. I couldn’t show the rest of the girls the view but I made up a card to tell them what they had missed food-wise. My document wouldn’t upload here, but here is a copy and paste:

A Picnic on the Black Sea

Appetizer — flat bread topped with your choice of honeyed goat cheese and topped with pesto or goat cheese with fig and topped with prosciutto.

Main Course —many grilled salmon patties, served with potato salad and a salad of mango, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes on lettuce leaves

Dessert — key lime pie with a graham cracker and macadamia nut crust, stabilized whipped cream and lime zest

Everything was yummy and I know someone has already asked for the salad recipe, but I will reiterate the request because it was so delicious. The table was set with bud vases holding a single sunflower in each because Sharon has seen a stream of people carrying plastic sunflowers after visiting the Van Gogh exhibit nearby. Sharon gave us each one of the sunflowers in its vase to take home at the end of the evening.

We talked about our August meeting but couldn’t set a date because too few of us were there. Marcia, who was not in attendance, had offered to host in August, but Sharon felt strongly that Marcia should take it easy on herself and reconsider hosting right after her move. The rest of us agreed that we would all think Marcia a wise woman if she didn’t try to take on hosting so soon. But as I have said, I can’t make anyone do anything — perhaps I would have been able to had I been Stalin’s daughter — but as my father was not a steely cold-blooded murdering dictator — I’ll have to let Marcia decide what she wants to do for August and get back to everyone with a date.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The photo I used is not the actual book cover, but rather a poster design by a student in an illustration course at California State University, Northridge. Because of my crazy need to make our book list like a family photo album, I didn’t want to use the actual black and white cover with printed title.

(Book 134) What a glorious night we had on Melissa’s rooftop. It felt a bit like sky-sailing as the “sails” that protected us from the bright sun (as it made its way to the horizon) flapped in the breeze. I told Melissa how close she was to having me as a rooftop guest for the night, and in her usual accommodating fashion she offered blankets.

Food First: We started with a wonderful crab dip for which she offered both toast and pita. There were grapes, cut melon and pineapple as well. The main course included ribs, macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, and a lovely abundance of both salad and slaw. Melissa made a delicious peach cobbler for dessert. I think I’m in the process of giving up on delicious synonyms for all the food my book pals serve, because they don’t fool around. It’s all very good. Linda complimented the slaw and was awarded a portion to take home!

The Book: Like most of the reading world, we praised the book. It is a heart-breaking read. Chris and Linda both noted that it leaves so little room for hope, and Chris compared it to Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Baldwin writes to a nephew and Coates to his son, but both are preparing the young men for the world they will find ahead of them. Chris felt that Baldwin offers more hope and possibility. I suggested that in the years that have passed since Balwin’s writing, Coates hasn’t seen the evidence to support reason for hope, and Susan countered that George Floyd’s killer is in jail. But we all know that’s not enough. We discussed that Melissa is the only one among us who has black friends and I bemoaned the fact that whenever I am friendly to a person of color, I am incredibly self-conscious and I fear that . . . and here Sharon helped hit the nail on the head. . . that I’m patronizing. As Linda noted, we would all sincerely wish not to be seen as the collective white enemy even if we may all need some guidance as to how to achieve that. I added that the book is touched by a grief to which every parent can relate; when he speaks of Prince’s death, he lists all that was wasted, all the effort a parent puts into rearing a child, all the applications, vacations, choices, bedtime stories, summer camps — why did we do all that when someone was just going to senselessly kill him? The book is well worth the read.

My apologies for all that I left out. I will add some photos if I can get my phone back from my grandson. He has his own, but mine doesn’t have a parental lock on YouTube. Better go do that quick.

The view to the southeast.
The sails in the view to the northwest and Chris contemplating
whether she can sneak this dog out in her purse.
Mary, the GREAT great-aunt, showing off her light up jewelry.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

(Book 133) Oh, we are just reveling in our new-found freedom to get together in person for our discussions! I’m not sure who started it, (Melissa?) but ten of us clasped hands around the table last night at Linda’s lovely home. We missed Mary, but we were clearly excited about this simple pleasure and encouraged each other not to forget what a joy it is to be able to meet and eat together again.

Let’s start with the food! Linda made a delicious wrapped appetizer of figs, manchego cheese and prosciutto, and served a pea and mint purée with carrots (including the purple variety) and red pepper slices. The main course was baked salmon, crisped rainbow baby potatoes, and a salad of asparagus, mushrooms, radishes and shaved parmesan. Dessert was a strawberry and rhubarb crisp, which Sharon and I were mysteriously served less of than the other girls. It was all so delicious. As my daughter says: I ate my dinner like it was my job — a job I care about! Kudos to our hostess!

Reactions to the book were quite positive. Rosalie went so far as to say that it was maybe the best one we’ve read together. Many commented that it really made us think about our own mothers and the extent to which we felt that we knew her as someone other than the role she filled as our Mom. Linda said she almost wished there hadn’t been a chapter narrated by the mother, and I agreed because it took us into the realm of magical realism. Chris offered a theory about use of second person for the daughter and the husband, because they had something to be guilty for, while the oldest son’s narration was in third person because he wasn’t blaming himself. Geri had a theory to explain Mom’s favoritism of the younger daughter which included consummation of her friendship with the young man who had stolen her bowl of food. I thought that her relationship with the young man was one of emotional support during tough times, but I would have to reread to really rule out that possibility. (I gave Geri a hard time anyway.) We talked about the four separate references to cows in comparison to the mother’s eyes and her energy at the moment of her birth. Karen googled and found that the cow is considered a noble animal in Korea. I didn’t take notes last night as I have been able to during the zooms and I enjoyed a second glass of wine, so I will encourage other members to add to their memories of this discussion.

Prior to discussing the book, each of us offered a story of motherhood whether it applied to our Mom or our own role as a mother. I’m not going to be able to remember exactly as we go around the table because (please see aforementioned second glass of wine) so I’m going to note things that were said without names of who said them and hope I manage to represent everyone. This book about motherhood made us think of:

How in some cases, our mother helped us to know what we didn’t want to be when we became mothers;

How even if mother generally fell short of any mothering skills, her focus on a particular aspect of life moved you forward in an important way;

How hard our own mother’s life was and how difficult that was to see as a child; though it doesn’t excuse everything, it makes us a sad to recognize that was her starting point;

How no two children in a family have the same mother; that mothers often have a different relationship with each child;

How some mothers weren’t all that forthcoming about the non-mother portion of their lives, making it difficult to know them as anything but Mom;

How peak moments in motherhood may come from some simple moment when your child acknowledges “my Mom taught me” or you’ve prepared them well enough to be ready tax season;

How some mothers did their best to advise on the act that would eventually cause you to become a mother by saying it “was OK to move” or by suggesting it was better “not to get in the habit because you’ll always want more and never want less;”

How some mothers had the skills to impart social and cultural skills and others just supported you while you learned on your own;

How some mothers know what to say to make it the boy’s fault when you’ve been spurned, or give you a Get Out of Jail Free card when you worry too much about not being good enough;

How meals get better when your brothers are around;

How some of Mom’s curious behavior when you were a kid, can now be seen as a plea to have some time to herself between work and motherhood;

And how some Moms can be remembered as saints, even when her best dish is hobo macaroni and she once fixed the hem of your skirt by stapling it and saying “A man on a galloping horse will never notice it” thereby solving a problem and giving you a language base rich in idiom at the same time!

It was a really great night thanks to all of you and your mothers! Please forgive me for all that I forgot to mention.

Our next meeting will be at Melissa’s on Wednesday, June 23 to discuss Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Eternal Husband by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

(Book 132) Our big furry Russian hats (ushanka) are off to Rosalie for bringing us back together live and in person for a remarkably satisfying evening with phenomenal food. She served all of Dostoyevsky’s favorites, starting with salmon and creme cheese spirals served on cucumbers or crackers she made herself. Three varieties of cheese were available, a triple cream, a strong cheddar, and a less aggressive, unassuming little cheddar, or so they were called by some of the girls who were already well into enjoying the evening. Following the appetizers, we were served (in her wedding gift consommé dishes) a cold borscht topped with a tiny dollop of sour cream. We all intend to hound her for her impromptu recipe (she looked at five recipes and invented her own) because it was genius. After the soup we were served a wedge of lettuce with fresh raspberries and a raspberry vinaigrette. The main course was a delicious stroganoff served over noodles with a side of green beans topped with toasted almonds. For dessert, Rosalie treated us to a Dobosh Torte, from Bennison’s bakery, mad of five thin layers of yellow cake filled and iced with rum-flavored chocolate buttercream. The top was decorated (and this is copy and pasted from the website) with caramel glazed marzipan fans! We discussed those fans fairly vigorously, but no one came up with marzipan. The feast was amazing, but what about the book?

Not so much. In what may have been our shortest discussion — Rosalie went into the kitchen and missed it — it was determined that it was the longest 122 pages we’ve ever read. Susan said she has a policy of giving any book 100 pages to make its appeal and she was irked to realize she had only 22 pages to read to finish, after she would have tossed it aside. None of us could understand anyone’s motivations for coming, for going, for saying what they did, or not saying what they seemed to want to say. But, as Linda noted for the low, low price of 122 drawn out pages, we earned the right to say we’ve read Dostoyevsky.

We didn’t have a question tonight about husbands, but our conversation conveniently veered to brushes with famous and mostly handsome guys who might turn a girl’s head away from her lawfully wedded husband: (dream music)

It all started when we were discussing other Dostoyevsky we’d read, I mentioned reading The Brothers Karmamozov and seeing a stage adaptation in Stratford,

Geri mentioned the film and that she had a huge crush on Yul Brenner; she was given some flack for crushing on a bald guy and added Paul Newman to her list of crushes,

Melissa said that she got pregnant because of Paul Newman, not by him, but because of him,

and then Susan tried to make Melissa jealous by recalling that Paul Newman once served Susan a specially-made cheeseburger at the race track;

Rosalie told us of a summer in Michigan when Charlton Heston asked if he could pet the baby skunk she was holding (which may have been a euphemism, but we don’t think so)

Marcia bumped into Harrison Ford at the Starbucks on Halsted, but luckily no coffee was spilled on his spandex,

Sharon spent some time on a beach, possibly working, with the record producer Lou Adler,

then not content with sharing a skunk with Heston, Rosalie was arrested outside Nellis Air Force base and handcuffed with Martin Sheen,

and in the midst of a wild thunderstorm, Linda was part of a foursome with Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky) — oh, did I forget to say golfing, a golfing foursome,

and then I told the story about my beautiful sister, Susanne and I were in Las Vegas for an ASHA convention and she had to send a message to Johnny Bench that we didn’t do a sister act, though I’ve always loved that song with the feather fans from White Christmas,

and then Geri tried to break up Phil Donahue’s marriage to Marlo Thomas once when she was on his show and dazzled him with a brilliant answer to a question he asked the audience,

then Susan met Dean Martin and with the love of a good woman was able to keep him from a life of crime,

and finally Mary was going to tell about the time that she was body surfing in Hawaii and was stung by a strange sea creature and Tom Selleck was the one to pull her out of the water and give her mouth to mouth resuscitation even though that isn’t all that helpful for a sea creature sting and then they spent the rest of her vacation in his trailer on the set, but them Mary remembered that she’d rather tell about the time she had a drink with Ernie Banks at Trader Vic’s and he gave her a cocktail napkin with his signature on it to remember him by.

It was good to be back together. Our next meeting will be at Linda’s home on Tuesday, May 18, to discuss Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-sook. Come prepared with a favorite Mom story.

The Angry Wife by Pearl S. Buck

(Book 131) Yes, I am knocking on wood as I type that this was hopefully our last meeting via Zoom. It was the kind of meeting that you hope will be the last because of the sound issues; we had such an echo we felt like Lou Gehrig announcing the end of his baseball career. But let’s get right on to the book.

First Impressions: Most of us gave the book a thumbs-up. Chris said that at the outset, she was primarily aware of how antiquated the book has become, but she found it generally engaging and the characters kept her moving. Susan agreed that it felt old to her as well, but that when the story began to unfold, it grabbed and held her attention. Melissa was surprised that Pearl Buck could write a book about interracial marriage in 1945, but Chris noted that Pearl Buck was raising consciousness about racism and women’s rights long before it was fashionable. Rosalie thought that the characters were stereotypical but that there is truth in stereotypes. Marcia once again gave me credit for choosing a book that spoke to the present condition — that we are still trapped in old ways.

The Anger in The Angry Wife: Linda thought that the title was odd; she mentioned that while Lucinda was not a particularly likable person, she seemed generally resigned to the idea that her husband, and her father, could do whatever they liked and Lucinda had to deal with it. Karen commented that while there is anger expressed, it is seen from the husband/Tom’s point of view. Chris felt that the anger in the title was expressed when Lucinda speaks of how a woman’s fate is controlled by men. She noted that the husbands/fathers were illustrative of male white privilege now. Her husband could do what he wanted because that is the way the world works. Marcia felt that Lucinda wielded a tremendous amount of power, that her pronouncements kept Tom from accepting his brother’s wife and children as part of his own family. Chris emphasized that Lucinda’s power was sexual, that she could withhold her favor, but had to be aware that withholding sex might drive Tom to find sex elsewhere, and indeed, believed she had. My take on the anger issue is that the pre-Civil war wife knew what she was up against. She knew that her husband might use his female slaves for his own enjoyment, or worse, as a thrifty tool to breed more free labor. She was part of a framework that allowed for this to happen, without any threat to her position as mistress of the house. After the war, if these women were no longer slaves, no longer property, they were a threat. If her brother-in-law could choose to see a black woman as the equal of a white woman, her husband could as well and Lucinda’s place was no longer assured. Rosalie added that the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson discusses this concept, that one’s position is assured by the people who are legitimately lower than you.

So as we read these books about family, I ask the girls a question each month to relate the topic to our own lives. This month’s question wasn’t very popular. I asked who served as their role model when they thought about being a wife — and I was lambasted. Chris said that it didn’t seem like a thing — to have a role model for your relation to another human being. It was problematic to Linda as well. Melissa said that having never been married her personal role model has been Auntie Mame! (I wanted to ask her which one of us she thought didn’t know that already!) Mostly, the reaction was that my feminist fellow readers didn’t want to be defined by their husbands (or anyone else for that matter) and that they found it hard enough establishing their own credit and defining themselves in the world. I felt quite foolish when I said that my role model was Laura Petrie because I wanted to be the kind of wife who could entertain and have lots of people auditioning for musicals and dancing in my living room. We did get some fun advice about being a wife. Melissa’s grandmother told her to set the table — if the table is set he thinks he’s getting food even if it’s not ready yet. Rosalie said her version of that was spray Pledge and boil something!

Our meeting for April will be IN PERSON at Rosalie’s on Monday, April 26 to discuss The Eternal Husband by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.