The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie

(Book 158) Susan hosted a large group of us tonight and because it was raining, she didn’t get to use the lovely back deck area. We were still missing Geri, Karen and Rosalie, but we had a guest, my new neighbor Lennis. Shortly after the Little Free Library went up in front of my home, a couple talked to me about their plans to rehab and move into the building next door to us. The young woman told me her mother would be moving into the second floor when it was ready and that happened at the end of May. I spoke about my book club and though we are at 11 members when everyone attends, I joked that 12 would mean that no one would have to host twice in a year! When I told the girls, some were worried that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate a new member, but who knows, maybe she won’t want to join us as we are all raging liberals and swear like sailors. So, I brought Lennis and when she saw the dining table, she said it was the fanciest book club she’d ever attended, that she is used to wine and appetizers. And I heard her say “Where will I fit everybody?” Her new apartment is about one-seventh the size of her previous home (if I remember the numbers correctly.)

I’ve read three books by Sherman Alexie previously and I was a little shocked that this one had so many stories about sexual encounters. After I gave Lennis the book, I read the first two stories and sent her a text saying “Please don’t think that we are a group of lascivious old ladies!” After Chris told me she only took issue with the old part, and I should speak for myself, she enlightened the group about Alexie’s reputation with sexual harassment. I’d already ordered ten copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because I wanted to regain credibility for having selected one of his books, and now, no one will want to read anything by him. Except Mary, she said she would still take a copy. We talked about the age-old Do you have to like the person to appreciate his art? — but sexual assault is not a minor transgression. Sigh.

We tried to talk about his writing apart from his reputation and discussed our favorite stories. Chris’ favorite was the title story The Toughest Indian in the World. She also appreciated South by Southwest and likened his absurd adventures and abrupt endings to Flannery O’Connor, though no one loses a limb. Mary and Lennis liked Saint Junior. Though his wife completely supported his career, as soon as she said, let’s go home, they did. And she was able through all of it to hang on to her own career. Linda, Susan and Sharon chose Dear John Wayne as their favorite. We all enjoyed that the kids were named John and Marion! Melissa wasn’t able to pick a favorite, and I guess I didn’t hear Marcia’s either. No one appreciated The Sin Eaters — the sex made no sense. I do have to say, however, that The Sin Eaters made me take notice of the fact that 30 of our 45 presidents have had blue eyes. (I looked it up after: “a man with blue eyes dropped two symmetrical slices of the sun on Japan.” I assumed Alexie meant the president responsible and not the pilots or bombardiers aboard the aircraft.) After that, I just kept reading ‘blue eyes’ sprinkled here and there throughout his stories and finally thought about blue eyes as a sign of the enemy instead of the dreamy hunk they implied as I was growing up. I also loved the following from The Sin Eaters: “Jonah, she said using my name as she might have used aspirin or penicillin, it was a dream.”

I enjoyed most of the stories because Alexie can create these wonderful tender moment while also having a sense of humor:
“Regarding love and marriage, and sex, both Shakespeare and Sitting Bull knew the only truth: treaties get broken.” Assimilation
“Mary Lynn had never before felt such lust — in Montana, of all places, …” Assimilation
“Why not practice a carnal form of affirmative action?” Assimilation
“Seymour looked around the Tucson McDonald’s. There were white people and Navajos; there were people who preferred their Quarter Pounder with cheese and those who didn’t care for cheese at all; and there were those who desperately wished that McDonald’s would introduce onion rings to its menu. Oh, Seymour thought, there are so many possibilities.” South by Southwest
“He was a white man, and therefore he could dream.” South by Southwest

Other books: Chris told us to watch for David James Duncan’s novel Sun House coming out in August and Susan highly recommended The Hail Mary Project by Andy Weir. I offered my copy of Abraham Verghese’s The Covenant of Water but at 715 pages, no one took me up on it,

Now, the FOOD!

Susan managed to sprain her ankle and had it elevated and covered by a bag of frozen peas when Chris, the psychic, texted to offer her help. Susan made so many dishes, it’s hard to know where to begin. The appetizers included 1) a salmon mousse because there was salmon throughout the book and likewise throughout the meal; 2) toasted bread slices topped with ricotta and a butternut squash spread; 3) toasted bread slices topped with mozzarella and tomato salsa; cheese, lots of cracker choices, grapes and probably some other delicious things.

The main course was oven baked salmon with blueberry salsa, wild rice with pecans and golden raisins, two green salads, one with arugula, avocado, grape tomatoes and corn and the other with cucumber, tomato and feta cheese and finally, asparagus. It was all amazingly tasty. The dessert was and Ina Garten recipe — Blueberry Crisp with ice cream. I tried so hard to be good but ended up saying A1c be damned! Not only was it all delicious, she did it all while hobbling but not complaining!

Our next meeting will take place Thursday, July 27 at Melissa’s to discuss World’s Fair by E. L. Doctorow.

Half a World Away by Mike Gayle

(Book 157) Marcia hosted five of us this evening; Chris was still out, spending some much coveted time with her daughter, Sharon was out of town, and our three truants are still –truant. Rosalie is in Quebec this month (!); Geri’s doctor told her to wait another three months before any large group activities; and Karen has found a placement for her husband which is only available for 90 days. Susan added her husband, Jeff, to our list of members or spouses needing intercession. (I think Mary is the keeper of the prayer list, as most of the rest of us are only good for positive thoughts.) Jeff’s cancer has come back and he will be starting a new treatment at Northwestern which will be happening this month and next. I tell the girls to wrap themselves in bubble wrap (but not around the mouth and nose; plastic bags are not toys) and stay safe from this nonsense that is targeting our book club — and then what do I do? I have them read a book about (SPOILER ALERT) a lovely woman dying.

On the brighter side, we started the evening at Marcia’s being filmed by two young women studying in Chicago, who came to know Marcia while she made her home into an AirBNB. The two women are making a documentary about Andrew, his stroke, his rehab, the women who daily challenge him at Scrabble, and primarily, his art. Marcia was able to choose 20 of his more recent pieces, get them framed and displayed in the hallway of their home. The two filmmakers captured footage of the book club ladies appreciating Andrew’s art. Susan was eyeing the piece that I want; I told Marcia to put a SOLD sign on it!

After the art gallery opening, with wine in hand, we sat in the living room and enjoyed crisps which were often mentioned in the book. Linda was transported to her early college years! In addition to crisps, there was crudité with dip and a tray of crackers and cheese. There was also mention of delivery pizza in the book and that served as our main course, along with a lovely salad that Marcia had prepared. We had our choice of BBQ Chicken and Margherita pizza. Some of us didn’t bother to choose between and I can attest that they were both delicious. We were going to have Lemon Bars for dessert, but Neo, the Cute yet Naughty Dog ate most of those when Marcia was distracted. Marcia’s daughter Katie picked up delicious cookies, I mean biscuits, for dessert instead. The table was lovely with two sparkly centerpieces paying homage to the sparkle that Kerry wished for her funeral and this brings us finally to the book discussion.

The primary observation made by several of us was that this is not a typical book for us. It seems that I usually hook the girls up, not unlike horses to a plow, with books that you have to work to read! Read ALL FOUR versions of the events in An Instance at the Fingerpost! You can read Dostoevsky — it’s only a short story!! Go, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead —  Olga Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature for crying out loud!!! So I heard comments tonight such as “easy read” and “it’s faster when you’re not reading for the beauty of the words” and (yikes) “a Hallmark movie.”

Susan first mentioned that the weakness of the book was in the portrayal of Noah’s wife, that she seemed off. Linda commented that several of the supporting characters were one-dimensional. I opined that the author was trying to create a problem that would keep Kerry and Noah from getting together and the problem never seemed real.

Which is not to say that the book doesn’t have many lovely life-affirming moments and the beauty of family taking care of each other. It doesn’t mean that some of us didn’t cry at the end. At least one of our husbands had to check in to make sure the sobbing was just the book and not something more seriously wrong. As Marcia said, she appreciated the ready catharsis it provided. I told the girls, the book was elevated for me because I heard Olivia Coleman delivering Kerry’s lines and Olivia, with only minimal direction from me, made her lovely and whole, with an occasional sparkle in her eye.

It was a lovely night. We missed those who weren’t able to attend, but we look forward to Susan hosting us next month, Tuesday, June 13, to discuss Sherman Alexie’s book of short stories, The Toughest Indian in the World.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

(Book 156) Sharon hosted six of us this evening; Chris was still out, this time with COVID, and our three truants have yet to return. We aren’t worried about our snowbird, Rosalie; Geri is predicting she may rejoin us in May and Karen is busy trying to find another placement for her husband to continue his rehab. We are all thinking positive thoughts for Karen because that process has to be so difficult.

Sharon had asked us all to come with a favorite quote from the book to share and we did that sharing over delicious appetizers. There was a spread made of goat cheese, cream cheese and olive oil, topped with quartered grape tomatoes and served with three kinds of crackers — that was REALLY good. The spread was accompanied by prosciutto crudo and other Italian meats, olives, nuts and those yummy Terra vegetable chips.

I told the girls that after finishing the book, I was reminded of Carrie Fisher’s quote: “If you can get Paul Simon to write a song about you, do it. Because he is so brilliant at it.” By that same token, I doubted a man could do any better than to have Elizabeth Alexander eulogize him in book form. We were all a little jealous of the life that the two of them shared — except Mary who already had that with Ron. She just didn’t write about it.

Sharon shared that Chris had sent an email with a list of all her quotes. Sharon forwarded it to me and I’m going to put most of that email here:

“Death sits in the comfortable chair in the corner of my new bedroom, smoking a cigarette. It is a he, sinuous and sleek, wearing a felt brimmed hat. He is there when I wake in the middle of the night, sitting quietly, his smoke a visible curl in the New York lights that come in between the venetian blind slats.”

(Kind of a well-worn image, but I still liked the passage.)

“But the friendship part of marriage, that is the part that is enacted, that is the part for which you need the person present, and that is what I miss….friendship in marriage is its own thing: friendship in a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, or a cappuccino every Sunday morning. Friendship in buying undershirts and underpants. Friendship in picking up a prescription or rescuing the towed car. Friendship in waiting for the phone call after the mammogram. Friendship in toast buttered just so. Friendship in shoveling the snow. I am the one you want to tell. You are the one I want to tell.”

(How true with the death of anyone important to you. You miss telling them about your day or asking them about a memory.)

“I am grateful for the tug of the day that gets us out of bed and propels us into our lives and responsibilities; memory can be a weight on that. And yet, in it floods, brought willfully, or brought on by a glimpse, a glance, a scent, a sound. One note: the timbre of his voice.”

(I think the tug of the day is the only thing that keeps us going during grief.)

Can’t wait to hear what everyone thought of this book. Of course I got teary-eyed while reading it, but I also felt myself wanting to look away. It felt like too much sometimes. I looked up photos of Fike and could see what she meant about his eyes. I wondered if I started feeling kind of irritated every once in a while because their relationship seemed too perfect. Was I envious? I think the thing that I envied was her ability to form and keep the “chosen family” that she kept talking about and describing to us. Wow. To have truly close friends all over the world.

One other thing I kept thinking was how this book compared to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which I loved. It’s much more, I don’t know, maybe cerebral. Although you can feel her pain, it’s not slopped all over every page, and she’s looking at herself from a distance later and showing us what that magical thinking is like. It’s really well written, like Alexander’s, and quite different. Might have been interesting to read them together—although there’s only so much death and grief a person can take!

Marcia said that because she listened to the book, it was harder for her to capture quotes. Linda tried to tell us that she couldn’t really tell what made a good writer and that she usually reads for the story, but that while reading this book, she was unusually aware of how lovely Alexander’s writing is. Unfortunately, she had already finished the book by the time Sharon had asked us to bring a quote and Linda hadn’t made notations. Susan appreciated the reiteration of “The days are long but the years are short.” and Melissa liked the way in which Alexander had to insert “I’m alive.” between her sentences: “I wake up grateful, for life is a gift.” I think it was also Melissa who mentioned how dear it was when Alexander’s son, Simon, took her to visit Ficre in heaven at bedtime.

This was the first of several quotes that I chose: “Because going out into the world can make you tired, I couldn’t always share every little thing and now I wish I’d poured a glass of wine and sat with him for hours on the red sofa and told stories like he did, all generosity, Frederick the mouse of Leo Lionni’s classic children’s book offering his mouse community the sunlight of stories to get them through the long dark winter.” I have to include a picture for reference for those who don’t read children’s books.

I also mentioned that I loved the quote from Ficre’s mother about him: “He had drunk his water.” Sharon wondered how exactly his mother was privy to that information in all that it might imply, but we all appreciated the sense of it. Sharon offered that she enjoyed Alexander’s use of the song lyric: “I been in sorrow’s kitchen and done licked out all the pots.”

Mary read us this: “We used to walk together in Grove Street Cemetery –where he is now buried where I will one day join him — and sometimes sit beneath trees and speak quietly and carefully about important things just between us. ‘Winter in his heart’ seems the truest and most literal description of how my chest feels from weeping for him.”

Then it was time for the main course. Earlier, when I was walking off the elevator, down the hall, I was half-chanting “let it be Shrimp Barka, let it be Shrimp Barka” and didn’t I get my wish?! Sharon used the recipe included in the book for Ficre’s Shrimp Barka and served it with carrots and dressed butter lettuce. The shrimp dish was so AMAZING and now you can try it too (but it probably won’t be as good as Sharon’s):

Shrimp Barka

Time 30 minutes

Serves 4


4 Tablespoon of olive oil

3 medium red onions, thinly sliced

4-6 cloves garlic, minced

5 very ripe and juicy tomatoes, chopped coarsely

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ Cup finely chopped fresh basil (1 bunch)

15 pitted dates (1/2 Cup), cut crosswise in thirds

3 Tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut

½ Cup of half-and-half

1 pound medium shrimp (16-20), shelled and deveined

2/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 ½ Cup cooked basmati rice


1. In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, and sauté until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, and continuing sautéing, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for 2 minutes longer, Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover, and cook for about 5 minutes.

2. Add basil, dates and coconut, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes. Add the half-and-half, cover and cook for 3 minutes

3. Add shrimp to sauce. Cook, covered, until shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese, and then the rice, and serve immediately.

Recipes from THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD by Elizabeth Alexander. Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth Alexander. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Other quotes that came up while we were eating:

“When you become a family, you make common culture. Ficre and I shared cultures, folded into each other, and quickly made an indelible family culture. That we grew up around the world from each other seemed totally irrelevant. When he sleep-talked in Tigrinya, i remembered. I remembered sometimes that our entire relationship, and most of his days, took place in his fourth language.” (We talked about how woefully poor Americans are at languages.)

“My life will be a trail of breadcrumbs wherever it takes me until I die.” (I adored this sense of her leaving a path for him to find her in case he comes back.)

And the house’s history! The previous owner had hosted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and prior to that Thornton Wilder had conducted playwriting workshops there! Marcia wondered how she could leave such a wondrous history-filled home and garden, but we agreed that it would always feel as though something, rather someone, was missing.

Paying homage to Ficre’s Italian influences, Sharon served Berry Tiramisu for dessert. All the girls commented on the gigantic serving size (I was undaunted) and yet the plates were clean. Sharon was kind to pack up some left overs for all the Ficres waiting at home. My husband, Tom will testify to just how delicious it was, though he is only an expert witness in radiology.

Our next meeting will take place at Marcia’s home on Tuesday, May 16 to discuss Half a World Away by Mike Gayle. Marcia will get to drag bingo one of these Tuesdays, but not May 16th.

Please add your comments!

Dancing at the Edge of the World by Ursula K Le Guin

(Book 155) Linda hosted four of us this evening; Chris and Susan were out with a stomach bug (probably two different stomach bugs); Mary had hoped to attend despite having a medical procedure scheduled earlier in the day, but didn’t make it; and then the three girls who have been playing hooky all year. Rosalie continues to enjoy the warmer weather of her winter digs; Geri appeared noticeably improved when Linda last visited, even if Geri feels the progress is slow; and Marcia told us that Karen’s husband made it out of ICU at Northwestern and into the Shirley Ryan Rehab Center. We are rooting for Geri and Scott and a teeny (?) bit envious of Rosalie.

We sat in one of two lounge areas in Linda’s lovely apartment. My chair swiveled and almost relaxed me to sleep! We munched on a green pea and mint spread, carrots, blue cheese, Brie, crackers, and smoked almonds while Linda finished preparations for the main course and kept our wine glasses filled! We talked about the fact that we often plan our meal around something in the book, but that Ursula didn’t offer much in that regard. It wasn’t until “Over the Hills and a Great Way Off, in which Le Guin writes about her family’s visit to a friend in England that any food is mentioned. Then it is fish and chips, Chinese food, apples, beer, whiskey, egg and cress sandwiches, crackers, tomatoes and cheese, Dorset Knobs and butter cookies. I have to say, I would have liked to have tasted the Dorset Knob.

Instead of ordering in Chinese, or serving egg and cress sandwiches, Linda chose her own menu and served delicious pork tenderloins with a balsamic reduction (I don’t know if it was a reduction, I was just carried away with culinary lingo) asparagus with butter and garlic, and a delicious wild rice with butternut squash salad. It was all delicious and topped only by the dessert tart which Linda tells us included both lemon and lime. Here is a picture of the girls with the menu in place. There was an extra place because we all hoped Mary might be able to make it.

A closer look at the food! Tart was absent when photo was taken.

After the tart, I no longer longed for the Dorset Knob.

On to the book. Linda started us off by saying that she wished that Chris had been able to make it this evening, because she had communicated that she loved the book, and Linda had hoped that Chris might be able to explain the book to the rest of us. We agreed that it was a much more difficult book to read than we had expected because many of the selections were speeches that Le Guin had given at conferences and university commencements. The writing was imbued with an uncommon level of specificity. The placement of the essay that considered the difference between moral and ethical implications, so early in the book, may have been a poor choice. A few readers may have given up there. After all it had started us off so nicely with The Space Crone. Marcia and I talked last week, and she was so taken with the first essay that she wanted to share it with her daughter. I read a part of it aloud, telling the girls that it had given me a new take on my old age:

“Old age is not virginity but a third and new condition; the virgin must be celibate, but the crone need not. There was a confusion there, which the separation of female sexuality from reproductive capacity via modern contraceptives, has cleared up. Loss of fertility does not mean loss of desire and fulfillment. But it does entail a change, a change involving matters even more important — if I may venture a heresy — than sex. The woman who is willing to make that change must become pregnant with herself, at last. She must bear herself, her third self, her old age, with travail and alone. . . It may well be easier to die if you have already given birth to others or yourself, at least once before. . . It seems a pity to have a built-in rite of passage and to dodge it, evade it and pretend nothing has changed. That is to dodge and evade one’s womanhood, to pretend one’s like a man. Men, once initiated, never get the second chance. They never change again. That’s their loss, not ours. Why borrow poverty?”

We discussed the ways in which Le Guin’s views mesh very clearly with those of the group of us. Her speech to publicize the Oxfam America Fast for the Hungry in 1981 at the Portland Food Bank included: “No home worth living in has for its cornerstone the hunger of those who built it. . . the city we’re trying to build, to found, is not [built] on hoarding and moneymaking and hunger, but on sharing and justice. A house that deserves its children.”

In her address to the Portland branch of the National Abortion Rights Action League in 1982, she shared her personal story within the framework of a princess who needed rescue when it was illegal. When the prince was asked for his help “he went home to his family palace and hid in the throne room.” Her conclusion was oddly prescient in light of recent events: “We are not going back to the Dark Ages. We are not going to let anybody in this country have that kind of power over any girl or woman. There are great powers, outside the government and in it, trying to legislate the return of darkness. We are not great powers. But we are the light. Nobody can put us out. May you all shine very bright and steady, today and always.”

Whose Lathe?” is a piece that Le Guin wrote for the Forum section of her regional newspaper in 1984, after a local librarian informed Le Guin that one of her books was to have a censorship hearing. “The man who was asking that it be withdrawn stated his objections to the following elements in the book: fuzzy thinking and poor sentence structure; a mention of homosexuality; a character who keeps a flask of brandy in her purse, and who remarks that her mother did not love her. (It seemed curious to me that he did not mention the fact that this same character is a Black woman whose lover/husband is a White Man. I had the feeling that this was really what he hated in the book and that he was afraid to say so; but that was only my feeling.)” I couldn’t help but think of Jodi Picoult, who I saw on TikTok recently fighting the same fight to TikTok’s young audience. (No explanation for why I’m there.)

I love Le Guin’s take on trains in “Room 9, Car 1430” that is: ” Why should we be forced to undergo the increasing discomfort, danger and indignity that the airlines inflict on their passengers? Trains are not deliberately overbooked. Train stations are downtown — not in some dreary boondock twenty-five dollars away from where you want to be.” (Those are 1985 dollars.) But my favorite piece was “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction“:

“So long as culture was explained as originating from and elaborating upon the use of long hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing, I never thought that I had or wanted, any particular share in it. . . Wanting to be fully human too, I sought for evidence that I was; but if that’s what it took, to make a weapon and kill with it, then evidently I was either extremely defective as a human being, or not human at all. That’s right, they said. What you are is a woman. Possibly not human at all, certainly defective. Now be quiet while we go on telling the Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero. Go on, say I, wandering off towards the wild oats, with Oo Oo in the sling and little Oom carrying the basket. You just go on telling how the mammoth fell on Boob and how Cain fell on Abel and how the bomb fell on Nagasaki and how the burning jelly fell on the villagers and how the missiles will fall on the Evil Empire, and all the other steps in the Ascent of Man.” Well, I can’t type the entire essay here, so if you’re going to read only one piece, I suggest the Carrier Bag.

As I told the girls, another piece “Places, Names” gave me a great idea for my family’s Third Annual Summer Road Trip. Le Guin’s VW journey starting in Portland in June of 1981 and her recitation of places and names she saw along the way, gave me the idea of outlining Road Trip Poetry for my grandson. One poem starts with “something he had for breakfast” on the first line, two road signs he saw on the second line, the number of miles to our next destination on the third line, the name of an attraction on the fourth line, two unusual objects seen today on the fifth line and a new word or expression he heard on the sixth/final line. That’s the first one — I’m working on other formats. Madlibs/Roadtrip/Ursula K Le Guin-inspired poetry.

Apologies for not doing this amazing, intelligent woman justice. I’ve admitted to more people than the girls in the club that some of her writing went straight over my head. I’ll hope that some of the girls add their comments. I’m so tired of the comments always being Russian or porn. You know, it was fun at first, but it just doesn’t hold up.

Our next meeting will be at Sharon’s on Tuesday, April 18th to discuss The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander.

The Known World by Edward P Jones

(Book 154) Mary hosted our meeting for The Known World; seven members attended and three played hooky! (OK, maybe they weren’t playing hooky.) We had updates from Marcia about Karen’s husband Scott and from Chris about Geri and we are all praying or thinking positive thoughts for both of them.

Mary started us off with chips, crackers, salsa, guacamole and crudité to nibble with our wine, while she did the final preparations for dinner. The main course was a Southern recipe for Smothered Chicken, a dish of chicken and gravy served over mashed potatoes and accompanied by a delicious salad of mixed greens, beets and pears. Dessert was a triumph! The book mentions apples and apple pie several times which caused Mary to google crustless apple pie. The recipe that came up was a cousin to apple crisp, apple brown Betty, apple crumble, and apple pan dowdy. We are all waiting impatiently for Mary to send us the recipe!

As we sat down to dinner, Chris started the ball rolling with “So, what did everyone think about the book?” There was quite a moment of silence before I said that had a few problems with it and listed: 1) that I was bothered by the very idea that there were free blacks who held slaves and 2) that I found it difficult to read because of the blend of past, present and future within the same paragraph.

Chris added that she is somewhat skeptical of the Pulitzer Prize in general, but that The Known World is a story not that well or artfully told. She said that she thought the writing was dense in a purposeful way to emphasize the slow, heavy, complex nature of the subject.

Sharon was daunted by the massive number of characters in the story, as was Marcia, and wished that her copy of the book had been like others of us who had a Dramatis Personae in the back of the book. She noted that she liked the book as it started, but felt that it was more difficult as she read on. Chris and I felt the other way round, in that the book was at first off-putting but as we immersed ourselves into it, we became more interested in the characters and the interactions between them.

Linda appreciated the time-jumping, particularly when the author jumped to the future to tell us where a character was in old age. I agreed that I became more comfortable with the time issue as I read deeper into the book. Susan said she wished she would have heard what happened to Rita, the woman that Augustus had packed into a shipping crate and sent North. Marcia felt that were several characters whose outcome stories hadn’t been told.

Melissa didn’t finish the book because she misplaced it and hasn’t been able to find it. We imagine it will turn up someday when a customer tries to rent it for a photo shoot!

Mary admitted that she didn’t read enough of it to form a full opinion, but thought that the book was tedious. Everyone agreed that it was a slow read. I was reading the book concurrently with Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and I have to agree with Roxane (as she talked about Django Unchained) that maybe we don’t need another book or movie depicting the atrocities of slavery despite a new angle.

We will meet next month at Linda’s on Tuesday, March 21st to discuss Ursula K Leguin’s Dancing at the Edge of the World.