What is your book group reading this year? Here are some recent literary novels that are eminently discuss-able.
Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende
Sent by her grandmother to a remote island off the Chilean coast for her own safety, American-born Maya Vidal logs in her diary the year of recovery from her drug-related criminal and personally destructive activities. Discuss child rearing and where Maya’s relationships with significant adults failed her; the pervasiveness of drug abuse and how to deal with it and Allende’s flexibility of style.
Flora by Gail Godwin
Having lost her mother at an early age, precocious 10-year-old Helen narrates the story of a summer spent with her seemingly frail and clueless older cousin, Flora, while Helen’s father is away doing secret work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the latter part of World War II. Discuss the evolution of character in relation to their inheritance of family traits and the lineage of place; how Helen specifically is influenced by Flora and the long-term effects of keeping secrets.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (available in paperback)
Dellarobia Turnbow’s discovery of a million butterflies in an Appalachian valley sparks a personal epiphany of self-discovery and the beginning of dissention as the isolated area is thrust into the public eye over environmental issues. Discuss Kingsolver’s elegant use of the natural world as metaphor; the nature of regionalism and classism with regard to conservation and Kingsolver’s use of character to denote different attitudes and beliefs.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Lahiri beautifully describes the tragic separation of two brothers born in Calcutta at the time of India’s partition, whose lives take different paths on different sides of the world. Discuss India’s rocky modern history; the Indian immigrant experience in America; the author’s use of multiple perspectives and time frames and its effect on the reader’s experience. Lahiri will be at Town Hall on October 10.
The Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng Tan
(available in paperback)
Before she loses her memory to aphasia, retired Malaysian judge Yung Ling, a World War II prison camp survivor, records the story of the exiled Japanese gardener who created the fictional Garden of the Evening Mists and who showed Yung Ling the path to healing, despite their bitter differences. Discuss the power of story to bring closure to past difficulty, the role of art and nature in the healing process and Tan’s elegant style.
Also, last week’s post, Looking for something for your book group? Try these!