Book Club – Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic


The Library has two titles for this Spring’s Book Club.

Our first selection in February is Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. Pick up your copy at either campus while supplies last. And then meet fellow readers at our Book Clubs and let’s talk!

Come to either campus on the following dates to join the discussion:
Monday, February 26th – 3:30-5:00 OR Wednesday, February 28th – 1:00 to 3:30

Read an excerpt of this graphic novel here.
Find a review of Fun Home here.
And a cheat sheet of discussion ideas here. So easy!

And, oh yeah, food will be served at each of the Book Club gatherings. Come and ENJOY!

Books I have read …

The Book of Strange New Things : A Novel by Michel Faber

I started reading this book because I so enjoyed Faber’s Crimson Petal and the White. Since I an not a science fiction buff, I was a bit wary of ruining my enjoyment of the author. But The Book of Strange … is a gem of a novel. Again, Faber writes in great detail, which might put some readers off. His books tend to be thick, with detailed language. The protagonist, Peter, and his wife, Bea, are separated when Peter’s job takes him to another galaxy to share the Bible’s gospels. Bea remains and her faith and survival is tested by earthly disasters. “Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us” (publisher).  Read an excerpt here.

The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn

I was listening to an NPR podcast with Jennifer Jason Leigh as the guest, and she said how much she loved this author and that she, Hugo Weaving, and Benedict Cumberbatch (as Patrick) were going to star in a TV series version. I knew I had to read the book first. I have not been disappointed. This collection of novels takes Patrick through his abusive childhood, addiction plagued early adulthood, to a recovering man who sees the world through intensely sharp but skeptical eyes. While the stories might best be read separately, they hold up as a series. But, by the last book, I was a bit tired of Patrick’s complaints and tribulations. You understand his pathos, having read his life from age five to late adulthood, but might not have much sympathy by the 650th page. Read an excerpt here.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Ann and Wade live a solitary life in northern Idaho. In his 50s, Wade has early-onset dementia. He no longer remembers his first wife killing one of their daughters while the other girl disappeared into the surrounding forest. Ann is determined to figure out what happened and why, while incarcerated Jenny stays zombie like and uncommunicative. It’s a good story line, but the unrelenting misery of the characters makes for a depressing read. Since this is Ruskovich’s first novel, I am hoping she learns to alleviate the morose mood with some lighter moments. Since the novel moves back and forth between the past and near future, adding some happy memories would be a welcome device to make the tone of the book not such a one note tragedy. Read an excerpt here.

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Books I have read … January 1st

The Trespasser by Tana French

French’s novels are interconnected and best read in order to fully understand the interplay between continuing characters. This is her sixth in the line of Dublin Murder Squad novels. But they all can stand alone and be enjoyed separately. This story brings the team of detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran back together to solve a murder. The killer appears to be her boyfriend, Rory Fallon. But the obvious is too easy for the suspicious Conway. And her suspicions et stronger when a more experienced detective takes an interest in the case and wants Rory charged. I really like French’s writing. It’s tightly plotted and character-driven crime fiction. If you take “crime” out of that sentence, the description is right up my alley for all my favorite reads. Read an excerpt here.

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato

Lucy and her son, Edgar, have lived in New Jersey with her mother-in-law since her husband killed himself. Lucy is not a responsible mother, but Florence takes care of Edgar, a strangely intelligent, hypersensitive eight-year-old with a case of albinism. Lucy is a hands-off kind of mom – hairdresser by day, drinker and flirt by night. She loves Edgar, but treats him more like a roommate than a son and has willingly ceded his parenting to her mother-in-law. Edgar is deeply connected to both women, and acutely afflicted in his loyalties. “To be alone with either of them was sweetness itself. But combine them and things tightened, a constriction Edgar felt in his sensitive, divining throat.” When Florence suddenly dies, things fall apart. Edgar is kidnapped by a mysterious, lurking man and Lucy becomes frantic with worry. Turmoil is familiar territory for Lodato, who is also a playwright and a poet. Even in the darkest moments, when his characters are being their worst selves, Lodato shows them in an tender light. Read an excerpt here.

This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell

I like Maggie O’Farrell, but this story was a bit to long and wide in events to hold my focus. The characters did not seem real and the situations seemed manufactured. “The points of view and temporal and geographical jumps multiply rapidly, with Daniel and Claudette as narrative anchors, their sections interspersed with others seen from many different perspectives: those of their children and stepchildren, former friends, employees, lovers, siblings, mothers, even a semi-random fellow traveler in Bolivia in 2015, an aging woman fleeing her marriage who carries her own losses but whose chief function seems to be to serve as unofficial, bus-seat therapist to Daniel as he shares his relationship and addiction woes” (Elizabeth Graver, NYT Book Review, 5 Aug. 2016). Read another O’Farrell novel, The Hand that First Held Mine, that I enjoyed much more, available in the HCCC Library collection. Excerpt of This Must Be the Place here.

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Books I have read – December 15

every-last-oneEvery Last One by Anna Quindlen

Mary Beth Latham is a happily married mother of three, two sons and one daughter, all very different from each other but part of a loving, vibrant family. The daughter is also loved by a boy she has known since childhood. But Ruby Latham wants to move on. Unfortunately, the troubled boy doesn’t want to let her go. This novel, like all of Quindlen’s works, is well written and deals with emotions that we all have to some degree, whether loneliness, envy, or self-doubt. When a violent and terrible tragedy happens, the aftermath of rebuilding a life is articulated with pathos and regret. Quindlen’s subtle details made me cry while wanting to read more. A review by Nancy Robertson of The Washington Post describes part of the plot: “As Mary Beth moves through shock and grief in the aftermath of great upheaval, hidden aspects of her life come to light. She’s forced to face what she fears most and somehow try to keep on going. Quindlen succeeds at conveying the transience of everyday worries and the never-ending boundaries of a mother’s love.” Other titles by the author can be found in our collection, all of which I recommend: Still Life with Bread Crumbs, How Reading Changed My Life, and One True Thing.

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
everybody
Pretty much everything that Richard Russo writes, I enjoy. It’s easy reading but has enough insight to make the characters come alive, and his stories are funny and down to earth. This one is the sequel to his earlier novel Nobody’s Fool. The characters are about thirty years older, with Sully still drinking hard and playing shenanigans on his friends and neighbors. A good review by T.C. Boyle of the NYT reads, “The book is droll and affecting, not only in its masterly depiction of the workings of an inbred small-town society, but in its portrait of Sully, the nobody’s fool of the title, “a case-study underachiever” who is “divorced from his own wife, carrying on halfheartedly with another man’s, estranged from his son, devoid of self-­knowledge, badly crippled and virtually unemployable — all of which he stubbornly confused with independence.”
queen-of-the-nightQueen of the Night by Alexander Chee

I wanted to like this book but…it’s too long, the same events happen over and over again, and the writing, while historically detailed, left me cold. The plot would have made an excellent story if Chee’s heroine was more engaging. I read about the protagonist’s exploits, being raised in the Midwest, losing her parents, joining the circus, touring Europe, becoming a prostitute, gaining world-wide recognition as a opera singer, having love affairs with dangerous men, etc. All that would have been great if I cared about her. But the repetition of emotions and events kept me far from intrigued. Don’t know why this book got such praise and is on the best seller’s list. In a New Yorker review, Joan Acocella states, “The title is taken from “The Magic Flute,” and in an afterword Chee says that he meant his book to be a novelistic ‘reinvention’ of Mozart’s creation. Actually, it is far more indebted to nineteenth-century opera—“La Sonnambula,” “Lucia di Lammermoor,” “Il Trovatore,” “Faust,” and “Carmen” are all invoked, sometimes at length.” Maybe that’s why I thought it was agonizingly boring. I’m not an opera fan. Enough with the singing, get on with the story.

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