Book Club Discussion: Invincible Summer

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Invincible Summer by Alice Adams. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • To what degree do you think the friends’ lives and aspirations are shaped by their social class?
  • We follow Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien across twenty years and through some of the most formative experiences of their lives, including redundancy, divorce, prison and having a disabled child; do you think their characters responded to these challenges in a convincing and interesting way?
  • One of the central themes of the novel is finding the hope and courage to carry on despite life’s disappointments and tragedies. Did you come away feeling that although the characters do not find simple solutions to their problems, the overall message is redemptive?
  • Invincible Summer takes place over twenty years and takes in a number of historical events. How much did you feel the characters were masters of their own fates, and how much were they buffeted by forces of economics and history far greater than themselves?
  • Did you feel comfortable with the book’s not having an unequivocally happy ending?

Questions from publisher.

 

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Book Club Discussion: The Summer Before the War

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • The author presents two strong women in the characters of Beatrice Nash and Agatha Kent. How are they similar and different? Why do you think the author chose to present both voices?
  • Who is your favorite character and what draws you to him or her in particular? Whom do you dislike in the book, and does he or she have redeeming features?
  • The author has said she thinks the whole world can be explained in a small town. Did she succeed at that in this book? What do you think can or cannot be described and explained within such a setting?
  • Why are books about war so compelling? Do you agree with Beatrice that no writer can ever write about war in a way that will prevent it? Is it a valuable topic anyway?
  • Did The Summer Before the War change what you knew or how you thought of the First World War? How so?

Questions from publisher

 

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Book Club Discussion: The Woman in Cabin 10

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • What’s the effect of having Lo’s e-mails and various news reports interspersed throughout Lo’s narration? In what ways do they help you better understand what’s happening aboard the Aurora?
  • Describe Carrie’s relationship with Lo. Did you like her? Why or why not? In what ways, if any, are the two women alike? How do Lo’s feelings about Carrie change as Lo gets to know her? Did your opinion of Carrie change as you read?
  • When Nilsson challenges Lo’s claim that she’s seen something happen in the cabin next to hers, she tells him, “Yes, someone broke into my flat. It has nothing to do with what I saw” (p. 141). Did you believe her? Did you think that the break-in made Lo more jumpy and distrustful? Give some examples to support your opinion.
  • In what scenes did you think the deception and violence that occurred were justified? In what scenes did you think it not justified?
  • Lo tells Judah, “You don’t know what goes on in other people’s relationships” (p. 333). Describe the relationships in The Woman in Cabin 10. Did you find any particularly surprising? Which ones, and why?
  • Describe Lo’s relationship with Ben. Did you think that Ben had Lo’s best interests at heart? Why or why not? Were you surprised to learn of their history?

Questions from Simon and Schuster.

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Book Club Discussion: The Nest

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Nest  by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • Just how dysfunctional is the Plumb family…and why? Why do the siblings allow Leo to have such power over them? If you could advise any or all four of them, how would you counsel them about living their lives?
  • At the beginning of the book, each of the siblings has a drink at a Manhattan watering hole before meeting the others. What do those moments reveal about them?
  • Melodie, Beatrice, Jack and Leo all have behaved somewhat (or very) irresponsibly. Is there one of them with whom you sympathize more than the others? Or are they all caught up in a sense of their own entitlement?
  • How would you live your life if you knew you were to receive a fair amount of money down the line?
  • Talk, too, about the secondary characters and the roles they play in the story: grandchildren, Jack’s husband, Melody’s husband, Leo’s girlfriend, and Bea’s boss.
  • Ultimately, this book is about defining ourselves as individuals within a family (or even a career). How does each character learn who he or she is and what ultimately makes for a fulfilling life?

Questions from Lit Lovers.

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Book Discussion: Attachments

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • Much of what we learn about Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner–Snyder comes from their email exchanges. What impression do you get of these two women? What draws you to Beth’s character? To Jennifer’s? What about their communication attracts Lincoln?
  • Lincoln’s job, among other things, is to monitor company email. What is your opinion of Lincoln’s job? What ethical dilemmas, if any, did you see for Lincoln? How would you have acted given the same position and why?
  • What does Lincoln discover about the identity of Beth’s “My Cute Guy?” How does this revelation complicate the story? What is your opinion of how Beth goes about investigating her office crush?
  • What impact does his brief reunion with Sam have on Lincoln? What significance does the timing of this reunion carry within the story? How would you have handled the same situation and why?
  • Attachments brings up the interesting notion of “love before love at first sight.” Do you believe in this idea? Is it possible? What do you see in Beth and Lincoln’s future?

    Questions from publisher.

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Book Club Discussion: The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • The book deals with learning to let go and go with the flow. In relation to traveling, do you struggle with going with the flow or do you find it more difficult to let go? Why?
  • What did you think of the author’s portrayal of female friendships?
  • What role does Carly Dawson play in Friedman’s journey?
  • Did you appreciate that the book was not as romance focused as it could have been?
  • What was your favorite place that Friedman traveled to? Why?

Questions partially adapted from author interview.

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Book Club Discussion: Wild

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • When Cheryl discovers the guidebook to the Pacific Crest Trail, she says that the trip “was an idea, vague and outlandish, full of promise and mystery.” Later, her soon-to-be ex-husband suggests she wants to do the hike “to be alone.” What do you think her reasons were for committing to this journey?
  • In the beginning of the book, Cheryl’s prayers are literally curse words—curses for her mother’s dying, curses against her mother for failing. How does her spiritual life change during the course of the book?
  • Cheryl’s pack, also known as Monster, is one of those real-life objects that also makes a perfect literary metaphor: Cheryl has too much carry on her back and in her mind. Are there other objects she takes with her or acquires along the way that take on deeper meanings? How so?
  • “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves,” Cheryl writes her first day on the trail. She is speaking about her fear of rattlesnakes and mountain lions and serial killers. To defeat that fear, she tells herself a new story, the story that she is brave and safe. What do you think about this approach, which she herself calls “mind control”? What are some of her other ways of overcoming fear?
  • At one point, Cheryl tells herself, “I was not meant to be this way, to live this way, to fail so darkly.” It’s a moment of self-criticism and despair. And yet, some belief in herself exists in that statement. How do the things Cheryl believes about herself throughout the memoir, even during her lowest moments, help or hurt her on the PCT?

Questions from Oprah’s Book Club!

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Book Club Discussion: The Life We Bury

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

How did you experience the book? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take you a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, irritate, or frighten you?

It definitely took me a while to get into the book. I thought I knew who did it right away and I didn’t find out until near the end that I was wrong. I definitely wasn’t expecting all the crazy kidnapping that happened at the end so that brought me back into the story and made it more interesting.

What aspects of the novel did the author draw from to come up with the title for The Life We Bury?

All three of the main characters had something in their past they were trying to hide and and move on from. Even though they tried so hard to bury the past, all three of them ended up telling their secret and that seemed to help each of them move on.

Which character, if any, did you identify with the most? Why?

I can’t say I really identified with any of the characters. I was rooting for Joe throughout the story though.

How did you feel about the character of Carl Iverson when he was first introduced?

I was pretty sure he didn’t commit the murder right away since there wouldn’t have been much of a book plot if he had so I definitely felt sorry for him.

What would you say are Joe’s strongest character traits?

He valued family and was very committed even sometimes when he shouldn’t have, he was very determined; both to go to school despite his circumstances and exonerate Carl.  

Questions from author’s website.

Book Club Discussion: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

From an early age, Eva is obsessed with food and cooking. What influences shape her interest?  

Oddly, it does not seem to be from any external elements in her life. Her adoptive parents do not take an interest in food. The interest seems to come from some magical imprint left by her father, who was only alive for a few months of her life as an infant. Eva’s real dad mentions that he in chomping at teh bit to feed her all sorts of foods and even places her on the kitchen counter in her carrier so she can smell the food cooking. Her mother is a sommelier and has a sophisticated palate as well. In this was the author sets it up as a genetic predisposition more than anything else.

How would you characterize the Midwest as Stradal paints it in this book? What makes the setting unique and important for this particular story?

Continue reading “Book Club Discussion: Kitchens of the Great Midwest”

Book Club Discussion: The School of Essential Ingredients

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

When Claire first walks into Lillian’s, she reflects: “When was the last time she had been someplace where no one knew who she was?” Is the anonymity of the kitchen a lure for Lillian’s students?

I think a lot of the students realize the anonymity of the kitchen once they go to the class for the first time. They are all put in a different than normal situation by working with a small group of people from different background that they don’t know at all. In a way it gives them a fresh start.

As a general rule, Lillian doesn’t give her students recipes. Why do you think she does this? What are the pros and cons of this approach to cooking?

Without having a recipe, you are forced to be creative. You are able to try different ideas and ingredients without worrying about doing something wrong. You have more freedom.

Each of the character’s stories centers on a dish or an ingredient that has a profound effect upon how they see themselves or the world. What connections do you see between Claire and the crabs? Between Chloe and tortillas? Tom and the pasta sauce? 

The crabs show Claire that she could conquer something on her own. Chloe helps to make the tortillas from scratch and molds them in her hands. Shortly after the tortillas she takes control of her own life.

At the end of the novel, Lillian reflects that: “She saw how connected [the students’] lives had become and would remain. Where did a teacher fit in the picture, she wondered, when there was no longer a class?” What does happen to Lillian once her class is disbanded? Do you feel that each character’s story is resolved? What do you imagine happens in these characters’ lives after the book ends?

Once the class is disbanded Lillian will probably begin another class and they will all learn things together inside and out of the kitchen like this class did. The character’s stories were not necessarily resolved but each character learned something through the class that changed their outlook on something in their lives that they will use outside of the class.

Questions from author’s website.