readingcook

My Book Club Picks

Our book club has been meeting since 1999. This link is my Pinterest scrap board of the books we have read.

human

July, 2013 Book

The Human Comedy by William Saroyan

Novel/©February, 1943/192 pages

Publisher Blurb:

The place is Ithaca, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The time is World War II. The family is the Macauley’s—a mother, sister, and three brothers whose struggles and dreams reflect those of America’s second-generation immigrants…In particular, fourteen-year-old Homer, determined to become one of the fastest telegraph messengers in the West, finds himself caught between reality and illusion as delivering his messages of wartime death, love, and money brings him face-to-face with human emotion at its most naked and raw. Gentle, poignant and richly autobiographical, this delightful novel shows us the boy becoming the man in a world that even in the midst of war, appears sweeter, safer and more livable than out own.

Summary:

There really isn’t a plot, per se. It is more like a series events in the Macauley family, a slice of life in a small town in America during World War II. The family lost the father three years ago, the oldest son is a soldier the war, and then there is Homer, his sister Bess, and his little brother Ulysses, who is quite the observer of life. There are 39 chapters, each with its own special story and each memorable on its own merits. Most of them involve Homer and his trials and tribulations at school, at home, and in his job. Some of the lighter ones involve his little brother, and some involve his life at school. His job brings him into contact with the elderly Mr. Grogan, an alcoholic by reason of pain who refuses to retire from his job since it’s the only world he knows and Mr. Spangler, who spends his days off in the company of his bride to be Diana Steed. Both are uncommonly good men and serve as his mentors, along with his family members and one of his teachers, in terms of teaching him the importance of hard work and integrity.

My Thoughts:

I really liked Mr. Spangler and Miss Hicks, but my favorite character is the main character, Homer. One of my favorite scenes involved Homer answering his ancient history teacher’s question about what have we learned. Homer answered with an impromptu speech about the human nose. It was very clever and very funny. He also touched my heart when he was telling Mr. Grogan that he wanted to grow up and do something decent. “I don’t like the way things are, Mr. Grogan. I don’t know why, but I want them to be better. I guess it’s because I think they ought to be better.Then there was Ulysses. He provided many light-hearted moments in this story, one involving a most unique animal trap. Other characters also invoked strong feelings: Miss Hicks and Mr. Spangler, because they were such compassionate, caring, no-nonsense people, and Coach Byfield, because his actions were so despicable.Then there was the letter from Marcus to Homer. It packed a punch on so many different levels.

In addition to the characters and events in the book, I appreciated his use of language and the depth of the themes in his book. This book definitely deserves the praise that is one of the most important novels of the the Twentieth Century.

 

 

Book Club Dinner Menu for The Human Comedy

Carol hosted the event, which was an Armenian inspired dinner in honor of the author.

Appetizers served with Armenian Kiss Martini                                                                                                                         

Hummus and gluten-free tabuleh with pita bread

Chicken cilicia fillos
Dolma

Main Course
Armenian tomato salad
Armenian pilaf
Lamb shish kabob
Fruit salad
Okra

Dessert
Paklova

Paklova

December 2012 Book Club Selection

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Blurb from The New Yorker:

Mitchell’s virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel’s themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell’s characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to “no more than one drop in a limitless ocean,” he asks, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

My thoughts: This book is not for passive readers who are looking for a mindless beach read. I found it very confusing at first. I just couldn’t figure out where the author was going. My fellow book club ladies encouraged me to just push through it, assuring me that it would make sense eventually. Within the different narratives, there were some characters that caught my attention and held my interest. I liked the second and fourth parts, set in 1930s Belgium and present-day Britain, respectively, and would enjoy reading them on their own. However, as a whole, the parts just didn’t come together in a satisfying way for me. I don’t think this book is for me, but one day I may pick it and try again.

Atlas Cloud Dinner Menu

Hosted by Joni and includes six small dishes to represent the six stories, served cafeteria style inspired by the futuristic cafeteria

Cloud 9 Martini

Sweet Onion Crostini

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Onion Dip

Mediteranean Quinoa Salad

Asian Ginger Plum Chicken Lettuce Wrap

Strawberry and Chocolate Mousse Parfait

cloud atlas

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