Second Saturday Book Group
Dorie Maxwell, leader
I had a harder time than usual choosing our theme and books this year. Which way is the world headed? What would we like to discuss? The consensus of many regular participants was finally that to survive 2020, we need to regroup emotionally. Thus, this year all of our selections are novels, five contemporary and one classic. We hope they’ll all be good, but some are so hot off the press we haven’t even had time to be sure. Nevertheless, exploring the human condition together and seeing which way the plots will turn is always stimulating.
All are welcome to these discussions. Join us for one or for all. While we normally meet in the sanctuary on second Saturday mornings, and then often go out to lunch afterward, this year— for now at least— we’ll be zooming through cyberspace. So you can join us from wherever you are!
We’ll be using my Zoom account, and I’ll send out a new invitation each month. If you’re interested in joining our discussions and are not already on my email list, contact me with your information and I’ll add you to it: That’s to Dorie Maxwell: firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-301-4204.
- Nov. 14 The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante 336 pages (2020)
- Dec. 12 Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin 240 pages (1953)
- Jan. 9 The Dutch House by Ann Patchett 352 pages (2019)
- Feb. 13 Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli 400 pages (2019)
- Mar. 13 This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga 304 pages (2020)
- Apr. 10 Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi 288 pages (2020)
1. The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (a pseudonymous Italian novelist) 336 pages (2020) …. follows Giovanna through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as she takes to heart her aunt’s maxim to “look, look carefully,” an entirely new world opens up to her— one that simultaneously frightens and excites even as it changes her whole perception of her parents, the city—Naples, Italy— she loves, and the people around her.
2. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin 240 pages (1953). In one of the greatest American classics, Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel chronicles an intelligent fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity. He is the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves. In Baldwin’s writings, many of his themes run parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth-century America, such as the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement.
3. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett 352 pages (2019). This novel follows a brother and sister who grow up in a fairy tale—a huge house outside of Philadelphia, a loving father, and a caring staff. The only thing that’s missing is their mother, who fled the pressures of managing the household when they were young. When their father dies and leaves his fortune to their stepmother, the kids are left to fend for themselves. … Moving and thoughtful—a quietly brilliant novel by the author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. (Tom Hanks narrates this audiobook.)
4. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli 400 pages (2019). Luiselli is a Mexican author living in the United States. Her fifth novel, this is the first to be written in English. A fiercely imaginative new novel about mother, father, and their two children on their journey driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. But on the way, they learn from the radio about the immigration crisis at the southwestern border and learn that they may soon be in a crisis of their own. National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist; Longlisted for the Booker Prize.
5. This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga 304 pages (2020). This is the last of a triology by Dangarembga set in Zimbabwe. The first book was Nervous Conditions (1988); The Book Of Not (2006) was the sequel. In this last psychologically charged novel about the obstacles facing women, Tsitsi Dangarembga channels the hope and potential of one young girl and a fledgling nation to lead us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed. A review in the NYT called it “a masterpiece.” The 2020 Booker Prize shortlist.
6. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (who wrote Homegoing) 288 pages (2020). The story introduces Gifty, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at Stanford. She studies addiction and depression in mice, but addiction and depression exist in her family as well. Her once promising brother died of a heroin overdose, and her depressed mother believes only prayer can heal her. Gifty is very much a contemporary, forward-looking character—a Ghanaian-American woman who is excelling in science at one of the best schools in the world—but she is also drawn by memories of faith and family in Alabama where she grew up. ……..a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love.