St. John's Laurys Book Club

Reading books for enjoyment, perspective and discussion

Meets the First Thursday of each month at 6:30pm
     Please use the West Entry Doors and follow the trail of books to the meeting room

Contact Brenda Frantz or Karen-Berry Frantz for more information.

December 6 Meeting
The Christmas Train
by David Baldacci

 

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington D.C. to L.A in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people's essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.

The Christmas Train is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief ... and shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles.

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 David Baldacci 325

David Baldacci has been writing since childhood, when his mother gave him a lined notebook in which to write down his stories. (Much later, when David thanked her for being the spark that ignited his writing career, she revealed that she’d given him the notebook to keep him quiet, "because every mom needs a break now and then.”) He published his first novel, Absolute Power, in 1996; it was subsequently adapted for film, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 36 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers, and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million worldwide sales. David has also published six novels for younger readers.

A lifelong Virginian, David graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law in Washington, D.C.

David and his wife, Michelle, are the co-founders of the Wish You Well Foundation®, which supports family and adult literacy in the United States. In 2008 the Foundation partnered with Feeding America to launch Feeding Body & Mind, a program to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger. Through Feeding Body & Mind, more than 1 million new and used books have been collected and distributed through food banks to families in need.

David and his family live in Virginia.

 

 David Baldacci FAQ

 

January 3 Meeting
Animal Farm / 1984
by George Orwell
This edition features George Orwell's best known novels – 1984 and Animal Farm – with an introduction by Christopher Hitchens.

In 1984, London is a grim city where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston Smith joins a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.

Animal Farm is Orwell's classic satire of the Russian Revolution -- an account of the bold struggle, initiated by the animals, that transforms Mr. Jones's Manor Farm into Animal Farm--a wholly democratic society built on the credo that All Animals Are Created Equal. But are they?

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George Orwell 375  Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922-1927 and fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1937. Orwell was severely wounded when he was shot through his throat. Later the organization that he had joined when he joined the Republican cause, The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), was painted by the pro-Soviet Communists as a Trotskyist organization (Trotsky was Joseph Stalin's enemy) and disbanded. Orwell and his wife were accused of "rabid Trotskyism" and tried in absentia in Barcelona, along with other leaders of the POUM, in 1938. However by then they had escaped from Spain and returned to England. 

Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing magazine. He was a prolific polemical journalist, article writer, literary critic, reviewer, poet and writer of fiction, and, considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture. 

Orwell is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945) — they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author. His 1938 book Homage to Catalonia, an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture, are widely acclaimed.

Orwell's influence on contemporary culture, popular and political, continues decades after his death. Several of his neologisms, along with the term "Orwellian" — now a byword for any oppressive or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society — have entered the vernacular.
  

  

Februay 7 Meeting
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
by Robert Dugoni

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

 
 LifeofSamHell 333
 RobertDugoni 335 Robert Dugoni is the New York Times, #1 Amazon, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of the Tracy Crosswhite series: My Sister's Grave, Her Last Breath, In the Clearing, The Trapped Girl and Close to Home, as well as the short prequels The Academy and Third Watch. The police procedural featuring Seattle Homicide Detective Tracy Crosswhite has kept Dugoni in the Amazon top 10 for more than three years and sold more than 4 million copies. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, released April 2018. Dugoni's first series featured attorney David Sloane and CIA agent Charles Jenkins.
He is the winner of the Nancy Pearl Award for fiction, a two-time nominee for the Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction, A two-time nominee for the Mystery Writer's of America Edgar Award and a two-time nominee for the International Thriller of the year. His non-fiction expose, The Cyanide Canary, was a 2004 Best Book of the Year. He is published in more than 30 countries and two dozen languages. 
  

 

March 7 Meeting
The Great Alone
by Kristin Hanah

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

 
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 Kristin Hannah 330

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People's Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.

Kristin's highly anticipated new release, The Great Alone, will be published on February 6, 2018 (St. Martin's Press). The novel, an epic love story and intimate family drama set in Alaska in the turbulent 1970's is a daring, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival and the wildness that lives in both nature and man. It has been listed as one of the most anticipated novels of the year by The Seattle Times, Bustle.com, PopSugar, Working Mother, Southern Living, and Goodreads.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with award-winning director Michelle MacLaren set to direct. Home Front was optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to write, produce, and direct. Movie news on The Great Alone is coming soon.

Kristin Hannah

 

The Great Alone - Photos

The Great Alone - Videos

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Please note that the discussion guide below contain spoilers to the book.

1. “It was otherworldly somehow, magical in its vast expanse. An incomparable landscape.” (31) Alaska is definitely a character in this novel. The author clearly wants you to understand both the grandeur and danger that are present every day in the Last Frontier. How did the landscape create and shape this story? Is this a story that could have taken place anywhere? Or was the solitude of Alaska part of the fabric of the novel?

2. Alaska is called many things. The Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun, The Great Alone. How do you think these different nicknames describe different parts of the state?

3. What aspects of the Alaska/homesteader lifestyle would you find the most challenging in the wild? How would you handle the isolation, the interdependence among neighbors, the climate? Would you have what it takes to survive?

4. Large Marge tells Cora and Leni that “in Alaska, everyone is either running to something or running away from something.” Do you think this is particularly true to wild places like Alaska? Or has is always been true of the American pioneer? How would you compare and contrast the homesteaders in Alaska to the pioneers in early America, who came west in covered wagons? How are the modern Alaska homesteaders different? How are they the same? What do you think draws people to the wild, unpredictable and remote corners of Alaska?

5. The Great Alone is set in the turbulent world of America in the 1970’s. Why do you think the author chose this time period? How did the world at that time, with the political unrest and kidnappings and plane hijackings, factor into the plot? Why do you believe the back-to-the-earth movement spoke to so many people in the seventies? Why did it speak to Ernt?

6. Do you think the world feels dangerous today? Do you think the unrest and troubles of the seventies are relevant today? Can we learn from them? What does The Great Alone have to say about the idea of turning one’s back on civilization and the problems of society?

7. If you experienced the seventies, what was it like to read about those years? Did it match up with your memories of it, or color the story for you? Did the popular culture references remind you of your own life? And if you didn’t experience the seventies, what did you learn about the era from the novel?

8. Ernt was a prisoner of war for several years. We know now about PTSD and the ways in which Ernt would have been suffering and the ways in which he could now be helped, but that help didn’t exist in the seventies. Additionally, the Vietnam vets were often treated badly by people upon their return. How do you think Ernt’s war experiences changed him? Do you believe, as Cora tells Leni, that he was “changed” when he came home? Did the war and PTSD “make” Ernt violent, or do you believe he was violent before?

9. Cora is a complicated character. When Leni is reminiscing about her mother and their days in the commune, she notes that “her mother changed her personality just enough to fit in.” What do you think this passage tells us about Cora? Why do you think she stayed with Ernt all those years? Was it love? Fear? In general, why do you think women stay with abusive men?

10. One of the issues highlighted in the novel is the lack of legal support for women in the seventies. Large Marge often makes the point that the law can’t help women like Cora, and Leni, even as young as she is, intuits that only Cora can save herself. Do you think that was true then? Is it true today? Does the law do enough to help battered women?

11. Leni is shaped by the complexity of her parents’ toxic relationship. How does she explain her life before she sees the truth of the violence? As is often the case in abusive families, Leni—the child—takes on the role of caretaker. How did it mold Leni’s character, this need to keep the ugly truth of her family, secret?

12. Would you say that Leni is a survivor? Is Cora?

13. “Your mother was a kite string. Without her strong, steady hold on you, you might just float away, be lost somewhere among the clouds.” (126) If you have faced the loss of a loved one, did you find this quote to have special resonance for you? What did the author get right about this sentiment? How else would you describe a mother’s influence? In many ways, The Great Alone, is a mother-daughter love story, but one with a broken spine. How did Cora let Leni down in life, how did she save her? Do you think Cora was a good mother?

14. Leni and Matthew experience first friendship and first love. There is an obvious Romeo-and-Juliet aspect to their love story. How did you feel about their relationship as it was growing? Did you root for them? Or did you feel that Leni was taking a terrible risk that was going to have dark consequences.

15. “This is dangerous, she thought again, but she couldn’t make herself care. All she could think about now was Matthew, and how it had felt when he kissed her, and how much she wanted to kiss him again.” (241) Do you recall your own days of young love and that rush of feeling? Do you think the experience is universal?

16. How did the building of Ernt’s wall affect you as a reader? As he was building it, what did you think was going to happen? Did you think someone was going to kill Ernt? Who did you think the killer would be? Who did you want it to be?

17. Did you see Cora’s explosive act of protection coming? What did it feel like to read that scene? As a parent, do you think you’d be capable of the same act, or write such a confessional letter?

18. Did you hold Leni responsible in your mind for any of Matthew’s misfortune? Why or why not? How does Leni show her devotion in the end? Did you anticipate the kind of future that is set in motion for them at the close of the book?

19. At the end of the story, Leni ends up back in Alaska—do you think there’s an ultimate place where people belong? How would you know if you got there?

  

   

April 4 Meeting
The Last Mrs. Parrish
by Liv Constantine
Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

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 LivConstantine 350

Liv Constantine is the pen name of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine, co-authors of THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. Their next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, will be released on May 7, 2019.

Lynne is a coffee-drinking, Twitter-addicted fiction author always working on her next book. She likes to run her plots by Greyson, her charcoal lab, who never criticizes them.

Valerie has always loved books and spent many nights reading by the light of her bedside lamp until 3 a.m. She lives with her husband and their brilliant Cavalier King Charles, Zorba. 

  LastMrsParrish GroupGuide 850

  

May 2 Meeting
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Past Readings

April 2019 The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
March 2019 The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
February 2019 The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
January 2019 Animal Farm / 1984 by George Orwell
December 2018 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
November 2018 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Translation by Aylmer & Louise Maude
October 2018 Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
September 2018 The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown
August 2018 The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
July 2018 Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
June 2018 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
May 2018 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
April 2018 My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt
March 2018 Redemption Road by John Hart
February 2018 No Exit by Taylor Adams
January 2018 Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
December 2017 The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards
November 2017 Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah
October 2017 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
September 2017 The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
August 2017 Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
July 2017 The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
June 2017 Marrow: A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser
May 2017 The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
April 2017 The Lake House by Kate Morton
March 2017 The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield
February 2017 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
January 2017 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
December 2016 Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
November 2016 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
October 2016 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
September 2016 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
August 2016 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
July 2016  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
June 2016  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
May 2016  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
April 2016  Forgiven by Terri Roberts and Jeanette Windle
March 2016 The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
February 2016 Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
 January 2016  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult