GalleyMatch book clubs preview advance reading copies (ARCs, also known as galleys) sent from publishers. Below you’ll find the titles book clubs have recently enjoyed reading and discussing along with highlights of their discussion and selected menus from their meetings.
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Book Bags of New Prague, Minnesota
THE LOST FAMILY by Jenna Blum (2018, paperback,HarperPerennial, 6/19)
A vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
“For our book club, the meaning of' lost family' took another turn. We’ve been extended family for 20 years and 6 months ago we lost our member ‘Little Marilyn’. We invited her daughters, both avid readers, to join us for The Lost Family dinner and discussion. What a joy to discuss the book and their mother with them.A wonderful afternoon with our ’family’ sharing stories and doing what we like best: discussing books while dining on good food.
A few topics dominated our great discussion: we were split on sympathy for Peter and his inability to create a family with June and Elsbeth: some felt that he lost his second family.
None of the characters really had a healthy connection to food and Peter found escape in preparing food – a way of holding on to his past, but it kept him from moving forward.
Several of us identified with June’s actions and emotions. Like many women of her era (and even today), she gave up a career when she married, experienced dissatisfaction at the her mundane life. Peter would not let her open a decorating business, so she had no outlet for her creative talents. That was compounded with Peter’s absence and preoccupation with the restaurant. We did not condone her infidelities but understood the frustrations behind them.
Menu: Host’s Ann’s setting and meal did justice to the opulence of the meals and restaurants in the novel. Even though Annie’s menu—Waldorf Salad, Chicken Kiev, Green Beans Amandine, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Masha Torte, Cream Puffs, Rusty Nail and Tab— was strongly influenced by the actual food mentioned in the novel, she created a Minnesota connection with some of the items. When June went back to Minnesota, her mother offered to make her a sandwich with olive loaf. Peter was shocked at the sight of the bologna stuffed with pimentos. As a child we would often have bologna sandwiches and sometimes olive loaf. Annie decided to make something that brought back our childhood memory of olive loaf. Annie took a baguette and combined olives with cheese, mayonnaise, and green onion to make an appetizer. We also enjoyed reading about the Walter Cronkite—someone we watched every night on the news as kids — hamburger, so we had similar version, using meatballs to create an appetizer. We flamed the brandy during the meatball cooking! This was quite the conversation piece as we sipped our wine. The flames lingered for quite a while!
Book Club of Frankfort, Illinois:
MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 4/19)
A literary courtroom drama about a Korean immigrant family and a young, single mother on trial for murdering her 8-year-old autistic son.
“It was a perfect match in terms of topics, themes and writing style, and so interesting to be able to talk to the author, Angie Kim and hear more about her back story and writing process. We had many questions about how she connected to the plot lines, her process, and how she made decisions about characters. We couldn't get over how she would talk about the characters and their development and wanting the same things we wanted for them, but at the same time feeling the need to keep it realistic. We didn't think we would have that same restraint. We all loved the book."
Menu: “In the book, there is discussion about timing and doing what you feel you have to do versus what you want to do. A lot of that centered around food. So this meal did not appear in the book, but in keeping with the idea of not depriving ourselves or forcing ourselves to do what we should do instead of what we really wanted to do, we had the indulgent meal we wanted with multiple courses, desserts, and beverages."
“We discussed the difference in how mental health was perceived in this book versus how it was thought of in another recent read (The Key by Kathryn Hughes). We also enjoyed discussing Rudy and how he handled his first online date (companionship vs. relationship). The description of what Rudy went through while grieving was very much true-- the humor and the sadness and the anger.”
Literary Gourmets of San Diego, California:
MOTHERLAND: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman
A multilayered story about mothers and daughters, aging and time, loathing and love from the James Beard Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed memoir Poor Man's Feast, the blog of the same name, and the Washington Post column Feeding My Mother.
“We read MOTHERLAND along with Tara Westover’s EDUCATED — we felt the books went together quite well as both involved the life long effects of parental values and mindsets on children. We had a lengthy discussion about the choices you make as an adult versus as a child, the lasting impact of mental illness on children—several of our members are healthcare providers—and the way in which the physical surroundings of your childhood draw you back, even though the emotional landscape is painful. Thank you for sharing this book with us. We recommend it to other book clubs, and would like to read other books by this author.”
Best discussion question: The daughter(author)returning to the same, apparently toxic, relationship, even after finding her own partner, led to a discussion of the strength of the maternal bond.
Menu: Our connection: in recognizing the differences between you and someone you care for, you try to make them happy, or at least well fed! We served: French Garden Salad with roasted beets, roasted asparagus, goat cheese and spiced pecans and mixed greens, roasted eggplant layered with pesto, marinara, roasted pineapple with pistachios, raspberries and crème fraiche.
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague, Minnesota:
FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World by Shannon Watts (Harperonebooks, 5/19)
An inspiring account of how one mother's cry for change became the driving force behind gun safety progress from the founder of Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“There is no book more appropriate or meaningful for a book group of women activists. Our highlighters ran dry as we reacted to the author’s comments. Her book is an affirmation of our beliefs, a Balm of Gilead to the struggles and emotions that we experience daily, and a battle plan that speaks to our mission. Shannon wanted to ‘bring together a badass group of women . . . .and raise an army of tough mothers.’ Her goals have been exceeded.
"The Get Woke girls met for 4 1/2 hours and didn’t come close to discussing all of Shannon’s stories, affirmations, and suggestions for action. The most exciting part of the night was our opportunity to Skype with the author. Shannon addressed ways of handling burn out and stress, reminding us to take care of ourselves, manage stress, exercise, meditate, and do whatever is needed to restore your energy. It was a delightful conversation that set the mood for the rest of the evening.
"As a community group we find ourselves stretched in many directions. Shannon’s idea of finding a central focus was discussed. The importance of the red shirt was also discussed as a label. We were interested in the idea of ‘losing forward’. We have had many losses in our efforts, but each one has helped us gain more knowledge and change some perceptions in our community. FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER made us realize that winning comes in many forms.
"The book affirmed so many things that we know about ourselves as mothers and women: we are more effective lawmakers; we can’t be intimidated; we have tremendous skill sets from all of the jobs we perform daily; and we comprise the majority of the voting population. Shannon summarizes our calling perfectly, ‘If we don’t claim our motherhood as a tool, it will be used against us as a weapon.’
"This book is a road map for advocates with suggestions for organizing and advocating.
It eloquently and effectively describes the gun safety movement, but is also a universal bible for activists, especially women’s organizations. It generates hope and enthusiasm; it describes attainable goals; and it envisions a future molded by the efforts and talents of women."
"We enjoy historical fiction and THE AGE OF LIGHT was a perfect title in so many ways: Lee's enlightenment in her art, the way she enlightened Man Ray, the art scene in Paris at the time, and how she informed us about the war with her photos. Our most interesting question: Was Lee ever really in love with Man Ray?"
Menu: Coq au Vin in Burgundy, roasted asparagus, boiled baby honey gold potatoes, green salad and baguettes, with Creme Brulee for dessert
Novel Ideas Book Club of Centennial, Colorado:
LIFE ADMIN: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More by Elizabeth Emens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019)
LIFE ADMIN tackles the problem of admin in all its forms, from everyday tasks like scheduling doctors appointments and paying bills, to life-cycle events like planning a wedding, a birth, a funeral — this is the book that will teach us all how to do less of it, and to do it better.
“This topic was perfect for our workplace book club—administrative employees from several departments—and the book allowed for some very interesting discussions about our duties in the workplace, but also about how our skills are translatable to everyday life. LIFE ADMIN provided some great tips and every member took something away. The entire group was intrigued by the idea of taking one task —general admin—and breaking it down into specific types. We found it was applicable to not only our workplace but also our households. Author Elizabeth Emens provided great detail in her text that the group was most appreciative of. It helped us better categorize the areas in our professional and personal lives that we can improve."
The Sisterhood Book Club of Warner Robins, Georgia:
IN ANOTHER TIME by Jillian Cantor (Harper Perennial, 3/19)
A sweeping historical novel that spans Germany, England, and the United States and follows a young couple torn apart by circumstance leading up to World War II—and the family secret that may prove to be the means for survival.
"The title was a perfect match for us. and the author was delightful. We all enjoyed the book tremendously. It is a different take on a Holocaust story. The book had a touch of sci-fi (is that what time travel falls under?). It gave us something new to discuss. What did we think of the possibility of time travel? How might it have changed the story if the wormhole had been used?
“There will be quite a bit of discussion on that with all clubs - because it is so different. The members are already asking when they can read THE HOURS COUNT! Thank you for this exciting opportunity. The members felt special that they got to be one of the first groups to read the book."
North Wales Area Library Cookbook Club, Ohio:
THE BRISKET CHRONICLES: How to Barbecue, Braise, Smoke, and Cure the World's Most Versatile Cut of Meat by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2019)
Steven Raichlen, “The Julia Child of BBQ” (Los Angeles Times)—shares his 50 best brisket recipes while showing us step-by-foolproof-step how to ’cue it, grill it, smoke it, braise it, cure it, and boil it
“We made two types of ‘traditional’ brisket, baked beans and cookies from recipes in the the cookbook and members provided side dishes to make a delicious experience. ‘Who knew the many ways brisket could be used?’ was a fun discussion topic! We made cookies with brisket, and the group liked them, but NO one expected to! There was brisket in the baked beans and they were so good!
Mish Mash Book Club of Howell, Michigan:
A WOMAN IS NO MAN by Etaf Rum (HarperBooks, 2019)
Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this powerful debut novel.
"The book sparked an interesting discussion about immigrants in America, timely given the current news context. We were challenged by the idea that immigrants do not necessarily want to embrace 'America', and in the book, feel being American is a detriment. Our book club is outside of Dearborn, Michigan, the largest Middle Eastern community outside of the Middle East, and welcomed the opportunity to read something from a Palestinian perspective, often not represented in Muslim fiction."
“I’m completely captured by this tiny book…It talks about ways to stay creative (in good times and bad.) Full of thoughtful quotes, art and thoughts, this book is one you will read and reread. Who wants to build a Bliss Station with me? What a darling gem of a book!" "A lovely, easy read that reminds you to be kind to yourself and to allow yourself to have fun. It encourages you to seek out your creativity for no other reason than pure enjoyment of the process, regardless of the end product. It would make a great Mother's Day gift! "
Busy Bee Book Club of Taylor, Michigan, and Stories A La Carte Book Club of Centennial, Colorado:
SEE YOU IN THE PIAZZA: New Places to Discover in Italy by Frances Mayes (Crown, March 2019)
A travel narrative that crisscrosses Italy, with inventive new recipes celebrating Italian cuisine.
“We all love Italy. Some of us have visited and some of us will be going in the future. This will be a book we can plan from and travel with! We had a great time looking at Mayes' travels and talking about making them our own and the recipes inspired our Italian themed dinner."
Menu: Lasagna, home made Italian bread, caponata (recipe from the book), wine of course and cannoli for dessert.
"Mayes's recipes and Italian inspiration were fun and delicious. From those who have been to Italy, we heard travel stories. From those who had not yet been, we heard wishes and dreams. The journal-like feel of Mayes's book and reflections on history, writers, architecture, and food made for interesting introductions to new subjects and personalities."
Menu: Vitelli Scottato con Pomodoro Verde In Olio and a chocolate hazelnut dessert inspired by the Torino chapter.
Osterhout Free Library's Franklin Street Sleuths of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania:
THE LIES WE TOLD by Camilla Way (Berkley, 2018)
A novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closet to us have the most to hide.
"One member commented, 'We had a lengthy discussion about this book and everyone took part. With 20 people, that's a feat!' Others said: 'I couldn't put it down until it was finished." "You could never find someone who could predict every twist in this book.''It was like a new mystery on every page.'"
Book Bags of New Prague, Minnesota:
PRAISE SONG FOR THE BUTTERFLIES by Bernice McFadden (Akashic Books, 2018)
A young woman must learn to love and trust again after experiencing the brutality of ritual servitude in West Africa.
"We loved PRAISE SONG FOR THE BUTTERFLIES! We love books that use the novel genre to explore historical, cultural, and current world issues. Many of us are former teachers, and we always comment this type of novel would fit into a social studies or current issues classroom. A fictional approach to a practice like trokosi makes the reader sympathize with the victims in a very readable format.”
Menu: "Foods recalled scenes from the book: —Jollof rice —Images of mangoes and oranges, as contrasted to the stark meals that the girls were fed, led to a mango and pineapple —goat cheese with hot pepper jam and bread. We couldn’t forget the goats that started this story! Member Sharon shared authentic African items."
The Bookies of Belmont, Michigan::
IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators by Jeffrey L. Rinek and Marilee Strong (BenBella, 2018)
An unflinching look at what it's like to fight a never-ending battle against the predators who seek to harm our children.
Our members are elementary school educators and parents and grandparents of young children. While difficult to read, this book brought up an important topic to be informed about and one that the public should be aware of. Our discussion related to children and families that we have encountered over the years in our teaching careers. The book provided excellent discussion topics: the author's interview technique and how he treated the suspects, PTSD -- a topic we are hearing more about, and bullying. We came away with deeper appreciation for law enforcement agents who work cases of victimized children as well as the victims and their families."
Menu: "One member of our group got creative and made a delicious Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Navy Bean Salad from her FBI (Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn) cookbook. Since a good portion of the book took place in California, other members brought a California Cobb Salad, Million Dollar Tortilla Roll Ups, Burrito Casserole, and Strawberry Shortcake (with California strawberries). We served two wines: 19 Crimes and Predator. We also said a special prayer to honor the children in the book and others that are still being victimized."
TwentySomething Wine & Book Club of Naperville, Illinois:
TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET HOME by Kayleen Schaefer (Dutton, 2019)
A personal and sociological examination -- and ultimately a celebration -- of the evolution of female friendship in pop culture and modern society.
"We discussed female friendship and how it fit perfectly with our group -- young twenty-somethings who are starting careers and trying to find those good female adult friendships in our lives. Also, modern relationships, how we could feel safe, and how modern times were simultaneously helping us feel stronger and more powerful while also making us feel that men like Brett Kavanaugh and others, are taking power away, power that we felt ensured our safely."