Category Archives: Online Book Club

September EDIWTB Online Book Club: DOMESTIC VIOLETS by Matthew Norman

I am excited to announce the September online book club pick: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. I have heard nothing but great things about this book. From Amazon:

Norman Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh… and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

Swapna from S. Krishna’s Books says that Domestic Violets “blew me away. It was so witty, so heartfelt, and so achingly honest that I couldn’t help but love it from beginning to end.” Julie from Booking Mama said, “I didn’t just read this book, I devoured it. I honestly couldn’t put it down, and I was resentful of any event that got in the way of my reading.”

I’m really excited about this one. Thanks to HarperPerennial, I have room for 20 people to read it along with me. If you’re interested, send me an email at gweiswasser@gmail.com with the following (in this format):

name

address

address

email address

We’ll pick a date in late September or early October for a discussion here on EDIWTB.

Thanks, HarperPerennial!

July Book Club: SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones

The July EDIWTB book club selection was Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

Jones Silver Sparrow is about James Witherspoon, a bigamist living in Atlanta in the 80s. He has two families – the public, legitimate one – which consists of his wife Laverne and his daughter Chaurisse, and the secret, illegitmate family – "wife" Gwen and daughter Dana. Chaurisse and Dana are the same age and often travel in the same circles, even though James' public family is better off and enjoys more luxuries than his private one.

Dana narrates the first half of the book, and we come to understand her love for both of her parents, as well as her obsession with her half-sister, for she has known about Chaurisse since she was little. Dana is pretty and smart, but she always feels inferior, like an outsider. She and her mother often stalk Chaurisse and Laverne, just to see what their lives are like, what they look like, etc. The second half of the book is told from Chaurisse's perspective. She and her mother are unaware of Dana and Gwen's existence. All they know is the middle-class life they've lived as a family of three.

James' relationships with Gwen and Laverne are very different – one is built on passion, one is built on responsibility and devotion. Similarly, James is a different father with Dana than with Chaurisse. But this is really a story of four women looking for the same thing: to be cherished, to feel special, to belong. Those universal desires are what makes the story heartbreaking, and what makes each character compelling and worthy of empathy.

About 2/3 of the way through the book, Dana and Chaurisse's lives intersect, and the story builds to the inevitable collision that the reader has expected from the beginning. Jones' writing is deceptively simple – Silver Sparrow is a smooth, easy read, but not a light one. It is full of narrative tension that propels the reader through the emotional minefields – current and inevitable – that the bigamist's life necessarily creates.

All that said, I finished the book a few days ago, and surprisingly, it hasn't really stayed with me. It didn't have the longevity that I expected it would.

Overall, I am really glad I read Silver Sparrow. I think that the attention it has received is deserved, and I am glad that I got to experience it. I'd love to read more by Tayari Jones.

Thanks so much to Algonquin for facilitating the EDIWTB book club for Silver Sparrow. And now… let's hear from you! What did you think of Silver Sparrow?

June/July Online Book Club: SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones

I am excited to announce the June/July EDIWTB online book club. The selection is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. Here is what Politics & Prose has to say about Silver Sparrow (Jones is reading there tonight, but sadly I can't go):

Jones In her third novel, [Tayari Jones] chronicles the two families of a bigamist. James’s daughters are born four months apart and despite his best efforts to prevent it, meet and become friends. While they share a biological father, their material and emotional circumstances are strikingly different, and Jones skillfully contrasts their distinct coming-of-age stories.

Color Online says, "The strength of this story lies in the complexity and ease in which the relationships are drawn. Jones has a beautiful way with words… This is one of my favorite books of 2011."

Thank you to Algonquin for facilitating this online book club. If you'd like to participate, please send an email before Friday, June 3 to gweiswasser@gmail.com with this in the body:

name

address

address

email address

I will pick a book club date once the books go out from Algonquin. Many thanks again to Algonquin!

PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt

Leavitt The February EDIWTB book club pick was Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt. Pictures of You explores how one fatal car accident changes the lives of two women escaping from their lives on Cape Cod. April, married to Charlie and mother to Sam, mysteriously parks her car going the wrong way on a Connecticut road in deep fog. Isabelle, wife to Luke, finds herself driving down that same road on the same foggy day, and slams into April's car. The sad aftermath of that accident has ramifications for Isabelle, Charlie and Sam, for the rest of their lives, which Leavitt explores sensitively and poignantly.

Leavitt is a master storyteller. I am a slooow reader, but I had a hard time putting this book down and read it much more quickly than I usually get through 300+ plus page books. There were key elements in the story which she didn't reveal until very late in the book – elements which significantly affected my feelings about one of the characters – and I loved that plot twist. I found Pictures of You to be unpredictable – it surprised me at several turns and made me want to keep reading.

I liked Leavitt's depiction of the different kinds of love we can experience – love for a child, love for a longterm spouse, love fueled by passion or grief, forbidden love, and platonic love. I think she did a nice job of differentiating the many relationships in the book and exploring their limits and intensity.

Some reviews have mentioned that there are supernatural elements to the story. I didn't see it that way. In fact, I liked that it was grounded in realism – the messy, imperfect realism that makes our lives go in directions we don't always choose. While Sam wants desperately to believe in angels when he is processing his mother's death, I don't think Leavitt meant to suggest that April was truly present, in any form. I have a very low tolerance level for fantasy or otherworldly plot points, and I wasn't bothered at all by Leavitt's story in that respect.

However, I did find some of the coincidences to be a too convenient. No one remarked on how unlikely it was that two women from the same small Cape Cod town would collide on a remote Connecticut street hours away. I had a hard time with Isabelle happening across a flyer for a photography course in New York City that was posted in her small-town bookstore. (Um, really?) And of course, Isabelle ends up falling for the guy who owns the restaurant she just happens to walk by on her way home from a New Year's Eve party. I know that Leavitt could have found away to construct this story without these contrivances, and it would have made for a more powerful book for me.

That said, I did truly enjoy reading Pictures of You. It kept me turning those pages and eagerly absorbing the storyline and Leavitt's memorable characters.

Thank you to Algonquin for supplying the books for the EDIWTB book club.

So, EDIWTB readers - what did you think?

February Online Book Club: PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt

I am excited to announce the EDIWTB February Online Book Club: Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, which I wrote about earlier this month. Algonquin has generously agreed to provide copies to EDIWTB readers who would like to read the book and discuss it here.

Here is the Amazon summary:

Leavitt Leavitt's ninth book (after Girls in Trouble), a touching story of loss and discovery, centers on photographer Isabelle Stein, whose stifled Cape Cod life and marriage crumbles when she discovers her husband has gotten his mistress pregnant. She packs up her cameras and takes off, but has a horrific car accident in Hartford, Conn., that kills the woman in the other car. As it turns out, the dead woman is April Nash, who lived a few blocks away from Isabelle's home on the Cape, and April's son, Sam, now believes Isabelle is an angel who can help him communicate with his mother. Once Isabelle ends up back on the Cape, she, Sam, and April's widower, Charlie, develop a strong but strange bond as they all try to sort out what comes next. Leavitt explores the depths of grief and the sticky spots sorrow pushes people into, and though the story stumbles sometimes into too saccharine moments, Leavitt's near bottomless reserve of compassion for her imperfect characters will endear them to readers.

Pictures of You comes out on Tuesday, January 25th.

If you would like to participate in the EDIWTB book club for Pictures of You, send me an email at gweiswasser@gmail.com with the following information in the following format:

name

address

address

email address

Thanks again to Algonquin for facilitating the book club! Looking forward to a great discussion in February.

November Book Club:STILTSVILLE by Susanna Daniel

I am excited to announce the November-into-December EDIWTB book club pick: Stiltsville, by Susanna Daniel. I've been looking for a while for the right pick, and when I came across this review of Stiltsville on Nomad Reader, I knew I had found it.

From Amazon:

Stiltsville It may be a sign of the times that many stories about marriage unfold on a stage of high emotional drama, where the sparks stop flying and start sparring, for better or worse. There may be catharsis in those kinds of stories, but there's often little joy, which is what makes this quiet and tender debut so disarmingly good. Stiltsville is a story of a marriage that begins with serendipity–that holiest of relationship grails–one warm summer day in Miami. It's 1969 when girl (Frances, the novel's clear-eyed, guileless narrator) meets boy (Dennis, who in Frances's estimation is "careless but lucky") at one of a copse of houses built on stilts in Miami's Biscayne Bay. That such a place existed is incredible now, and in the scenes that reconstruct its peculiar beauty, Susanna Daniel ushers you into an exotic and unpredictable corner of the country. It's a perfect place to fall in love, and Frances and Dennis do, without fanfare or pretense. Theirs is a love that almost instantly becomes constant and real, full of simple happiness that makes it possible to weather the storms that come.

Carrie at Nomad Reader called Stiltsville "the most emotionally engaging novel I've read in quite some time. I often struggle writing reviews for books I adore, and I found nothing to criticize in Stiltsville."

I'm sold. Who else is in?

If you'd like to read Stiltsville with the EDIWTB book club, send me an email at gweiswasser@gmail.com with your name, address, and email. Once the books are mailed out from Harper, I will set a date for the discussion. On that day, I will post a review here, and the conversation will continue in the comments. Harper has generously agreed to send books to 20 EDIWTB readers (THANK YOU HARPER!), so send in your information soon!

June/July EDIWTB Book Club – GOLDENGROVE by Francine Prose

I am pleased to announce the EDIWTB book club for June/July – Goldengrove, by Francine Prose. Thanks to HarperPerennial, I have a number of copies of Goldengrove to give away to readers who would like to participate in the book club.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon:

Goldengrove In Prose's deeply touching and absorbing 15th novel, narrator Nico, 13, comes upon Gerard Manley Hopkins's Spring and Fall (which opens Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?) in her father's upstate New York bookstore, also named Goldengrove. It's the summer after her adored older sister, Margaret—possessed of beauty, a lovely singing voice and a poetic nature—casually dove from a rowboat in a nearby lake and drowned. In emotive detail, Nico relates the subsequent events of that summer. Nico was a willing confidant and decoy in Margaret's clandestine romance with a high school classmate, Aaron, and Nico now finds that she and Aaron are drawn to each other in their mutual bereavement. Unhinged by grief, Nico's parents are distracted and careless in their oversight of Nico, and Nico is deep in perilous waters before she realizes that she is out of her depth. Prose eschews her familiar satiric mode. She fluidly maintains Nico's tender insights into the human condition as Nico comes to discover her own way of growing up and moving on.

I've wanted to read this one for a while. Here's what Lisa at Books on the Brain had to say about it:

Francine Prose has written a piece of art, a mournful yet exquisite novel that was an absolute pleasure to read.  She is amazingly talented and I am thrilled to have discovered this new-to-me author.  I’d highly recommend Goldengrove to anyone who enjoys beautiful writing, coming of age stories, or family drama.

**UPDATE: All of the books are spoken for. Sorry!**

If you'd like to participate in the book club for Goldengrove, send me an email at gweiswasser@gmail.com with the following information, single-spaced, by Sunday June 13:

Name

Address

Email address

I only have a limited number of copies, so act fast! Once the books are mailed out, I will set a date that gives everyone enough time to read it. Looking forward to the book, and thank you HarperPerennial!

April Book Club: THIS ONE IS MINE by Maria Semple

The April EDIWTB book club selection was This One Is Mine, by Maria Semple.

Semple I am having trouble deciding how I feel about this book. I'll start with the plot: it's about Violet and David Parry, a very rich married couple living in LA. Violet is a former TV writer and now stay-at-home mom with a one-year old daughter, and David is her remote and prone-to-criticize music producer husband. They are drowning in money, but have grown apart and alienated from each other. Violet gets involved with Teddy, a very sketchy man she meets during this period of alienation from David - an entanglement with some unexpected consequences. David's sister, Sally, is a ballet instructor in her late thirties and so desperate to get married that she gets engaged to a man she doesn't really know or understand, simply because his career is skyrocketing, but it doesn't bring her the fulfillment she seeks.

The other main character in this book is the city of Los Angeles, for This One Is Mine is really a satire of modern life in LA. (There's even a hand-drawn map of LA in the beginning of the book for readers who may not know where Mulholland Drive is compared to Wilshire Blvd. or the 405.) Semple, a former TV writer herself (including for my beloved Arrested Development), is quite adept at skewering the rich and aimless by revealing the ways they spend their money and time (fancy weddings; yoga sweat lodge retreats; the Hermes store). Most of the characters in this book are some combination of self-absorbed, materialistic, vengeful or desperate, and even if they have their redeeming moments, Semple's deft slash-and-burn makes for some powerful mockery.

But this book isn't always a satire. Sometimes it is instead a straightforward depiction of flawed characters who are motivated by all the wrong things. And for me, that's when the book was less successful, and bordered on implausible. I didn't need these characters to be likable, but I did need to understand them, to feel that what they were doing was consistent or at least explainable. And I couldn't always do that. Most often, my complaints had to to with Teddy and his inexplicable hold on all who came in his orbit. By the end of the novel, even David seemed under his spell. And yet, I saw almost nothing redeeming about him.  

This One Is Mine is a unique book – unpredictable and difficult to categorize. I am glad I read it, and expect that it will stay with me for a while. But I can't say that I loved it. A lot of the time, I felt sort of confused by it. I found this review of This One Is Mine by Miss Meliss on Bibliotica, and I really agreed with it. Like Miss Meliss, I suspect that a lot of people will enjoy this book (and judging by the Amazon reviews, a lot of people did). For me, it was interesting and had its high points, but it didn't work on every level.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what EDIWTB readers have to say about This One is Mine!

Guest Post on Booking Mama

I have a guest post up today on the excellent Booking Mama blog. Julie asked for people to write about book clubs for her regular Book Club Exchange feature, so I wrote about the EDIWTB online book club. Check it out!

April Book Club: THIS ONE IS MINE by Maria Semple

I am pleased to announce the EDIWTB book club for April – This One Is Mine, by Maria Semple. Thanks to Hachette, I have a number of copies of This One Is Mine to give away to readers who would like to participate in the book club.

Here's some info about the book from Amazon:

Semple Former television producer and writer Semple bashes Hollywood celebrity, New Age nonsense and struggling relationships in this smart and funny debut. Violet Parry, who puts aside a TV writing career to have a baby and take care of the sumptuous L.A. home of her legendary impresario hubby, David, scratches a seven-year itch with D-list rocker Teddy Reyes. Yet Violet is hardly ready for the roller-coaster ride with a man who thinks only "about my rent and my car and getting laid and staying sober." Meanwhile, David's conniving sister, Sally, sets out to snag a rich husband, training her sights on Jeremy, a robotic sports-stats genius with a promising TV career. In one of the most hilarious sendups of New Age claptrap, David figures out if he's willing to stick around to see where Violet's wild ride will take them. Semple's takes are tack sharp as her delightful cast is driven comically and tragically ever deeper into a culture of artifice. Semple obviously knows her turf, and she does an exquisite job of stomping all over it.

You can read more about This One Is Mine at Nicole's review on Linus's Blanket, who says the book is "highly recommended". She concludes, "This book and its characters are memorable ones and they still continue to stick with me and come to the top of my list of books that I recommend, especially if you like great characterizations and drama. It had a bit of mystery as well because I wanted to see how they would all end out and there were a variety of possibilities that I would have been okay with, which is nice." 

Deb at Just Short of Crazy says that "Maria Semple writes with comic brilliance in this smart, compassionate, wickedly funny take on our need for more–and the sometimes disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness."

If you'd like to participate in the book club for This One Is Mine, send me an email at gweiswasser@gmail.com with the following information, single-spaced, by Friday March 19:

Name

Address

Email address

Once the books are mailed out, I will set a date that gives everyone enough time to read it.

Looking forward to the book, and thank you Hachette!