Book Club

This Beacon-affiliated group meets online, on the fourth Thursday of the month, at 7 pm.

September 24, 2020

A Complicated Kindness
by Miriam Toews, Penguin Random House, c. 2004, 256 pp.

Facilitator: Marilyn Medén

Genres: Canadian, Literary Fiction

Awards: This third novel by the author won a number of awards including the Governor General’s Award for English Fiction, the CBA Libris Fiction Award, and CBC’s Canada Reads.

Book Summary: Nomi Nickel lives with her father, Ray, in East Village, a small Mennonite town in Manitoba. She dreams of escaping from a life governed by the strict rules of her faith; no dancing, make-up, temperate climates or staying up past nine o’clock. But since her mother and sister left home, it’s hard to imagine leaving her father behind. As Nomi gets to the bottom of her mother’s and sister’s disappearances, she finds herself on a direct collision course with her uncle and the only community she has ever known. With fierce originality and brilliance, Miriam Toews takes us straight to the centre of Nomi’s world and the complicated kindness at the heart of family life. (Source: Burnaby Public Library)

About the Author: Miriam Toews (/ˈteɪvz/; born 1964) OM is a Canadian writer, best known for her novels A Complicated Kindness (2004) and All My Puny Sorrows (2014). She has won a number of literary prizes including the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award for body of work. She is also a two-time finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a two-time winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. (Source: Wikipedia)

October 22, 2020

by Tara Westover

Random House, c. 2018, 371pp.

Facilitator: Carol Woodworth

Genres: American, Memoir, Christian Biography

Awards: As of May 2020, the book had been on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list for 114 weeks.[2] It won a 2019 Alex Award and was shortlisted for the LA Times Book Prize, PEN America’s Jean Stein Book Award, and two awards from the National Book Critics Circle Award.[3]

Book Summary: Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it. —Provided by publisher.

About the Author: Tara Westover (born September 27, 1986)[1] is an American memoirist, essayist and historian. Her memoir Educated (2018) debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list and was a finalist for a number of national awards, including the LA Times Book Prize, PEN America’s Jean Stein Book Award, and two awards from the National Book Critics Circle Award. The New York Times ranked Educated as one of the 10 Best Books of 2018.[2] Because of her book, Westover was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019. (Source: Wikipedia)

November 26, 2020

A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki, Penguin Random House, c. 2013, 432 pp.

Facilitator: Gail Thomson

Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Fiction(BC), Fiction(Japan)

Awards and Nominations: shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and numerous others

Book Summary: A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.’ In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace–and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home. —Provided by publisher. (Source: BPL)

About the Author: Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She is the award-winning author of three novels, My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her critically acclaimed independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been screened at Sundance and aired on PBS. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ozeki was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City. She currently teaches creative writing at Smith College, where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities in the Department of English Language and Literature.

Visit and follow her @ozekiland on Twitter. (Source: Publisher)

December 17, 2020

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman, Penguin Random House Canada, c. 2017, 327 pp.

Facilitator: Carol Woodworth

Genres: Scottish, Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction

Awards: 2017 Costa Debut Novel Award

Book Summary: Quirky Eleanor struggles to relate to other people and lives a very solitary life. When she and the new work IT guy happen to be walking down the street together, they witness an elderly man collapse on the sidewalk and suddenly Eleanor’s orderly routines are disrupted. A novel about loneliness and how a little bit of kindness can change a person forever.

About the Author: Gail Honeyman (born 1972[1]) is a Scottish writer[2]. Born and raised in Stirling in central Scotland[3] to a mother who worked as a civil servant and a father in science,[4] Honeyman was a voracious reader in her childhood, visiting the library “a ridiculous number of times a week”.[4][5]

She studied French language and literature at Glasgow University, before continuing her education at the University of Oxford for a postgraduate course in French poetry. However, she decided that an academic career was not for her and started a string of “backroom jobs”, first as a civil servant in economic development and then as an administrator at Glasgow University.[6]

While working as an administrator, Honeyman enrolled in a Faber Academy writing course,[5] submitting the first three chapters of what would become Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to a competition for unpublished fiction by female writers, run by Cambridge’s Lucy Cavendish College.[6] The novel, published in 2017, went on to earn numerous awards and wide critical acclaim.[3] Source: Wikipedia

January 28, 2021

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
by Sherman Alexie, Little, Brown and Company, c.2017, 457pp.

Facilitator: David Kristjanson

Genres: Native American Literature, Literary Memoir, Autobiography

Awards: the author is the recipient of numerous awards

Book Summary: Presents a literary memoir of poems, essays, and intimate family photos that reflect on the author’s complicated relationship with his mother and his disadvantaged childhood on a Native American reservation.

The Instant New York Times Bestseller One of the most anticipated books of 2017—Entertainment Weekly and Bustle A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, loss, and forgiveness from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie’s bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit, but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past, but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers, but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It’s these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman.When she passed away, the incongruities that defined his mother shook Sherman and his remembrance of her. Grappling with the haunting ghosts of the past in the wake of loss, he responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is a stunning memoir filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive. An unflinching and unforgettable remembrance….

About the Author: Sherman Joseph Alexie Jr. is a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene-American novelist, short story writer, poet, and filmmaker.

His writings draw on his experiences as an Indigenous American with ancestry from several tribes.

He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and now lives in Seattle, Washington. (Source: Wikipedia) 

February 25, 2021

Girl Woman Other
by Bernardino Evaristo, Penguin, c. 2019, 452 pp.

Facilitator: John Hagen

Genre: British, Nigerian, Literary Fiction, Coming of Age

Awards: Booker Prize 2019



Book Summary: “A must-read about modern Britain and womanhood . . . An impressive, fierce novel about the lives of black British families, their struggles, pains, laughter, longings and loves . . . Her style is passionate, razor-sharp, brimming with energy and humor. There is never a single moment of dullness in this book and the pace does not allow you to turn away from its momentum.”–Booker Prize Judges

Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. Froma nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart. (Source: NWPL)

About the Author: Bernardine Evaristo is the Anglo-Nigerian award-winning author of several books of fiction and verse fiction that explore aspects of the African diaspora: past, present, real, imagined. Her novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize in 2019. Her writing also spans short fiction, reviews, essays, drama and writing for BBC radio. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, London, and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. She was made an MBE in 2009. As a literary activist for inclusion Bernardine has founded a number of successful initiatives, including Spread the Word writer development agency (1995-ongoing); the Complete Works mentoring scheme for poets of colour (2007-2017) and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2012-ongoing).

(Source: Penguin)


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