Seniors Book Club February Selection

And after the fireThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, February 13 in the second floor Training Room to discuss the novel  And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer.

About the book …

Susanna has the perfect New York City life: a great job, a loving husband and a beautiful apartment. But when a random act of violence tears it apart, she’s left to pick up the pieces alone. Just as she begins to feel whole again, her beloved Uncle Henry commits suicide—leaving behind a cryptic note that alludes to his haunting WWII experience as an Allied soldier in Germany . . . and something he took from the devastated country before returning home.

The daughter of the king’s Jewish banker, Sara is among the elite of Enlightenment-era Berlin. Beautiful, intelligent and a gifted pianist, she hones her musical talents under Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. They share a special bond, but while her life is just beginning, his is coming to an end. On his deathbed, Wilhelm bequeaths Sara the score of one of his father’s cantatas. Sara is stunned to see its violently anti-Semitic lyrics. Why did her beloved want her to have this horrifying document?

Weaving together the stories of Susanna and Sara, Lauren Belfer creates a majestic narrative that spans lifetimes and continents, encompassing both the best and the worst of the human spirit. The cantata’s troubled, riveting journey reveals that the two women have more in common than the score, and what Susanna learns may be the thing that can, finally, allow her to heal and move on.

About the author …

Lauren Belfer was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Buffalo, where she attended the Buffalo Seminary. At Swarthmore College, she majored in Medieval Studies. After graduating, she worked as a file clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University.

Lauren decided to become a writer when she was six years old. By the time she was in high school, her literary work was receiving rejection letters from all the best publications. Her first published short story was rejected forty-two times before it found an editor who loved it. Her second published story was rejected only twenty-seven times.

Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book of the Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into six languages.

Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010 and an NPR Best Mystery of 2010.

Her third novel, And After the Fire, received a 2016 National Jewish Book Award.

Belfer’s fiction has also been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere.

She lives in New York City.

A Conversation with Lauren Belfer

An interview with the author (Laurenbelfer.com)

Reading Group guide

Awards and reviews

Real People and Places in And After the Fire

Music from the novel

Was J.S. Bach anti-Semitic? A CBC Radio/Sunday edition interview

A Literary Couple grapple with Bach and his God (NYTimes article)

History of Anti-Semitism (Wikipedia)

 

Seniors Book Club January Selection

Mr. Dickens and His Carol - Silva, SamanthaThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, January 9 in Forsyth Hall on the main floor to discuss the novel  Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.

About the book …

Samantha Silva’s fiction debut offers a take on how Charles Dickens came to write his famous holiday story, A Christmas Carol. Dickens has just excitedly finished his latest installment of Martin Chuzzlewit and welcomed his sixth child when his publishers inform him that Chuzzlewit isn’t selling and he needs to write a Christmas story or lose money from his advance. Dickens is adamantly opposed, but with family depending on him, he accepts the challenge. Beset by demands from everyone he encounters, he struggles to write the story. Finally, he’s captivated by an unexpected muse and his holiday spirit comes back, inspiring the much-loved and enduring classic. (Library Journal)

About the author…

Samantha Silva is an author and screenwriter based in Idaho. Mr. Dickens and His Carol is her debut novel. Over her career she’s sold film projects to Paramount, Universal, New Line Cinema and TNT. A film adaptation of her short story, The Big Burn, won the 1 Potato Short Screenplay Competition at the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2017. Silva will direct, her first time at the helm. 

Silva graduated from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, where she studied in Bologna, Italy and Washington, D.C. She’s lived in London three times, briefly in Rome, is an avid Italophile, and a forever Dickens devotee.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: A timeline of Charles Dickens life

Dickens’ London

An interview with Samantha Silva (Los Angeles Public Library)

Conversation with Samantha Silva (International Press Agency)

Book review (Washington Independent Review of Books)

Mr. Dickens and His Carol: The Ghosts of Dickens and Grenfell

 

Seniors Book Club November Selection

ForgivenessThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 14 in the second floor Training Room to discuss this year’s winner of Canada Reads, the memoir Forgiveness : a gift from my grandparents by Mark Sakamoto.

About the book …

When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean traded his quiet yet troubled life on the Magdalen Islands in eastern Canada for the ravages of war overseas. On the other side of the country, Mitsue Sakamoto and her family felt their pleasant life in Vancouver starting to fade away after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ralph found himself one of the many Canadians captured by the Japanese in December 1941. He would live out his war in a prison camp, enduring beatings, starvation, electric feet and a journey on a hell ship to Japan, watching his friends and countrymen die all around him. Mitsue and her family were ordered out of their home and were packed off to a work farm in rural Alberta, leaving many of their possessions behind. By the end of the war, Ralph was broken but had survived. The Sakamotos lost everything when the community centre housing their possessions was burned to the ground, and the $25 compensation from the government meant they had no choice but to start again.

Forgiveness intertwines the compelling stories of Ralph MacLean and the Sakamotos as the war rips their lives and their humanity out of their grasp. But somehow, despite facing such enormous transgressions against them, the two families learned to forgive. Without the depth of their forgiveness, this book’s author, Mark Sakamoto, would never have existed.

Author website

Author biography

Forgiveness on Canada Reads

A Maclean’s interview

A CBC Books interview

A National Post book review

A Ripple Effects Blog book review

A CBC Q Radio interview with Mark Sakamoto and Joy Kogawa

Mark Sakamoto about “Where I Write”

“Why Mark Sakamoto’s father got emotional reading his son’s memoir”

Architect Raymond Moriyama on Internment

Mark Sakamoto on YouTube

A Globe and Mail article by Mark Sakamoto

Seniors Book Club October Selection

of this earth1

The Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 10 in the second floor Training Room to discuss Of This Earth: A Mennonite Forest in the Boreal Forest, a memoir by Rudy Wiebe.

About the book

In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe gives vivid life again to the vanished world of Speedwell, Saskatchewan, an isolated, poplar-forested, mostly Mennonite community – and Rudy’s first home. Too young to do heavy work, Rudy witnessed a way of life that was soon to disappear. And we experience with him the hard labour of clearing the stony, silty bushland; the digging out of precious wells one bucket of dirt at a time; sorrow at the death of a beloved sister; the disorienting searches for grazing cattle in the vast wilderness sloughs and the sweet discovery of the power of reading.

Rare personal photographs (reproduced throughout the book) and the fragile memories of those who are left give shape to the story of Mennonite immigrants building a life in Canada, the growth and decline of the small Speedwell community, the sway of religion, and a young boy’s growing love of the extreme beauty of the aspen forests – as well as how all these elements came to inform his destiny as a writer. (Publisher)

About Rudy Wiebe (Publisher)

Where the truth lies: Author Rudy Wiebe on what’s important (Edmonton Journal)

Why Rudy Wiebe will never write a funny novel (Q&A on CBC)

A history of Russian Mennonite immigration to Canada 

Mennonites and their beliefs

Seniors Book Club September Selection

Last NeanderthalThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, September 12 in the second floor Training Room to discuss The Last Neanderthal, a novel by Claire Cameron.

About the book…

40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate. But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself. In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women’s lives. Haunting, suspenseful, and profoundly moving, THE LAST NEANDERTHAL asks us to reconsider all we think we know about what it means to be human.

Claire Cameron’s website

Author biography

Claire Cameron “On Writing”

Claire Cameron’s essay: Neanderthals were women, too.

Reading Group Guide (includes discussion questions)

A Quill & Quire book review

A National Post book review

The Next Chapter interview with Claire Cameron

Interviews on Youtube

Neanderthal article in Wikipedia

Neanderthals 101 / National Geographic video

National Post article about Neanderthal research

About Neanderthal/human interbreeding