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 (

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)


Monday Evening Book Club February Selection

Born a crimeThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, February 11 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the memoir Born a Crime : stories from a South African childhood by Trevor Noah.

About the book…

One of the comedy world’s fastest-rising stars tells his wild coming of age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Noah provides something deeper than traditional memoirists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives. Trevor Noah is the host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where he gleefully provides America with its nightly dose of serrated satire. He is a light-footed but cutting observer of the relentless absurdities of politics, nationalism and race–and in particular the craziness of his own young life, which he’s lived at the intersections of culture and history. In his first book, Noah tells his coming of age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal–the son of a white, Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life–a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom. The stories Noah tells are sometimes dark, occasionally bizarre, frequently tender, and always hilarious–whether he’s subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty or making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world; whether’s he’s being thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn’t commit or being thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters.

Trevor Noah’s website

NPR interview highlights

Interviews on Youtube

A “Guardian Live” interview

“The View” interview

Discussion questions

A Huffington Post book review

A Guardian review

Map of South Africa

History of Apartheid


St. Albert Gazette Great Reading

Book picks as published in the February 6, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.

dragon springs roadDragon Springs Road : a novel

By Janie Chang

Abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai, seven-year-old Jialing learns she is Eurasian—and thus doomed to face a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. As Jialang grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, she must find a way to survive political intrigue, jealousy, forbidden love and even murder.


woo-wooThe Woo-Woo : how I survived ice hockey, drug raids, demons, and my crazy Chinese family

By Lindsay Wong

In this darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons when they should really be on anti-psychotic meds. At once a witty and touching memoir about the Asian immigrant experience and an honest depiction of the vagaries of mental illness, The Woo-Woo is a gut-wrenching and beguiling manual for surviving family, and oneself.

St. Albert Gazette Great Reading

Book picks as published in the January 30, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.

the good neighborThe Good neighbor: the life and work of Fred Rogers

By Maxwell King

As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.


sun does shineThe Sun does shine: how I found life and freedom on death row

By Anthony Ray Hinton

This story is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91oJX5lboILLET DARKNESS BURY THE DEAD by Maureen Jennings

It’s 1917 and twenty years since we last encountered Murdoch.  Much has happened in that twenty years: Murdoch’s wife, Amy, has died in childbirth with their second child, and his son, Jack, now twenty-one, has just returned home from France after being wounded and gassed in the war.  Murdoch is now a senior detective but finds his work of tracking down those who abuse the temperance laws unsatisfying.

There is a growing resentment against the war and the pro and con factions soon begin to clash.  However, Murdoch soon has more important things to concern himself with as a young man is found murdered and shortly after he is called to attend the suicide of another young man.  Quickly on the heels of these two deaths, two more young men are murdered and the only common denominator with their deaths is that they were all exempt from conscription.

Jennings shows the hardships of war and the toll that it takes on the soldiers and their families.  Her depiction of “shell shock” (what we refer to as PTSD, today) and its effect on its victims is chilling.  As Murdoch struggles to give Jack time to re-adjust to civilian life, he is filled with apprehension at the thought that Jack might be involved in these recent crimes.

9781635570571A SHOT IN THE DARK by Lynne Truss

A.S. Crystal, the famous theatre critic, has come to Brighton with his production of  A Shilling in the Meter.  As he and Constable Twitten wait for the performance to begin in the Theatre Royal, he begins to tell the Constable what he knows of the Aldersgate Stick-up case of 1950, which remains an unsolved case.  He was an Assistant Bank Manager at the time, and had first-hand knowledge of the crime.

But before he could utter even two words, he’s shot dead in his seat.

This murder unleashes an investigation like no other!  We are led on a merry chase, reminiscent of a British farce, a panto, and an episode from a “Carry-On” movie.  We have to contend with a bumble-headed policeman (actually two -Constable Twitten not being one of them, no matter what his name suggests); a femme fatale, and a kindly charlady.  As Twitten takes the reins to investigate, he uncovers a criminal conspiracy that goes back years.  It takes a very clever man to uncover the criminal mastermind behind these old and new crimes and Twitten is just such a man.

A deliciously funny mystery and hopefully the first in a series!