Monday, July 25, 2011

New Member ... welcome!!

I wanted to welcome Sarah Ballard to the book club! Since we're close to the end of July, I thought this would also be a good time to suggest books for August. I suggest the book Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. The synopsis is below. Of course, please suggest other books and please remember to finish reading and start blogging about This Is Where I Leave You ... otherwise this book club will really be a Bhardwaj Sisters Book Club (BSBC).

Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth's cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love. He founds his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians. Ultimately, he confronts the fate reserved for all messiahs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Some answers...

My answers were too long to post in a comment so I had to make a new post:

Hahahhaa I agree that Phillip is also my favorite character but felt a little bad that I was 'falling for' the biggest failure of the family (which says a lot, coming from that family). Definitely endearing and a great sense of humor. I loved that he had no qualms about saying what was on his mind, like "so, what? you're lesbo now, mom?"

I agree that there were a lot of questions but it was meant to be answered by all of us and you tackled the first three pretty well. I'll respond to some of the other ones --

7) I found all the relationships in the book very different from each other, yet a lot of them seemed to work. After Judd reminds Alice that she has a great relationship with Paul and that should mean something to her, I realized how that was very true. Out of all the couples we had seen, they seemed like the most stable.

I never actually felt bad for Wendy for how badly her husband treated her because it seemed like that what she wanted out of life-- stability, money and a family. She seemed strong enough to opt out of it and obviously didn't feel confined in the relationship enough to be faithful, so I don't really pity her much.

Jenn and Wade just seemed like Jenn going through a midlife crisis and wanting to be with the celebrity to add some excitement in her life. Judd's exploding tirade to Wade was totally on point about how he was hoping for a miscarriage so that he wouldn't have to be the stepfather, etc.

Hillary and Linda, hmmm, well I don't think I can fully understand non-heterosexual relationships but in terms of the phase of life that they were in, it seemed like a nice companionship. They were such good friends and there for each other during trying times (Horry's accident, etc.) that it has the elements of a stable relationship, just a little weird that she started it before her husband died and that she all of a sudden became bisexual?

As Antara said, in the beginning you don't know much of Jenn's side of the cheating but it makes sense that a death of a baby, albeit unborn, would cause a rift between a couple. Then the problem is, my biased view of early marriages not being a good idea comes in the way for me to think that it really wouldn't have worked out even if it wasn't for the baby's death.

So to answer this question ... lasting -- Hillary/Linda (maybe because they're old enough that they won't want to venture away from something good), realistic (although unfortunate, according to me) -- Wendy/Barry. I think insurmountable problems -- Phillip/Tracy. I guess this is obvious since she breaks up with him but, I think it's a woman's fatal flaw to see potential in a man and want to bring that out, and Tracy saw that potential in Phillip and wanted to bring it out. Unfortunately it's up to the person themselves to make themselves a better person, and Tracy couldn't change Phillip. He would have to do that on his own, if ever he wanted to change.

8) I do think the Foxman family was a likeable group mostly because they don't think before they speak and are honest, which can sometimes be refreshing. Also, when it comes down to it, they all have 'good hearts' (for lack of better words), and good intentions.

Phillip was my fave, as I said before, mostly because he was the funniest and most uninhibited in his dialogue, but also because underneath it all, he wasn't dumb and he knew that he was a f--- up but wanted to change that. (or so I hope ... as a woman, of course I want to believe that)

I can't say any of the characters were that awful. Alice was kind of out of hand but she redeemed herself when she apologized to Judd and agreed with him when he showed her how she had a good relationship with Paul.

I think I really like what transpired between Paul and Judd. I thought it was really big of Paul to say sorry for being mad for so long and that being angry wouldn't help either one of them even though really, Judd was the asshole. I think that was the most 'senti' situation between the family members, what do you think?

Sorry, I don't think this post was that eloquent but there was a lot to say. Anyway, I enjoyed the book a lot!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I leave you ... with questions.

I'm preemptively posting some discussion questions on This Is Where I Leave You.

  1. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel's protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife's infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?

  2. What was your first impression of Judd's wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd's perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?

  3. Discuss Judd's mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?

  4. One of the largest subjects of the book is parenting. Discuss the various parents in the book (Judd and Jen; Wendy and Barry; Hillary and Mort; Linda) and consider the statement (or statements) that Tropper makes about the responsibilities of a parent to his or her child, and, conversely, the responsibilities of a child to his or her parent.

  5. Similarly, what comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife's infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?

  6. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?

  7. Also, compare and contrast the various romantic relationships in this book: who, do you think, had the most admirable or lasting relationship? Who had the most realistic one? Who had the most insurmountable problems? (Is there such a thing as an insurmountable problem, especially looking at problems from Phillip's point of view?)

  8. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?

  9. Throughout the book Judd has recurring nightmares that often involve a prosthetic limb. Discuss the way these dreams acted as elements of foreshadowing and symbolism throughout the narrative. Consider, too, how they reflected Judd's emotional state as the novel progresses.

  10. What did you think of Judd's exit at the end of the shiva? Was his disappearance in Phillip's Porsche realistic? Appropriate? Did you find it a satisfying resolution to the book?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July's book?

Hello all ...

Ferah has proposed that each month a different person choose the book, and they are in charge of putting up discussion questions at the end of the month, and leading the discussion, etc. Ferah has kind of done that this month -- CL CL was her selection, and she just posted some discussion questions ... though she still hasn't completed the book yet!!

Priti, since your wedding is at the end of the month, I'm assuming this is not a good month for you to be leading a book club discussion ... so perhaps we can do your book the following month?

Who would like to recommend a book for the month of July? Since there are only 3 weeks left in July, we should choose a quick, light read. If no one has any suggestions I can suggest 'This is Where I leave You,' by Jonathan Tropper. The book is 'a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind -- whether we like it or not.'

Let's plan on locking a book down by Friday, July 8th.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Discussion Questions for CL CL

Hi All,

I thought that since the discussion has super dwindled, I'd post some book club discussions questions to get the conversation going. My paperback copy has some good questions at the back that I'm putting below:

1. When Larry is shot at the beginning of the novel, he is sympathetic to his attacker: "Larry felt forgiveness for him because all monsters were misunderstood." Does Larry consider himself to be a monster? Why isn't he bitter? Could you be as charitable in his position? Do you think he feels the same way at the end of the novel?

2. Talk about both boys' relationships to their mothers. How did their mother's shape them? Were they good sons? What kind of people were their mothers? Why does Silas go see Larry's mother in the nursing home?

3. Silas left southern Mississippi, then returned. Larry never left. Why did they make the decisions they did? What was it about their small town that drew and kept them there? How does place shape the novel? Could this have happened in any small town?

4. At the novel's end, Tom Franklin writes, "The land had a way of covering the wrongs of people." What does he mean by this?

I'm about half way through the book, so I'm not quite ready to answer the questions yet (Yes, I know I've missed this month's deadline- sorry!), but I know that a lot of you are already finished, so start discussing!

Hope you're having wonderful long weekends :)