This poetic gem translated from Italian is weighted with sorrow. Written in flashbacks spanning three generations, a girl shares the story of her Sardinian grandmother who has been in search for perfect love and declared mad as a result. Milena Agus’ From the Land of the Moon is a study of unreliable narrators, misunderstanding, and the reaches of the heart.
Check It Out
Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.
For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.
New: Fiction Books
New: Nonfiction Books
This week on our displays we are featuring books involving the Immigrant Experience. Displays are located on the second floor by the elevators and toward the start of Adult Fiction. Interested in being matched with a book suited to your taste? Stop by the Fiction/AV/Desk on the second floor to speak with a Readers’ Advisor or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out some of the books below!
Previously known as the Orange Prize, Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is in its 20th year. This week the annual prize has released its longlist featuring 20 different titles with plans to reveal the shortlist April 13th. The award is dedicated to recognizing literary merit in women from around the world “…whilst also stimulating debate about gender and writing, gender and reading, and how the publishing and reviewing business works.”
Up for a challenge? Try to see if you can read all of the nominees before the announcement of the winner on June 3rd! Below are some of the titles Mount Prospect owns.
Title: The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Page Count: 321 pages
Genre: Coming of Age Stories, Literary Fiction
Tone: Reflective, Moving, Bleak
Summary from publisher:
One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface because Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
1. The Round House is a book for which a sentence or two summary cannot fully capture the experience it holds. How would you describe the feel of reading this story?
2. As you read, were you conscious of the fact that it was an older Joe looking back on this summer? Did that impact the narrative for you?
3. This work has been described as a coming-of-age story. In what ways are Joe’s experiences universal? In what ways are they specific? Does this category do justice to the narrative?
4. One of the ways a typical adolescence is explored is through sexual curiosity and preoccupation. Were you at all uncomfortable with these depictions in a story that is incited with a brutal sexual assault? Was this intentional?
5. The Round House deals with some deeply troubling themes and struggles. How was that balanced? Were there elements that lightened the story for you?
6. Describe Joe’s friendship with Cappy. What did he add to the story?
7. Is Joe proud of his heritage? What does this narrative have to say about cultural identity?
8. Much of the complication for Geraldine’s case is the question of jurisdiction. How does the legal relationship between the U.S. and the Ojibwe complicate the investigation?
9. Why didn’t Geraldine simply lie and say she knew where it happened? Do you agree with her reasons?
10. When Joe makes his decision, he says it is about justice, not vengeance. What do you think? How does that decision change him? Does his decision change your perception of him?
11. One reviewer shared, “In Erdrich’s hands, you may find yourself, as I did, embracing the prospect of vigilante justice as regrettable but reasonable, a way to connect to timeless wisdom about human behavior. It wasn’t until I put the book down that I recognized – and marveled at – the clever way I had been manipulated.” Was your experience similar to that of the reviewer? Does this affect your assessment of the book and/or the author?
12. How would you describe Father Travis and his role in the story?
13. Near the end of the story (p.306), Joe’s father talks of “ideal justice as opposed to the best-we-can-do justice”. What did he mean? How is this borne out in the story?
14. What else did Joe’s father want him to understand from that conversation? Did he make his point?
15. What was the importance of the wiindigoo motif?
16. Do you feel you have a good understanding of what Geraldine was like before the incident? How does the author convey this?
17. At one literary festival panel, during a discussion of the general lack of strong marriages in fiction, author Lorrie Moore said she felt the marital life of Joe’s parents was a central part of The Round House. In what ways would you agree or disagree with this statement?
18. What were the most uncomfortable scenes for you? Did these lessen your enjoyment of the book as a whole?
19. What was the significance and the symbolism of the Round House? Why choose this as the title?
20. How would you describe the author’s writing style and storytelling choices?
21. At the conclusion of the novel, when Joe’s parents are driving him home and they don’t stop at the roadside café, Erdrich writes, “we passed over in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going.” What do you think she meant?
22. The Round House won the National Book Award and was later selected for Book Crossing, a shared reading program between Mount Prospect Public Library and our sister city, Sèvres, France. What elements make this book a good choice for discussion?
Video of National Book Award honors
NY Times Q&A with Louise Erdrich
Resource guide from Minnesota Book Awards
University of North Carolina questions for reflection
Another perspective: book response
If you liked The Round House, try…
As the first English Language book award to recognize novels written internationally, The Folio Prize is dedicated to celebrating the best of literature. Announced at the beginning of February, the shortlist was narrowed down to eight selections from a longlist of eighty titles. Chair of Judges William Fiennes explained in developing the shortlist, “We were looking for boldness, freshness… books in which the form or structure of the story was perfectly matched to the ideas. You feel reading these eight books that you’re witnessing fiction discovering new possibilities for itself.”
The young prize is only in its sophomore year, and will be announcing the 2015 winner March 23. You can view the full shortlist on The Folio Prize website.
Tenth of December by George Saunders
One of the joys of having such a strong reading community on the internet is being able to find lists others have curated on specific topics or themes. One such list created and contributed by readers is the Anticipated Literary Reads for Readers of Color for 2014. Below are a few of the titles featured on the list. If you would like to diversify your reading even more, email email@example.com or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen services desk on the second floor to speak to a Readers’ Advisor!
Title: Cutting for Stone
Author: Abraham Verghese
Page Count: 688 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Family Sagas
Tone: Haunting, Moving, Richly Detailed
Summary from publisher:
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.
Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
“Writing has many similarities to the practice of internal medicine. Both require astute observation and a fondness for detail.”
“At heart I am a physician. It is my first and only calling. As a physician, things move me, and one way to talk about these things is to write about them. For me writing and medicine are not different parts, it is seamless, the same world view: fiction and healing promote the same cause.
1. As you reflect on this complex story, which scenes stand out in your memory? Why did those particular moments have such impact?
2. At the end of chapter 31 (379-380), Marion reflects on his home, including this statement: “I felt ecstatic, as if I was at the epicenter of our family…” Does this seem arrogant or appropriate for an adolescent to say? In what ways is Marion the epicenter of the book?
3. In what ways is Shiva something of a mystery to the reader? [Also consider, “’What I do is simple. I repair holes,’ said Shiva Praise Stone. Yes, but you make them, too, Shiva.” (577)]
4. Talk about Marion’s parting from his family when he is forced to leave the country (444).
5. Think about how the character of Genet is portrayed at different points. [e.g., “I wanted out of Africa. I began to think that Genet had done me a favor after all.” (457) and “she found her greatness, at last, found it in her suffering.” (601)] How is she integral to the story? How do you feel about her?
6. For a story that most often takes place in small settings with few people, somehow it has an epic “feel”. How is that?
7. When Ghosh returns from prison (350-351), he and Marion talk about a well-known story about a man who couldn’t rid himself of his slippers.
“The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny.”
Ghosh then shares about his past and has a lesson for Marion.
“I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did…The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”
Do you agree? Are these sentiments borne out in the novel? What is the role of fate throughout?
8. In what ways is this book about legacy? About exile? Betrayal? Forgiveness?
9. Marion states that he became a physician not to save the world but to heal himself. Do you think he was healed in the end?
10. What do the female characters in the book reveal about what life is like for women in Ethiopia?
11. Did the medical detail add to the novel or detract from it?
12. The latter portion of the book contains commentary on medical practice in America, especially regarding foreign physicians (e.g., 492). Did this seem significant to you?
13. Did “The Afterbird” offer closure for you? For the characters? How did you react to its revelations?
14. Remember Stone’s favorite question? [What treatment in an emergency is administered by ear? words of comfort] How is this poignant, especially given Stone’s choices and manner?
15. What is the role of sexuality in Cutting for Stone? How would you characterize the scenes that are depicted, especially between Marion and Genet?
16. What romantic relationships are central to the story? How so?
17. Though the book earned excellent reviews, it wasn’t in nearly as much demand as it seems to be now. Why do you think that is? With over 600 pages, it isn’t an easy choice for book groups, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern. Did the length bother you?
18. Few works of fiction include a bibliography or an acknowledgment section which credits many literary allusions included in the story. Does this affect your opinion of the book?
19.Verghese said that his aim in writing Cutting for Stone was “to tell a great story, an old-fashioned, truth-telling story.” He has also said “my ambition was to write a big sweeping novel into which you could disappear, travel away as though in a space-ship, disappear, meet exciting people, and return to find that only a couple of days had passed in real life. That’s what happens to me when I am reading a good book.” In your opinion, did he succeed?
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
One Book One City resources
Video of Abraham Verghese discussing Cutting for Stone
Frequently asked questions answered by Abraham Verghese
Radio interview with Verghese on Ethiopia
If you liked Cutting for Stone, try...
Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, tells the fascinating yet depressing tale of a man with a devastating story in Ethan Frome. An unnamed narrator meets Ethan Frome in New England, describing him as, “[seeming] a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe.” Curious by the crippled and depressed man, the narrator digs into Ethan’s past to discover a tragic story of love and duty. The narrator easily falls into Frome’s story, attempting to discern the muddled motivations of flawed characters in impossible circumstances. Tinged with foreboding, Wharton plays with the hopes and dreams of her characters and readers in this accessible classic.
With 2015 just around the corner bringing a whole new crop of to-be-read lists to tackle, shows to watch, and music to experience, Staff at Mount Prospect Public Library took time to pause and look at what brought us joy in 2014. Check out staff members’ favorite books, CDs, or DVDs they read, watched and/or listened to in 2014. Feel free to share what is on your list of favorites for the year!