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Friday, January 30
Tuesday, January 27
Wow, was this a powerful book! The nine short stories were described by one member as “slices of life and not the pleasant slices either.” I think it was Jessica who said that these are the things you wouldn’t volunteer to tell someone else about yourself and Jennifer who added that these are the things that heavily influence who you are.
We discussed a bit about Lahiri herself, and how her own feelings of alienation are transformed into more universal feelings through her stories. Although this book is about the Indian and Indian-American experience, we also felt that it was about all immigrant experiences and about all people as well.
We closed our discussion by asking a few questions from the game Table Talk: The Book Club Edition (which was a gift to me from Nancy – thank you!) One question asked each member to sum up the book in one word. Some of the words we chose were: human, powerful, heart-wrenching, and realistic.
Although there were only 10 members at the meeting (plus Melissa’s mom who was in town), 11 people actually read the book. Here’s a recap of the ratings:
- Nancy = 9
- Carrie Ann = 8
- Jessica = 7
- Kelli = 9
- Amy = 8
- Melissa = 9.5
- Beth = 9
- Lenore = 8
- Jennifer = 8
- Heather = 9
- Cyndi = 7
That is an average of 8.3.
A few gals mentioned that it is very difficult for them to give a book either a 9 or a 10, because they feel that it should be the best book ever written to get that rating. So those 8s are really high praise coming from them!
My recap of this meeting will be posted over at ReadingGroupGuides.com later this week. I'll come back and add a link to it once it goes up. And if you'd like to read my review of this book on my blog, click here.
Tuesday, January 13
- What kinds of marriage are presented in the stories? One reviewer has written that Lahiri's "subject is not love's failure, ... but the opportunity that an artful spouse (like an artful writer) can make of failure ... " Do you agree or disagree with that assessment?
- Lahiri has said, "As a storyteller, I'm aware that there are limitations in communication." What importance in the stories do miscommunication and unexpressed feelings have?
- In "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine," what does the ten-year-old Lilia learn about the differences between life in suburban America and life in less stable parts of the world? What does she learn about the personal consequences of those differences?
- For Mrs. Sen, "Everything is there" (that is, in India). What instances are there in these stories of exile, estrangement, displacement, and marginality—both emotional, and cultural?
- What characterizes the sense of community in both the stories set in India and stories set in the U.S.? What maintains that sense, and what disrupts it?
- Another reviewer has written, "Food in these stories is a talisman, a reassuring bit of the homeland to cling to." How do food and meal preparation maintain links to the characters’ homelands? What other talismans—items of clothing, for example—act as "reassuring bits of the homeland"?
- The narrator of "The Third and Final Continent" ends his account with the statement, "Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept." In what ways are Lahiri’s characters bewildered?
- What are the roles and significance of routine and ritual in the stories? What are the rewards and drawbacks of maintaining long-established routines and ritual?
- In "Interpreter of Maladies," Mr. Kapasi finds it hard to believe of Mr. and Mrs. Das that "they were regularly responsible for anything other than themselves." What instances of selfishness or self-centeredness do you find in these stories?
- In "Interpreter of Maladies," visitors to Konarak find the Chandrabhaga River dried up, and they can no longer enter the Temple of the Sun, "for it had filled with rubble long ago ..." What other instances and images does Lahiri present of the collapse, deterioration, or passing of once-important cultural or spiritual values?
- What does Mrs. Sen mean when, looking at the traffic that makes "her English falter," she says to Eliot, "Everyone, this people, too much in their world"? What circumstances of life in both America and India account for people being "too much in their world"?
- Rather than leave his weekly rent on the piano, the narrator of "The Third and Final Continent" hands it to Mrs. Croft. What similar small acts of kindness, courtesy, concern, or compassion make a difference in people's lives?
Wednesday, January 7
If you recall, we read her Lolita book in January of 2008 - our recap is here. I reviewed it on this blog as well.
I found this new interview - and the premise of the upcoming book - to be very interesting. What do you think about it?