Chairs: Ruth Dean & Gretchen Knowlton
Come and enjoy discussions led by Waynflete faculty and staff on books they have chosen. Gatherings are held in the Waynflete Library, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Monday Books is open to the entire Waynflete community.
October 15, 2018
Discussion Leader: World Languages teacher Lindsay Kaplan
Book: On Such a Full Sea: A Novel by Chang-Rae Lee
Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea is a fascinating read, in part due to the dueling instincts of the novel. The world-building is first-rate, but there is an overall feeling of allegory to the book. There is brutality in nearly every chapter, but Lee writes with such grace and skill that I often found myself just reading for the pleasure of his words. Set in a dystopian future America, where “New Chinese” have populated certain urban centers like Baltimore and Detroit, On Such a Full Sea is the story of Fan, a gifted diver who abandons the relative safety of her city to search for her disappeared boyfriend in the more lawless parts of the country. The story is narrated by a nameless voice from Baltimore (or B-Mor, as it is called in the novel), and that conceit allows the author to interject observations and commentary into the story that might otherwise seem phony. As we journey with the unassuming but strong-willed Fan, and as details are deftly revealed, Chang-Rae Lee succeeds in weaving a mesmerizing tale while revealing truths about such wide-ranging subjects as social stratification, technology, estrangement, and the reasons we tell stories. --Chris Schluep
November 19, 2018
Discussion Leader: English teacher John Radway
Book: There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange’s “groundbreaking, extraordinary” (The New York Times) There There is the “brilliant, propulsive” (People Magazine) story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. It’s “the year’s most galvanizing debut novel” (Entertainment Weekly).
As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will to perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.
There There is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen. It’s “masterful . . . white-hot . . . devastating” (The Washington Post) at the same time as it is fierce, funny, suspenseful, thoroughly modern, and impossible to put down. Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with urgency and force. Tommy Orange has written a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. This is the book that everyone is talking about right now, and it’s destined to be a classic.
January 7, 2019
Discussion Leader: Nikki Dresser
Book: Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.
His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.
Plot summary from amazon.com
February 4, 2019
Discussion Leaders: Alice and Geoff Wagg
Book: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
In such acclaimed novels as Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic, National Book Award–winning author Colum McCann has transfixed readers with his precision, tenderness, and authority. Now, in his first collection of short fiction in more than a decade, McCann charts the territory of chance, and the profound and intimate consequences of even our smallest moments.
In the exuberant title novella, a retired judge reflects on his life’s work, unaware as he goes about his daily routines that this particular morning will be his last. In “Sh’khol,” a mother spending Christmas alone with her son confronts the unthinkable when he disappears while swimming off the coast near their home in Ireland. In “Treaty,” an elderly nun catches a snippet of a news report in which it is revealed that the man who once kidnapped and brutalized her is alive, masquerading as an agent of peace. And in “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” a writer constructs a story about a Marine in Afghanistan calling home on New Year’s Eve.
Deeply personal, subtly subversive, at times harrowing, and indeed funny, yet also full of comfort, Thirteen Ways of Looking is a striking achievement. With unsurpassed empathy for his characters and their inner lives, Colum McCann forges from their stories a profound tribute to our search for meaning and grace. The collection is a rumination on the power of storytelling in a world where language and memory can sometimes falter, but in the end do not fail us, and a contemplation of the healing power of literature.
Plot summary from amazon.com
March 11, 2019
Discussion Leader: Lorry Stillman
Book: Victoria Falls by James Hornor (Waynflete parent)
James Monroe is a sophisticated American professional on mission for The World Bank in Africa during the early 1990's. Despite his worldiness, his actions betray a late Twentieth Century innocent abroad who embodies both the bravado and the debilitating insecurities of the modern American male.
Set in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Bombay, India, Mr. Monroe's journey into authenticity results in a series of failed relationships that reveal the dark, enigmatic recesses of his complex personality and eventually land him in a hellhole prison in Bombay. His tragedy unfolds into an ending that no one -especially Monroe- could have possibly predicted or imagined.
In its exploration of American male stereotypes and in its suggestion of vulnerability as a key to masculine authenticity, Victoria Falls dares to embrace those humane qualities of love, kindness and creativity that have of late been extolled as the provenance of soul searching women but have been largely ignored in American fiction about men.
Plot summary from amazon.com
April 22, 2019
Discussion Leader: Page Lennig and Lydia Maier
Book: Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives by David Levy
From email to smart phones, and from social media to Google searches, digital technologies have transformed the way we learn, entertain ourselves, socialize, and work. Despite their usefulness, these technologies have often led to information overload, stress, and distraction. In recent years many of us have begun to look at the pluses and minuses of our online lives and to ask how we might more skillfully use the tools we’ve developed.
David M. Levy, who has lived his life between the “fast world” of high tech and the “slow world” of contemplation, offers a welcome guide to being more relaxed, attentive, and emotionally balanced, and more effective, while online. In a series of exercises carefully designed to help readers observe and reflect on their own use, Levy has readers watch themselves closely while emailing and while multitasking, and also to experiment with unplugging for a specified period. Never prescriptive, the book opens up new avenues for self-inquiry and will allow readers—in the workplace, in the classroom, and in the privacy of their homes—to make meaningful and powerful changes.
Plot summary from amazon.com