Sunday, 28 May 2017

Our Best of 2016 - 2017

his_whole_life_coverAs often happens, it was very difficult to pick just one book - so we picked two from a short list of four!

Sometimes with hope and a little bit of luck truly great things can happen.  Two members of our book club nominated His Whole Life for our 2016 – 2017 reading list. A sound choice. A fine book.

Who would have thought that Elizabeth Hay, Giller Award winner, would consent to Skype with a book club from small town Alberta or that the Skype conference would be such a magical experience?

Thank you, Liz!  This was the highlight of our year.

We don't limit ourselves in terms of book selections; we have read current bestsellers, classics, fiction and non-fiction, Canadian and international authors.

What a pleasure it was to read Wayson Choy's All That Matters  twelves years after it was first published.  In a time when much is made of immigrants and refugees, it was good to step into the lives of that generation of immigrants, to try to understand their heartaches, hardships and struggles and to move much more close to understanding their culture.

Many of us felt that our second reading was the deeper one.

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant whole trees and is set on a huge estate overlooking Seattle’s Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch the ailing and elderly Grandpa Samuel to a nursing home, sell off the house and property for development, divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.
But as Trevor explores the house’s secret stairways and hidden rooms, he discovers a spirit lingering in Riddell House whose agenda is at odds with the family plan. Only Trevor’s willingness to face the dark past of his forefathers will reveal the key to his family’s future.

About the Author

Garth Stein is the author of four novels: the New York Times bestselling gothic/historical/coming-of-age/ghost story, "A Sudden Light;" the internationally bestselling "The Art of Racing in the Rain;" the PNBA Book Award winner, "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets;" and the magically realistic "Raven Stole the Moon." He is also the author of the stage play, "Brother Jones." He has a dog, he's raced a few cars, climbed a bunch of really tall trees, made a few documentary films, and he lives in Seattle with his family. He's co-founder of, a non-profit collective of 74 Northwest authors working together to energize the reading and writing public.                 

Author Website:


Publishers Weekly

What We Thought

Again, we have a novel where Fireside Readers are far from unanimous in their opinions regarding its quality. 
On the positive side, readers found the old house with its hidden passages, history and ghosts intriguing – a “fantasy fiction”.  There were many themes to be explored: Tyler’s mission to reunite his parents, separation, incest, homosexuality, elder abuse…
On the negative, readers found the novel juvenile and they made reference to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.  Characters were found to be “lukewarm” and thinly drawn.  The behavior of Jones overall after he had been such a strong child was inexplicable.  Several found the ending dissonant.
In between were the members who read the book, had some difficulty engaging with its characters and story, but followed through to the end.

What did You Think?  Please add your comment below.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nihisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
 Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

About the Author

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me, a finalist for the National Book Award. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story “The Case for Reparations.” He lives in New York with his wife and son. 


The Washington Post

What We Thought...

Nina suggested this excellent book club choice and provided an informative introduction.  Thanks Nina!
Between the World and Me is not an easy read; the vocabulary can be difficult, the many references to American black artists and intellectuals, unfamiliar, and the subject emotionally searing.  The reading was worth the effort and the pain for the book opened up discussions – the nature of the other, the roots of prejudice and discrimination, the parallels between black and indigenous history in North America, can reparation/reconciliation ever be achieved?
We found it discouraging that the author does not see progress and isn’t hopeful for the future.  To us it is obvious that the dominant culture tries to separate and isolate the “other” – who has escaped this? We are products of our culture; we don’t get into others’ shoes because we cannot.  What we see, hear and feel is perceived through the filter of culture.  How do we come to mutual understanding?
This was a stimulating book, but not a hopeful one, however “sometimes you read something and it shifts your thinking.”