In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

About the Book

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

About the Book

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles's assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements-she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States-Anne is viewed merely as the aviator's wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life's infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

2018 Schedule

February 15, 2018
at Lisa’s house
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
Questions by Jen

March 22, 2018
at Julie’s house
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Questions by Heather

April 19, 2018
at Amy’s house
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Questions by Julia

May 17, 2018
at Julia’s house
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Questions by Julie

June 21, 2018
at Allison’s house
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Questions by Jenny

July 2018
no book
Maybe an outing to Tosa Tonight

August 16, 2018
Potluck at The Landing Beer Garden
The Purple Diaries by Joseph Egan
Questions by Allison
Invite daughters before they head off to college?

September 20, 2018
at Heather’s house
The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
Questions by Amy

October 18, 2018
at Jenny’s house
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Questions by Lisa

November 15, 2018
at Julia’s house
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Questions by Jen
Watch the movie?

December Holiday Party
at Jen’s house - date TBD

January 17, 2019
Book Selection Night at Allison’s house

Ordinary Grace by William Hunt Krueger

About the Book

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Hillbilly Elegy Discussion Questions

The following discussion questions for “Hillbilly Elegy” were compiled by our member Allison. Questions 2, 6, and 7 are written by Allison while the rest were adapted from LitLovers. We freely share our original discussion questions, but please consider including a credit and link to our website.

  1. What does this book bring to the national conversation about poverty in America? What did you learn about the roots and persistence of poverty?
  2. Is there a culture of cruelty surrounding poverty? Why are the poor often referred to as worthless, leaches, and lazy (or otherwise demonized)?
  3. What are the positive aspects of Appalachian culture?  
  4. Discuss the author’s resentment towards his neighbors who were receiving welfare but owned cellphones.  
  5. Vance refers to Appalachian culture as one that is “encouraging social decay” instead of counteracting it. Can you give an example to support his assertion?
  6. How has the opioid addiction epidemic affected the lives and communities of Appalachian culture?  
  7. The Rust Belt has suffered tremendous and pervasive economic hardship with the loss of manufacturing jobs. How can this area of the United States ever recover?  

Support our website!

If you like our website, please consider supporting us by buying this book through Amazon. You are directed to Amazon by clicking on the book cover to the left or on book covers displayed throughout our site. Thank you!


Creative Commons License

Hillbilly Elegy discussion questions are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Hissing Cousins Discussion Questions

The following discussion questions for “Hissing Cousins” were created by our member Heather. We freely share our original discussion questions, but please consider including a credit and link to our website.

  1. What did you learn about the two fractions of the Roosevelt family?
  2. What surprised you about the history of the Roosevelts? Were you surprised to learn about all of the adultery?
  3. The book's title suggest that the two cousins, Eleanor and Alice don't get along. Did you feel this was a true representation of their relationship?
  4. What are the similarities between Alice and Eleanor's lives? How do their lives differ? How do these different and similar life experiences influence these women's view of the world?
  5. Throughout Eleanor's life she is introduced to many strong women. How do these women help influence and shape Eleanor's character?
  6. How do Eleanor and Alice each break down gender barriers during their lifetimes?
  7. If FDR had not contracted polio, do you think Eleanor would have evolved into the woman she became?
  8. In the book, the authors discuss the speculations surrounding Eleanor's sexuality. What are your opinions on whether Eleanor was a lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual?

Support our website!

If you like our website, please consider supporting us by buying this book through Amazon. You are directed to Amazon by clicking on the book cover to the left or on book covers displayed throughout our site. Thank you!


Creative Commons License

Hissing Cousins discussion questions are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

About the Book

After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).

It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle.

Hissing Cousins by Mark Petser

About the Book

When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, his beautiful and flamboyant daughter was transformed into “Princess Alice,” arguably the century’s first global celebrity. Thirty-two years later, Alice’s first cousin Eleanor moved into the White House as First Lady. The two women had been born eight months and twenty blocks apart in New York City, spent much of their childhoods together, and were far more alike than most historians acknowledge. But their politics and personalities couldn’t have been more distinct.

Democratic icon Eleanor was committed to social justice and hated the limelight; Republican Alice was an opponent of big government who gained notoriety for her cutting remarks. The cousins liked to play up their rivalry—in the 1930s they even wrote opposing syndicated newspaper columns and embarked on competing nationwide speaking tours. When the family business is politics, winning trumps everything. Lively, intimate, and stylishly written, Hissing Cousins is a double biography of two extraordinary women whose entwined lives give us a sweeping look at the twentieth century in America.

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

About the Book

On the eve of the World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, is unsure how the fair’s events will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his purpose shifts, and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.

One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine, playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, transforms everything when the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

About the Book

The real story of the crash began in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn't shine and the SEC doesn’t dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower--and middle--class Americans who can’t pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren’t talking.

Michael Lewis creates a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 bestseller Liar’s Poker. Out of a handful of unlikely--really unlikely--heroes, Lewis fashions a story as compelling and unusual as any of his earlier bestsellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our time.