I have a few recommendations for book clubs - novels with topics, characters, and plots that would make good discussion.
Until My Soul Gets It Right (May 2013), the second in The Bibliophiles series, contemporary women's fiction by Karen Wojcik Berner. Catherine Elbert, dissatisfied with her small Wisconsin farming town, her family, and her circumscribed life there, leaves after high school for Portland, Maine, to spread her wings and find independence. Her mistakes and deceptions along the way, from Maine to San Diego and back to the Midwest, and her attitudes make her another main character that one finds hard to like. Is this a personality, interesting though she may be, that readers will not like? Or is she heading in a direction of self-realization? The title of the book may give a hint.
Title: A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles, Book One) by Karen Wojcik Berner
Published June 14, 2011
Genre: contemporary women's fiction
A realistic story of two very different women whose paths cross at a Classics Book Club meeting. They seem to be polar opposites. Sarah is a stay-at-home mom looking after two young sons and a too busy husband, keeping family and home together, frustrated that she has no spare time for herself. Anne is a successful public relations executive who delayed having children to further her career, only to find at around age 40 that she and her husband John are diagnosed with "unexplained infertility," and in vitro, artificial insemination, and other technologies are not working for them to have the children they now so desperately want.
The two women meet at the book club gathering, a break from household duties for Sarah. Anne finds it hard to understand Sarah's exasperation being a busy mother and homemaker, something Anne now dreams about. How things turn out for them is the crux of the novel. When all is said and done, the Classics Book Club helps get them away from their problems, even for a while, and keeps them connected.
I could easily imagine I was reading non-fiction, so well drawn were the characters in the book. With fluid prose and realistic dialogue, the novel is as much a psychological study as a novel about contemporary marriage - the daily demands of raising a family, career versus children, infertility, infidelity, extended family, and hobbies outside of work and home.
I like the idea of having a series of books built around a Classics Book Club. This is the first of the author's planned six books exploring the lives of various book club members, the Bibliophiles. The second book in the series is Until My Soul Gets It Right, published May 22, 2012.
A Whisper to a Scream is as good and in some cases better than many of the contemporary women's fiction novels I've read recently, and I say this without bias.
The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown (July 2, 2013) has me thinking about main characters that I decide I don't like, even though I am fascinated by them as young girls, as teens, and as adult women. Sadie doesn't change much from the insightful 11-year-old to the adult mother. She still keeps secrets and really sees what is happening but doesn't let on, not to help others out or bring the truth to light to resolve conflicts. She is also not just a passive observer, but actively involved in situations that she could confess to but does not, not even as a grown woman and mother. There is a lot here to discuss about a person such as Sadie.
I received complimentary review copies of these books.