Morning Book Discussion Header
Morning Book Discussion Group
January 14, 2016:  The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl    
The title refers to an actual group of 19th-century Bostonians who gathered to translate Dante's Inferno for an American audience. Among the members of this exclusive "club" were poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, and poet James Russell Lowell. While poring over the poem, the men find themselves on the trail of a serial killer who tortures his victims in ways that seem to be taken straight out of the pages of Inferno. The police are at a loss and must rely on the club members' unique knowledge of Dante's work to help catch the killer.
February 11, 2016:  Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Jean Hegland's prose in Into the Forest is as breathtaking as one of the musty, ancient redwoods that share the woodland with Nell and Eva, two sisters who must learn to live in harmony with the northern California forest when the electricity shuts off, the phones go out, their parents die, and all civilization beyond them seems to grind to a halt. At first, the girls rely on stores of food left in their parents' pantry, but when those supplies begin to dwindle, their only option is to turn to each other and the forest's plants and animals for friendship, courage, and sustenance. Into the Forest, an apocalyptic coming-of-age story, will fill readers (both teens and adults) with a profound sense of the human spirit's strength and beauty.

March 10, 2016:  Fever by Mary Beth Keane

Irish immigrant Mary Mallon is eager to better her station in life and unafraid of hard work. When she is finally made a head cook, she is hired by some of the best families in Manhattan but unwittingly leaves a trail of disease in her wake. A “medical engineer” ultimately identifies her as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever and quarantines her on North Brother Island, where she is separated from her lifelong companion, Alfred Briehof, and forced to live in isolation. She is released three years later under the condition that she never cook again. But her inability to understand her condition, her passion for cooking, and the income she had become used to all conspire to lure her back into the kitchen.
April 14, 2016: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge and her gregarious pharmacist husband, Henry, both of whom have survived the loss of a psychologically damaged parent, and both of whom suffer painful attractions to co-workers. Their son, Christopher, takes center stage in A Little Burst, which describes his wedding in humorous, somewhat disturbing detail, and in Security, where Olive, in her 70s, visits Christopher and his family in New York. Strout's fiction showcases her ability to reveal through familiar details—the mother-of-the-groom's wedding dress, a grandmother's disapproving observations of how her grandchildren are raised—the seeds of tragedy. 
May 12, 2016:  Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn and his Bravo squad mates have become heroes thanks to an embedded Fox News crew’s footage of their firefight against Iraqi insurgents. During one day of their bizarre Victory Tour, set mostly at a Thanksgiving Day football game at Texas Stadium, they’re wooed by Hollywood producers, smitten by Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and share a stage at halftime with Beyonce. Guzzling Jack and Cokes and scuffling with fans, the Bravos are conflicted soldiers.
June 9, 2016:  Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Hoffman's debut, a by-the-numbers Southern charmer, recounts 12-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt's recovery from a childhood with her crazy mother, Camille, and cantankerous father, Carl, in 1960s Willoughby, Ohio. After former Southern beauty queen Camille is struck and killed by an ice cream truck, Carl hands over Cecelia to her great-aunt Tootie. Whisked off to a life of privilege in Savannah, Ga., Cecelia makes fast friends with Tootie's cook, Oletta, and gets to know the cadre of eccentric women who flit in and out of Tootie's house, among them racist town gossip Violene Hobbs and worldly, duplicitous Thelma Rae Goodpepper. Aunt Tootie herself is the epitome of goodness, and Oletta is a sage black woman.
July 14, 2016:  The Maid by Kimberly Cutter

The story of Jehanne d’Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imagination for centuries. But the story of Jehanne—the girl—whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her, is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame.
August 11, 2016:  Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is an old school mystery set firmly in tech-loving, modern day San Francisco. Clay Jannon (former web designer) lands a job at a bookstore with very few patrons and even fewer purchases. His curiosity leads him to the discovery of a larger conspiracy at play, one exciting enough to rope in his best friend (CEO at a startup) and love interest (works at Google). As Clay and company unravel the puzzles of Mr. Penumbra's book shop, the story turns into a sort of nerdy heist, with real-life gadgets, secret societies, and a lot of things to say about the past, present, and future of reading. Sloan originally self-published Mr. Penumbra as a short story through Kindle Direct Publishing, before expanding it to its current form with a traditional print publisher--a fitting trajectory for a fast, fun story that has so wholly and enthusiastically embraced the tension between the digital and analog books.

September 8, 2016:  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

A long journey from home and the struggle to find it again form the heart of the intertwined stories that make up this moving novel. Foster teen Molly is performing community-service work for elderly widow Vivian, and as they go through Vivian’s cluttered attic, they discover that their lives have much in common. When Vivian was a girl, she was taken to a new life on an orphan train. These trains carried children to adoptive families for 75 years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the start of the Great Depression. Although the girls are vulnerable, left to the whims of strangers, they show courage and resourcefulness. Kline illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history, while portraying the coming-of-age of two resilient young women.

October 13, 2016:  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Ford's strained debut concerns Henry Lee, a Chinese-American in Seattle who, in 1986, has just lost his wife to cancer. After Henry hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants interned during WWII have been found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the narrative shuttles between 1986 and the 1940s in a predictable story that chronicles the losses of old age and the bewilderment of youth. Henry recalls the difficulties of life in America during WWII, when he and his Japanese-American school friend, Keiko, wandered through wartime Seattle. Keiko and her family are later interned in a camp, and Henry, horrified by America's anti-Japanese hysteria, is further conflicted because of his Chinese father's anti-Japanese sentiment.
November 10, 2016:  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

A teenage girl goes missing and is later found to have drowned in a nearby lake, and suddenly a once tight-knit family unravels in unexpected ways. As the daughter of a college professor and his stay-at-home wife in a small Ohio town in the 1970s, Lydia Lee is already unwittingly part of the greater societal changes going on all around her. But Lydia suffers from pressure that has nothing to do with tuning out and turning on. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. Her mother is white, and their interracial marriage raises eyebrows and some intrusive charges of miscegenation. More troubling, however, is her mother’s frustration at having given up medical school for motherhood, and how she blindly and selfishly insists that Lydia follow her road not taken.
December 8, 2016:  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Shortly after sixth-grader Miranda and her best friend Sal part ways, for some inexplicable reason her once familiar world turns upside down. Maybe it's because she's caught up in reading A Wrinkle in Time and trying to understand time travel, or perhaps it's because she's been receiving mysterious notes which accurately predict the future. Rebecca Stead's poignant novel, When You Reach Me, captures the interior monologue and observations of kids who are starting to recognize and negotiate the complexities of friendship and family, class and identity.