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Dedham Public Library Groups and Clubs: Endicott Afternoon Book Group

Endicott Afternoon Book Group

Endicott Branch of the Dedham Public Library- 257 Mount Vernon Street in Dedham, MA at 1:00 pm on the second Monday of every month. Copies of each book will be available no less than a month before each meeting at the Endicott Branch. 

Each section on this page details the book we will be discussing that month, and gives possible discussion questions to guide your reading. Please feel free to reach out to Lisa at with any questions or concerns. 

September 11, 2023 The Ruin of All Witches by Malcolm Gaskill

Book Description:

In Springfield, Massachusetts in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails, property vanishes, and people suffer convulsions as if possessed by demons. A woman is seen wading through the swamp like a lost soul. Disturbing dreams and visions proliferate. Children sicken and die. As tensions rise, rumours spread of witches and heretics and the community becomes tangled in a web of distrust, resentment and denunciation. The finger of suspicion soon falls on a young couple with two small children: the prickly brickmaker, Hugh Parsons, and his troubled wife, Mary.

Drawing on rich, previously unexplored source material, Malcolm Gaskill vividly evokes a strange past, one where lives were steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in omens, curses and enchantments. The Ruin of All Witches captures an entire society caught in agonized transition between superstition and enlightenment, tradition and innovation.


Oct 16, 2023 Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

Book Description:

Late on a summer night in 1985, three teenagers are in a tragic car crash on the quiet, suburban Division Avenue. A girl is killed, and Theo and Sarah Wilf are left with a devastating secret that will haunt their family forever. By the time the Shenkmans move in across the street, the accident has faded into the past, but secrets haunt both families and cause them to become intimately intertwined. When Waldo Shenkman, a brilliant but lonely child, befriends Ben Wilf, who is struggling with his wife's decline from Alzheimer's, he once again entangles the families' fates and sets in motion the spellbinding, unforgettable climax.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Questions by Dani Shapiro and Alfred A. Knopf Reading Group Guide

1. How would Sarah and Theo’s lives have been different if she had told the truth about the circumstances of the car wreck? What personality traits were revealed in Sarah and Theo during the novel’s opening scene? How did these traits shape the outcomes of their lives?

2. How does the novel’s oscillating timeline reflect the human experience of looking back on the past and making hopeful predictions about the future? What was it like to learn about the characters through moments that weren’t linear? What cultural shifts were captured in those five decades? What remained the same throughout the years?

3. Ben’s profession puts him at the center of moments of life and death. Sarah’s career is anchored in storytelling, while Theo masters the art of preparing “comfort food with staying power” (207). How do these professions reflect essential aspects of Ben and his children?

4. The author writes lovingly of the Wilf house on Division Street. What can we discern about the Wilfs by observing their possessions, particularly when Sarah arrives to find the artifacts in a state of disorder? What is the significance of the fact that Theo spent many years estranged from the concept of home? What do the artifacts in your house indicate about the places you have called home?

5. Lost together, what makes Waldo and Mimi ideal companions during those dark hours? How does the experience distill what matters most to them, and to the family members who are searching for them?

6. As a young adult, Waldo invokes quantum physics to explain the mystical interconnectedness of all things (including humanity). To what extent is his connection to Ben determined by fate, versus the effort they make to sustain a bond over the years? Why is Waldo’s interest in the heavens so difficult for Shenkman to appreciate? What is Alice’s most enduring legacy for her son?

7. On page 128, Sarah thinks of lives as books divided into chapters, and she thinks about Peter’s observation that second acts in screenplays should always have two major plot points. What are the major plot points and chapters of your life? Who do you consider to be the author of your life story?

8. Sarah lives in perpetual fear that Peter will find out about her infidelity. What is at the root of her masochism—experience in which she is abused and shamed? Why isn’t she able to feel satisfied with Peter, “a simple guy, a nice guy who hasn’t been able to catch a break” (page 131)? How do the characters in Signal Fires contend with guilt, even if the guilt is unwarranted?

9. Theo loves being an uncle to Syd and Livvie. As the girls approach the cusp of adulthood, the same age when he was reeling from tragedy, how is he able to make peace with the fact that it’s impossible to predict what lies ahead?

10. In the final portraits of Shenkman and Ben, we see two aging men from the same neighborhood choose two very separate retirement paths. Shenkman lives in isolation in Florida. Ben enjoys the companionship of family on the west coast. What accounts for these different outcomes? How do their pandemic experiences compare to yours?

11. The novel’s epigraph, from Carolyn Forché’s poem “Mourning,” calls for lighting signal fires “wherever you find yourselves.” Who lights the signal fires in the novel? Who heeds them and takes action?

12. What are the fundamental reasons for Ben and Mimi’s happiness in marriage, and for the sadness and frustration in the Shenkmans’ marriage? What is the effect of the novel’s closing line regarding the Wilfs, “You would hope that they know how lucky they are, how blessed”?

13. Discuss the portraits of parenting that are offered in the novel. What aspects of motherhood and fatherhood resonated with you? Do the children do a good job of becoming caregivers to their own parents later in life?

14. Family secrets have played a key role in many of Dani Shapiro’s books. How does Signal Fires further expand upon the theme of unspoken truths and hidden turning points in her other novels and memoirs that you have read?

TBD Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Book Description:

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Questions by Heather Caliendo from Book Club Chat

1. Let’s first talk about the significance of the book title. How does the title, which is borrowed from the famous Macbeth speech, relate to the themes of the story as a whole?

2. Did you like the setting in the world of video game design?

3. Why were Sam and Sadie so drawn to video games as teenagers at the hospital? What did it offer them?

4. And on a similar note, why did they both want to create video games as adults?

5. Especially during this era, Sadie is one of the few woman video game designers. Why were women undervalued in gaming?

6. What are your thoughts on Sam and Sadie’s friendship throughout the years?

7. While they both say I love you, they never become lovers. Why is that? Do you agree with Sadie that they are closer than lovers?

8. Let’s talk about Sam’s tragic backstory and how it impacted how he viewed the world.

9. Marx is a major character of the novel and if it weren’t for him, the video game might never have happened. Why do you feel people didn’t really take Marx that seriously?

10. What was your impression of the romance between Sadie and Marx?

11. How did Marx’s murder change everything for Sadie and Sam?