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Dedham Public Library Groups and Clubs: Main Library Book Group

Main Library Book Group

The Main Library Book Group meets at the Main Library- 43 Church Street in Dedham, MA at 6:30pm on the third Wednesday of every month. Copies of each book will be available no less than a month before each meeting and kept at the circulation desk for your convenience. Clicking on the book's title will bring you to our catalog where you may also place a hold on the item for pickup at your local library.

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 Julie at jharvey@minlib.net with any questions or concerns.

Enjoy!

December 21

Book Description: Long before The Lost Kitchen became a world dining destination with every seating filled the day the reservation book opens each spring, Erin French was a girl roaming barefoot on a 25-acre farm, a teenager falling in love with food while working the line at her dad's diner and a young woman finding her calling as a professional chef at her tiny restaurant tucked into a 19th century mill. This singular memoir-a classic American story-invites readers to Erin's corner of her beloved Maine to share the real person behind the "girl from Freedom" fairytale, and the not-so-picture-perfect struggles that have taken every ounce of her strength to overcome, and that make Erin's life triumphant. In Finding Freedom, Erin opens up to the challenges, stumbles, and victories that have led her to the exact place she was ever meant to be, telling stories of multiple rock-bottoms, of darkness and anxiety, of survival as a jobless single mother, of pills that promised release but delivered addiction, of a man who seemed to offer salvation but in the end ripped away her very sense of self. And of the beautiful son who was her guiding light as she slowly rebuilt her personal and culinary life around the solace she found in food-as a source of comfort, a sense of place, as a way of bringing goodness into the world. Erin's experiences with deep loss and abiding hope, told with both honesty and humor, will resonate with women everywhere who are determined to find their voices, create community, grow stronger and discover their best-selves despite seemingly impossible odds. Set against the backdrop of rural Maine and its lushly intense, bountiful seasons, Erin reveals the passion and courage needed to invent oneself anew, and the poignant, timeless connections between food and generosity, renewal and freedom.

 

Possible Discussion Questions:

1. How do you think Erin's father influenced her?
2. How do you think Erin's life would have been different if she hadn't become pregnant? Do you think she still would have had a life with food?
3. Why does Erin decide to start Sunday dinners at her home?
4. Why do you think Erin chose Tom French?
5. Do you think Tom had any good intentions when he committed Erin? Do you think she needed help?
6. Do you have a positive opinion of Erin's mother? Why or why not?
7. Do you have a positive opinion of Erin AS a mother? Why or why not?
8. What do you think success means to Erin?
9. What do you think motivated Erin to share her life story? How did you respond to her "voice"?
10. Were there any instances in which you felt Erin was not being truthful? How did you react to these sections?
11. What is the Erin's most admirable quality? Do you want to meet Erin French? Would you want to eat at The Lost Kitchen?

January 18

Book Description: Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a run-down motorhome, flunking out of school, and picking up shifts at the local diner. But when April realizes she's finally had enough-enough of her selfish, absent father and barely surviving in an unfeeling town-she decides to make a break for it. Stealing a car and with only her music to keep her company, April hits the road, determined to live life on her own terms. She manages to scrape together a meaningful existence as she travels, encountering people and places she's never dreamed of, and could never imagine deserving. From lifelong friendships to tragic heartbreaks, April chronicles her journey in the beautiful music she creates as she discovers that home is with the people you choose to keep. "Allison Larkin knows her characters so well," (Rainbow Rowell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor Park) and brings her "tender, and real" (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Daisy Jones The Six) prose to this unflinching, lyrical tale that is perfect for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of belonging or to understand the profound beauty of a family found along the way.

 

Possible Discussion Questions:

1. When April first performs at the Blue Moon Cafe in chapter 1, she meets an array of quirky characters, including a friendly man named Jim and other fellow performers. Along the rest of April’s journey, she is shaped by the people she meets and befriends. Consider the people you’ve met in your life after moving to a new place, starting a new job, or striking out on your own. Discuss what that felt like. What did you learn about yourself and/or about the world? Did your perspective change?

2. Margo, who owns the local town diner, is the closest thing to a parent the reader is introduced to at the outset of the novel. Having once dated April’s father, Margo took April out to lunch after they separated, telling her, “What I want you to remember, girl, is that I’m not breaking up with you.” Though Margo was candid when she said this, a young April remembers feeling disheartened by the prospect of more loss in her life. Discuss how loss can shape one’s life. Can just the idea of losing someone affect how you respond to building relationships?

3. By chapter 6, it’s become abundantly clear to April that she has to leave behind Little River, her selfish father, and her old life, all of which have nothing more to offer her. After her childhood boyfriend Matty turns down the chance to join her, April steals a car and leaves town, calling Margo hours into her drive to let her know. Was April’s departure inevitable? If it wasn’t, what might staying have looked like? Does April leaving potentially tell us anything about why her mother left years earlier?

4. When April first arrives in Ithaca, she finds a campground where she can stay, meets Carly, and scores an interview to work at Cafe Decadence in a series of events that all seem incidental. Much of what she finds in her foray outside her old world stays with her long after she’s moved on. Discuss small, unexpected acts, chance interactions, or seeming coincidences that have changed your life. Can you predict when these meaningful moments will occur?

5. April meets Adam, an architecture student, at the cafe shortly after she begins working there. When she needs a place to stay, he offers his couch. After initially hesitating, she decides to accept his offer. Adam thankfully proves both hospitable and generous, and in the following days, the two grow close. Discuss the likelihood and the risk of this kind of situation, as well as April’s decision. How difficult is it to build trust with someone new? Would you accept Adam’s offer if you were in April’s place?

6. “It’s hard to pay attention at work knowing there’s a hot shower waiting for me at lunch.” April seems overwhelmed by the prospect of having space all to herself after a while on the road. In addition, Adam begins to make her feel more at home in his apartment. “It feels like we’re playing house on an old-fashioned TV show . . .” Discuss a time when somebody’s kindness felt strange at first.

7. In chapter 25, April tells Carly she has decided to get a tattoo. She plans to use a drawing of a mayflower that Bodie has sketched for her. Though she hesitates at the last second, choosing a nose piercing instead, Carly later has the design tattooed across her wrist. The mayflower, Carly says, is “the good stuff that comes after too many storms.” Discuss whether or not you’d get a tattoo. What can a tattoo come to mean as you change and grow?

8. As her relationship with Adam becomes romantic, April finds that she can’t tell him the truth about herself, that she’s still underage. Her choice to withhold her age becomes fraught when Adam tells her about his stepmother forcing sex on him at a young age and how that has impacted him greatly. April even goes as far as changing the date of birth on her ID. Discuss why she might have done this. How can the fear of losing something important to you influence your actions?

9. April builds deep, lasting friendships with people who also feel lost and alone. As she grows close with Carly, the cafe manager opens up about her failed relationship, coming out to her parents, and being thrown out of her home. April and Adam even take Carly in for several nights. How does Carly’s experience mirror/differ from April’s? Consider how the two bond over what they share. Who else in the novel shares a lot with April?

10. The campground by the lake is the first place April finds after leaving Little River. She returns more than once in the book, first with Carly, then by herself when she’s older. Discuss the importance of place and time in the novel. What important realizations has April had while at the lake?

11. Rosemary learns of April’s fabricated date of birth on her ID after finding her wallet. Terrified that the truth about her age will be revealed, April makes the heartbreaking decision to leave Ithaca, and Adam and Carly. Consider the shock of being discovered. Is it at all confusing that April leaves? Discuss how this response to fear becomes a habit throughout the novel, how it may even be a kind of comfort for April to leave. Can what April experiences be considered a form of impostor syndrome? What is she an impostor of?

12. In part two, the novel jumps forward three years, and April has made a living on the road, performing in cafes and bars. “Even though I know it’s just a fairy tale,/I keep waiting, waiting for you/To rescue me from the pale.” Though April’s songs draw from her life, she knows that her audience “make[s] my words mean what they need them to mean.” How does April’s music come to embody her lived experiences? Does she share anything in common with her music? Discuss how art and creativity can encompass personal struggle.

13. In chapter 33, April reunites with Matty, now an actor going by the name Matthew, in New York. Despite, April says, formerly having “dreams [that] were only as big as a double wide and a job at the factory” before he was discovered, he’s become an Emmy Award–winning soap opera celebrity. April ponders what would have happened had she stayed in Little River, if she would have remained with Matty, deciding that things wouldn’t have changed. Is this necessarily true? Discuss how looking back at her past shapes what leaving has meant to April.

14. In chapter 35, April takes a road trip to Florida with a college student named Justin, who occasionally lets her crash at his place in Binghamton in exchange for being “his excitement.” Nonchalant about his future, unsure of what he wants to do, and, buckling under career pressure from his father, Justin chooses to join April on the road for spring break. Compare and contrast Justin’s desire to escape with April’s. How do their similarities/differences make April, or you, feel?

15. Once April arrives in Asheville in chapter 42, she meets Ethan, who is a theatre teacher, while busking. He offers her a room in his house and helps her find work at his friend Robert’s cafe. When he asks about her music, April responds saying that it’s her way of getting by. “Your way of getting by is a lot of people’s dream.” Consider April’s journey thus far. Would she view her path as a desirable one? Discuss how one person’s dreams can differ from another person’s reality. What are some jobs that seem ideal, but are probably different in reality?

16. Through Ethan, April and Robert grow close and their connection becomes romantic. “I sleep at Robert’s house. All night. I don’t leave before he wakes up. Sex is one thing—just putting parts together. It’s another thing entirely to exist together. Robert is someone I want to exist with.” What does it mean for April to have this realization? Discuss how her perspective on leaving and home has or hasn’t changed at this point in the novel.

February 15

Book Description: This is Viola Davis' story, in her own words, and spans her incredible, inspiring life, from her coming-of-age in Rhode Island to her present day. Hers is a story of overcoming, a true hero's journey.
"In my book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life changing decision to stop running forever. This is my story, from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City, and beyond. This is the path I took to finding my purpose and my strength, but also to finding my voice in a world that didn't always see me. As I wrote Finding Me, my eyes were open to the truth of how our stories are often not given close examination. They are bogarted, reinvented to fit into a crazy, competitive, judgmental world. So I wrote this for anyone who is searching for a way to understand and overcome a complicated past, let go of shame, and find acceptance. For anyone who needs reminding that a life worth living can only be born from radical honesty and the courage to shed facades and be...you. Finding Me is a deep reflection on my past and a promise for my future. My hope is that my story will inspire you to light up your own life with creative expression and rediscover who you were before the world put a label on you"

 

Possible Discussion Questions:

1. Memoirs are often written so that the subject can take ownership and "tell their own
story". Do you think it is a smart move to reveal experiences and secrets to control the
narrative?
2. For many years Viola saw herself as that 8-year-old girl constantly fleeing for her life. Are
there moments in your life that have defined you; moments that continuously replay in your
mind? How do you process those memories? What have you learned from them, if
anything?
3. How does sharing her trauma help Viola take back the power from those situations where she
felt powerless?
4. What do you think kept Viola going even in the darkest times?
5. A central element of Viola's story is colorism: “When you are a dark-skinned girl,” she writes,
“no one simply adores you.” She recalls grappling with feeling ugly and unseen, and later to
acknowledge the role it played in her pain. How important do you feel this thinking/trauma
played in her overall life story?
6. Viola found acting to be an outlet and coping mechanism at an early age. Why do you think
this particular activity allowed her to claw her way out of her everyday life?
7. In the memoir, Davis calls out her “warrior fuel”—something inside her that kept her from
giving in to defeat. Is there anything in your life that you consider your warrior fuel?
8. How did her parents' relationship shape Viola's relationships and thoughts on parenting?
9. Viola had 3 ceremonies with her husband Julius. What role do you think he and their love
story played in her life?
10. At several points the memoir Viola discusses her desire/need to help her family out financially
(when she finally got to a place where she was making "a little money"). “I thought I could
save them. I thought my money and success could save all of them. I learned the hard way
that when there are underlying issues, money does nothing. In fact, money exacerbates the
problem because it takes away the individual’s ability to be held accountable.” How do you
think she handled boundaries and her family's financial issues?
11. Viola’s story reminds us that it’s never too late for a new beginning. (Chapter 16 - "My biggest
discovery was that you can literally re-create your life. You can redefine it. You don't have to
live in the past.") Have you ever re-created your life?
12. What are your thoughts on Viola’s trip to Africa? What did this experience do to her? Do for
her?
13. One of the quotes Viola called out several times after her trip was a Mandinka Ritual
Song. What do you think is meant by "I did not come here for food. My stomach is full. I did
not come here for food. I came here for much more than that."
14. What was your favorite chapter or story?
15. What was your biggest takeaway(s) from reading Viola's story?
16. Viola’s story of shifting from running away from her abusers to standing up to them is
metaphoric of dealing with the problems that confront us. Do you run away or stand up to your
problems? Is there a specific experience where you did either? How did it change you?
17. Do you consider yourself worthy? If yes, why? If not, what do you have to do to be worthy?
18. What about Viola Davis owning her story inspires you to own yours?
19. Who are YOU?

March 15

Book Description:  Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again...

 

Possible Discussion Questions: 
1. This novel has a very complex structure alternating between the past and the present and the point of view of a whole host of different characters. Did this narrative format work for you? Were there particular narrators you found more compelling than others and why?

2. Idgie and Ruth's friendship is truly a case of opposites attract. Why is the scene where Idgie reveals her bee charming skills to Ruth so pivotal to the story of their relationship and in understanding what drew them together despite their differences?

3. Jasper Peavey's grandson is embarrassed by his grandfather's behavior toward white people. Discuss generational conflict and how life changed or did not change across the generations in both the Peavey and Threadgoode families.

4. This novel has a great deal to say about race relations in the South. How did the black and white communities interact in this story both within and beyond the borders of Whistle Stop? Were Idgie and Ruth's egalitarian views on race typical?

5. What is Artis Peavey's secret? Do you think the events he witnessed as a child had an impact upon his later life? How does race have an impact upon the lives of all the Peavey children--Jasper, Artis, Willie Boy, Naughty Bird? What options were available to them and what choices did they make and why? What do you think of the revenge that Artis takes on the man who murdered his brother?

6. Do you think the color of Jasper and Artis' skin--Jasper being very light-skinned and Artis being very dark-skinned--made a difference in their approach to life? What does the light-skinned Clarissa's encounter with her dark-skinned Uncle Artis say about life as a black Southerner?

7. How do you feel about a character like Grady Kilgore, Whistle Stop sheriff, member of the Ku Klux Klan, and friend to Idgie and Ruth at the same time?

8. Eva Bates is a woman you might call sexually liberated before her time. What role does she play in Idgie's life? In Stump's? What are Ruth's feelings toward Eva?

9. We never learn where Ninny came from or how she came to be adopted by the Threadgoodes, only that they took her in and treated her like a member of the family. This is only one example in a novel full of non-traditional families. What are some other examples of familial bonds that do not look like a traditional nuclear family? How does this author challenge and expand our understanding of the meaning and structure of family?

10. What drives Idgie to masquerade as Railroad Bill? What role did the economic devastation of the Great Depression play in the lives of Idgie, Ruth, Smokey, and everyone in Whistle Stop?

11. Why did Ruth leave Idgie and marry Frank? What made her finally leave him?

12. Did the identity of Frank Bennett's killer surprise you? What drove her to do what she did? Why was Idgie prepared to take the blame?

13. What do Dot Weems' weekly dispatches tell us about the nature of life in a small town? Were you sorry to see Whistle Stop fade away? Why has this been the fate of so many small towns in America?

14. How does Idgie help Stump overcome having lost his arm?

15. How did Evelyn's relationship with Ninny Threadgoode change her life? What did she learn from Mrs. Threadgoode? And how did Evelyn help her friend?

16. What did Ninny Threadgoode's stories offer Evelyn? Why do you think Evelyn is so drawn to this woman and her stories?

17. Ninny tells Evelyn that her memories are all she has left. Discuss the importance of memory and storytelling in this novel.

18. Why and how was Evelyn able to finally overcome her revenge fantasies, send Towanda packing and make important changes in her life? What steps did she take that ensured these changes would be for good and not a temporary thing?

19. How does this story explore the process of aging? How do we die with dignity when all those we loved and who loved us are gone? How does Ninny manage?

20. Does the Whistle Stop Cafe sound like a restaurant you would like to frequent?

21. Is domestic violence viewed differently today than it was in Ruth's time? Do you see any changes in Ruth's character after she leaves her abusive marriage?

22. Which character would you be most interested in meeting and why?

23. For those of you who have seen the movie, how do the movie and the book compare? What is missing from the movie and why do you think this is so? Do you think the choices made in terms of how to streamline this complex novel for film were the best ones?

24. The importance of food in the fabric of everyday life is a central theme in this book. For example, Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode bond over the treats Evelyn brings. What does Evelyn's battle with her weight say about contemporary society and women's relationships with food and their weight? Are these struggles evident in the lives if Ninny, Idgie, or Ruth?

25. In the final chapter, we learn what has happened to Idgie. Why do you think she and Julian left Whistle Stop to take to the road? Why don't their friends or family appear to know where they are? Does this seem like an appropriate ending for Idgie?

26. Will anyone or has anyone tried any of Sipsey's recipes?

April 19

Book Description: August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler's forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she'd wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London. Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed--a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

 

Possible Discussion Questions: 

1) Which of the three main women in the story do you relate to more? Grace, Mrs. Weatherford or Viv? (or for men: Mr. Evans, Collin or George Anderson)
2) How does life during the Blitz parallel to experiences you’ve had during the pandemic?
3) After reading about Grace’s experiences as an ARP Warden, do you think it’s a job you would want to do? Why or why not?
4) At what point do you think Grace started to see Mr. Evans as a father figure and what did that mean to her?
5) What did you learn about the Blitz in reading this book that you didn’t know before?
6) What did you look up to learn more about after you finished reading The Last Bookshop in London?
7) All the children having to leave London for safe locations in England was a tough decision for parents to make, especially when relocating was not an option for most families. Do you think you would send your child away or keep them in London? How about once the Blitz started?
8) Taking shelter during the bombings wasn’t always comfortable or convenient as Anderson shelters were cramped and flooded easily and the tube stations were crowded, smelly and loud. Do you think you would still take shelter every night or eventually just chance it in the comfort of your own bed?
9) Dance halls were enormously popular during the war in London, even on through the Blitz. Do you think you would go to a dance hall while bombs were falling?
10) Food rationing meant cooking staples like butter, sugar and meat were in short supply. What is one of your favorite recipes you would need to alter and could you remake it using vegetables somehow?
11) What is the first book you remember falling in love with?
12) What is one of your favorite classics?

May 17

Book Description:  As the only female firefighter in her Texas firehouse, Cassie Hanswell is excellent at dealing with other people's tragedies. But she never anticipated that her estranged and ailing mother would ask her move to Boston. The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Only the infatuation-inspiring rookie doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. Her old captain gave her some advice: don't date firefighters. Will she jeopardize her place in a career where she's worked so hard to be taken seriously?

 

Possible Discussion Questions: 

What did you think about the beginning when Cassie is being honored as the first female firefighter to win the Austin Fire Department’s Valor Award?


Cassie is horrified that Heath Thompson is the one who will present her with the award. Did you suspect that Heath was a predator from the start or were you confused at what was happening? Would you have knocked him out if you were Cassie?


We learn that Cassie is closed off due to two traumatic events that happened at 16. One was Heath’s assault of her, which we find out the entire horrible story at the end, and the other was her mother leaving the family for another man. Let’s discuss Cassie’s wall she establishes between herself and the rest of the world. How did Cassie change from the beginning of the story to the end?


Cassie eventually leaves Texas for Boston to get away from backlash of what happened at the banquet and to also help her mother. But Cassie is quite standoffish with her and doesn’t want to establish a relationship again. Did you agree with how Cassie felt? Why or why not?


How did the Boston firehouse compare to the one back in Texas? What did you think about the rest of the firefighters in Boston?


Both Cassie and the rookie Owen are the newbies and so they’re thrown together for pranks and also learning the ins and outs of this particular firehouse. Did you know right away that Owen and Cassie would have a romance? When do you think Cassie finally admitted she had feelings for him? Did you like the romance?


What did you think about the scenes dedicated to life as a firefighter? Why do you think Cassie chose this profession?


Cassie starts to get harassed—someone writes “slut” in her locker room, slashes her tires and throws a rock through her mom’s house. Did you suspect DeStasio? What did you think about that character and the confrontation at the end between him and Cassie?


Cassie learns the power of forgiveness and letting go—she forgives her mother for leaving her and she finally moves forward after dealing with the trauma of Heath’s horrible assault. Let’s discuss Cassie’s self-journey.


What did you think about the ending and the epilogue?


What’s the meaning of the title in relation to the story?


If this was made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast for the main roles?