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Chat’n’Chew February 2024


Welcome to the books our Chat’n’Chew book group discussed in February 2024. Hopefully, there is at least one book here that will appeal to you. 

Whether it’s snowing or not, we will be meeting only virtually for our next meeting, on March 20th, 12:30-2:00, through Google Meet. Register on our calendar and you will be sent a link to connect for that day.  We share what everyone has been reading the past month. We invite all those who are passionate about books and reading to join us.

Little Monsters by Adrienne Broder

This novel takes place on outer Cape Cod where it depicts the intricate and complicated family dynamics of the Gardner family, who live there year-round. Dr. Adam Gardner, approaching his 70th birthday, is a marine biologist, whose fading glory days include his expertise on humpback whales. He raised his daughter and son, Ken and Abby, single-handedly, (who were nicknamed little monsters when they were kids) His beloved wife died in childbirth. The book is a mesmerizing, modern-day saga about a dysfunctional family and mental health that is so cleverly drawn. We meet the children as adults, Ken, a successful ruthless businessman who is hoping for a career in politics, is married to his wife Jenny; they have 2 daughters. Abby is an artist and currently single, looking for that big break. ( Ken owns the studio where she lives and works). The father we view struggling even more with his bipolar disorder and his medication as he ages and his desire to. make one final scientific discovery to put him on the map forever. It is an extraordinary story, unique as it informs and entertains. There are also unexpected secrets revealed. If you like a slow-burning, character-driven book about family dynamics, with several twists and turns, this is the book for you. It’s a very good book.

Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. 

It’s 1789, Maine. A body has been found frozen in the river. The river is the heart of this town. Martha Ballard, a midwife in the late 1700s. has been summoned to determine the cause of death. She is sure the victim was murdered, but her findings are rejected by the local doctor who writes off the cause of death as an accident. This begins a series of impactful events. The story was inspired by the real-life journals of Martha Ballard of Hallowell, Maine, on the banks of the Kennebec River. Martha was a common ordinary woman whose history would normally have been long forgotten except for the fact that for twenty-seven years she kept a written record of her life and included details regarding her midwifery profession. By a miracle of history, that diary has been preserved to this day. Ariel Lawhon has given us a glimpse of the daily life of not only a small, post-Revolution, town in America but specifically the lives of women. You might be surprised to learn that back in this period, midwives dealt with illness and death along with delivering babies! If you like early New England history you’ll enjoy this amazing work of historical fiction. Captivating.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

A good classic is always worth the read once in a while and this reader assures me that it reads like a modern novel even though it was published in 1900. Carrie makes a success of herself through an unconventional lifestyle. She first moved at 18 from a small town to Chicago where she tries to make a living. When she runs into difficulties, rather than return home, she accepts assistance from a man who leads her to believe they will marry. This doesn’t happen. But he introduces her to another friend, Hurstwood, a middle-aged bartender. They eventually get married but because of some financial problems, Hurstwood convinces Carrie to go with him to New York City,  For the next few years, the couple makes a go of it in New York, with Hurstwood managing a bar..Surprisingly Carrie becomes a successful stage actress. There is another unexpected twist in this novel when Hurstwood ends up losing everything, and Carrie, the woman, is the winner in this story. Success appears to have nothing to do with being good or bad. Rather, people strive to do their best and things happen. This one is a classic for a reason!  The novel is unforgettable.  

Democracy Awakening Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson

This author is a professor at Boston College and she writes a free online newsletter called Letters from an American, a nightly newsletter that chronicles current events in the larger context of American history.

In this recent nonfiction book, she explains how a small group of wealthy people, over decades, have waged war over American ideals. They have done this by weaponizing language and promoting false history. This has led the US into the authoritarian experiment which speaks to a group of people who believe in an imagined past where they can feel important again. She takes readers back to the nation’s founding, writing about the emergence of our imperfect union and its halting expansion of rights. She believes that a dedication to the principles in which the nation was founded,(the Constitution and Bill of Rights) will expand our commitment to democracy. She writes a road map to our future. The book is compelling and despite some dark narrative, she is realistic and optimistic about the future of democracy. She shows her readers how history and the present are in constant conversation.

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict

Two in our reading group read Lady Clementine this month. A historical fiction novel about Clementine Churchill. Clementine Churchill was more than the wife of England’s most powerful men, she was his friend, his confidant, his greatest supporter, and together they made a formidable couple. Her life wasn’t an easy one, she had a troubled childhood, and her marriage to Winston was at times hard, trying to be a good mother to her five children, while being a busy politician’s wife. Clementine was a very strong woman, she was smart and she was determined that her husband’s time as England’s Prime Minister was a success. During WWII, she was a sounding board for her husband’s famous speeches. She was involved with the Red Cross. She also added her name to the fire spotters list where at night she sat on roofs of buildings for 8 hours shifts watching with binoculars fixed on the sky. She was responsible for reporting incoming German planes and also if any fires had started. This book brings this formidable woman to life. It shows us her struggles and her strengths. She was only overshadowed by her Prime Minister husband and overbearing mother.