Welcome to the KPL Book Club Blogspot

Welcome to the internet home of the Kilbourn Public Library (KPL) Book Club. The KPL Book Club meets at the library once a month. A book is chosen for each month and then members of the book club meet the last Monday and Wednesday of every month for lively discussion and treats. While we can’t offer you treats via the internet, this KPL Reads blog was designed for those of you who would like to participate in the book club but don’t have time to join us at meetings. Each month KPL staff will post discussion topics and questions to get you “talking”. Join in the discussion by adding a post to the blog. Click on the word comments below the post you want to "talk" about and write your comment. Be sure to check back often to see feedback and comments.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The book selection for June for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.  The Great Believers is a novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris.  The story follows art director, Yale Tishman's career as it flourishes while around him the AIDS epidemic grows.

Yale's group of friends is very close.  In a sense, they are his "chosen family."  How is this explored in the book?  How does each character relate to their family, biological and chosen?  Do you have a "chosen family," and if so, what brings you all together?

Chicago is such a powerful presence in this novel that it is almost a character in itself.  Have you ever been to or lived in a place that exerted a strong influence on you?

How has the culture changed regarding LGBTQ voices and stories since the 1980s?

Fiona has suffered many losses in her life.  How do you think that affected her as a mother?  What are the ways in which trauma and loss are passed down through generations?

Do you empathize more with Fiona or Claire?

Do you see any parallels between the state of healthcare during the 1980s and now?

Is the creation of artwork always a collaborative effort?  How do you feel about the relationship between artist and muse?

What has been you knowledge of--or experience with, if any--AIDS or those affected by the disease?  Has reading this novel changed any ideas you have previously had about the subject?

Let us know what you think of The Great Believers!

Friday, April 26, 2019

The May book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. 

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision:  he will  move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America's last true frontier.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska--a place of incomparable beauty and danger.  The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature. 

Alaska is definitely a character in this novel.  The author clearly wants you to understand both the grandeur and the danger that are present every day in the Last Frontier.  How did the landscape create and shape this story?  Is this a story that could have taken place anywhere?  Or was the solitude of Alaska part of the fabric of the novel?

What aspects of the Alaska/homesteader lifestyle would you find the most challenging in the wild?  How would you handle the isolation, the interdependence among neighbors, the climate?  Would you have what it takes to survive?

The Great Alone is set in the turbulent world of America in the 1970's.  Why do you think the author chose this time period?  How did the world at that time, with the political unrest and kidnappings and plane hijackings, factor into the plot? 

Ernt was a POW for several years.  Do you believe, as Cora tells Leni, that he was "changed" when he came home?  Did the war and PTSD "make" Ernt violent, or do you believe he was violent before?

Why do you think Cora stayed with Ernt all those years?  Was it love?  Fear?  In general, why do you think women stay with abusive men?

Would you say Leni is a survivor?  Is Cora?

In many ways, The Great Alone, is a mother-daughter love story, but one with a broken spine.  How did Cora let Leni down in life?  How did she save her?  Do you think Cora was a good mother?

How did the building of Ernt's wall affect you as a reader?  As he was building it, what did you think was going to happen?

At the end of the story, Leni ends up back in Alaska--do you think there's an ultimate place where people belong?  How would you know if you got there?

Let us know what you think of The Great Alone!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


The April book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is The Sun Does Shine:  How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton. 

Anthony Ray Hinton was poor and black when he was convicted of two murders he hadn't committed.  For the next three decades he was trapped in solitary confinement in a tiny cell on death row, having to watch as--one by one--his fellow prisoners were taken past him to the execution room.  Eventually his case was taken up by the award-winning lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who managed to have him exonerated, though it took 15 years for this to happen. 

How did Hinton cope with the mental and emotional torture of his situation, and emerge full of compassion and forgiveness?  The Sun Does Shine throws light not only on his remarkable personality but also on social deprivation and miscarriages of justice.  Ultimately, though, it's a triumphant story of the resilience of the human spirit.

Before being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, Anthony Ray Hinton was in trouble with the law for stealing a car.  Does this in any way make you less sympathetic to his plight?

Think about the friendship of Ray and Lester.  Can you imagine a friend who would visit you every visiting day for 30 years?  What does their relationship teach us about friendship?

Do you think the death penalty system is broken?  How would you like to see it changed?

The State of Alabama has not apologized or compensated Ray Hinton for his wrongful imprisonment.  Do you think he should be paid?  Some say he shouldn't be paid because he was never proven innocent.  What do you say to this argument?

Ray and Bryan Stevenson, his lawyer, both say that nobody is defined by the worst thing they have ever done.  Do you agree?  Does this help you have more compassion for those incarcerated or on death row?

What was the turning point for Ray in how he would survive in prison?  What does this teach you?

Does The Sun Does Shine make you feel angry or hopeful?

Let us know what you think!
The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group read Boar Island by Nevada Barr for the March book selection.  In Boar Island Nevada Barr brings National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon to the wild beauty of Acadia National Park. 

Anna Pigeon has had to deal with all manner of crimes and misdemeanors, but cyber-bullying and stalking is a new one.  The target is Elizabeth, the adopted teenage daughter of her friend Heath Jarrod.  Elizabeth is driven to despair by the disgusting rumors spreading online and bullying texts.  Until, one day, Heath finds her daughter Elizabeth in the midst of an unsuccessful suicide attempt.  And then she calls in the cavalry--her aunt Gwen and her friend Anna Pigeon.

While they try to deal with the fragile state of affairs--and find the person behind the harassment--the three adults decide the best thing to do is to remove Elizabeth from the situation.  Since Anna is about to start her new post as Acting Chief Ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine, the three will join her and stay at a house on the cliff of a small island near the park, Boar Island.

Let us know what you think of Boar Island.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The February book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, this book takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness.  Using a mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor, this book investigates not what happiness is, but where it is.  Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world?  Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness?  Why is Asheville, North Carolina so happy?  Weiner answers these questions and many others in The Geography of Bliss.

Do you think that Eric Weiner achieved his goal in finding the happiest places around the world?

A few of the places mentioned in the book such as Iceland and Thailand seemed like surprising places to find happiness.  Were you surprised by some of the locations that he picked?

What locations around the world would you have assumed to be the happiest places?

If you were to visit any of the places mentioned in the book, where would you go and why?

What do you think makes people happy?

Should a country worry about the happiness of its people? 

Why do you think Americans aren't higher up on the happiness scale?

Let us know what you think of The Geography of Bliss.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group  selection for January is In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende.  This is a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.  In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident--which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives.  (From the publisher.)

Each of the three main characters--Lucia, Evelyn, and Richard -- experiences some king of isolation in their present life.  The book begins with Lucia physically isolated in her apartment during a snowstorm.  In what other ways is she isolated?  How is her isolation different from Evelyn's?  And from Richard's?

Evelyn's relationship with Frankie is very special, and reveals a lot about her character.  Why is she so successful at caring for him?  In what ways does she expand his horizons?

When Evelyn leaves her native village, she tells her grandmother Concepcion, "Just as I am going, Grandma, so I will return."  Compare Evelyn's relationship with her grandmother to her relationship with her mother, Miriam.  What positive things has each of them given to Evelyn?

When Richard arrives in New York with Anita, and his friend Horacio sees the state she is in, he says to Richard, "Make sure you don't let her down, brother."  In what ways does Richard end up letting Anita down?  Why do you think he does?  How does the fate of Anita and his children continue to shape his life long after their deaths?

"In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer."  Why do you think Isabel Allende chose to include this quote from Albert Camus in the book's epigraph, title, and final scene?  Most of the story literally takes place during the winter.  But on the symbolic level, Evelyn, Lucia, and Richard are all experiencing a winter of the spirit.  What does that consist of, for each of them?  And what do you think the "invincible summer" is that each one finds within?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman for November.  Meet Eleanor Oliphant:  She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking.  Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office.  When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living.  And it is Raymond's big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.  (From the Publisher)

Knowing the truth about Eleanor's family, look back through the book to revisit her exchanges with her mother.  Did you see what was ahead?  How did Honeyman lay the groundwork for the final plot twist?

What are the different ways that the novel's title could be interpreted?  What do you think happens to Eleanor after the book ends?

Eleanor says, "these days, loneliness is the new cancer--a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.  A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it:  other people don't want to hear the work spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted" (p. 227).  Do you agree?

What does Raymond find appealing about Eleanor?  And why does Eleanor feel comfortable opening up to Raymond?

Eleanor is one of the most unusual protagonists in recent fiction, and some of her opinions and actions are very funny.  What were you favorite moments in the novel?

Let us know what you think of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine!