St. John's Laurys Book Club

Reading books for enjoyment, perspective and discussion

Meets the First Thursday of each month at 6:30pm
     Please use the West Entry Doors and follow the trail of books to the meeting room

Contact Brenda Frantz or Karen-Berry Frantz for more information.

March 7 Meeting
The Great Alone
by Kristin Hanah

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

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.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

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.

 
 GreatAlone 330
 Kristin Hannah 330

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People's Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.

Kristin's highly anticipated new release, The Great Alone, will be published on February 6, 2018 (St. Martin's Press). The novel, an epic love story and intimate family drama set in Alaska in the turbulent 1970's is a daring, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival and the wildness that lives in both nature and man. It has been listed as one of the most anticipated novels of the year by The Seattle Times, Bustle.com, PopSugar, Working Mother, Southern Living, and Goodreads.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with award-winning director Michelle MacLaren set to direct. Home Front was optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to write, produce, and direct. Movie news on The Great Alone is coming soon.

Kristin Hannah

 

The Great Alone - Photos

The Great Alone - Videos

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Please note that the discussion guide below contain spoilers to the book.

1. “It was otherworldly somehow, magical in its vast expanse. An incomparable landscape.” (31) Alaska is definitely a character in this novel. The author clearly wants you to understand both the grandeur and 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?

2. Alaska is called many things. The Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun, The Great Alone. How do you think these different nicknames describe different parts of the state?

3. 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?

4. Large Marge tells Cora and Leni that “in Alaska, everyone is either running to something or running away from something.” Do you think this is particularly true to wild places like Alaska? Or has is always been true of the American pioneer? How would you compare and contrast the homesteaders in Alaska to the pioneers in early America, who came west in covered wagons? How are the modern Alaska homesteaders different? How are they the same? What do you think draws people to the wild, unpredictable and remote corners of Alaska?

5. 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? Why do you believe the back-to-the-earth movement spoke to so many people in the seventies? Why did it speak to Ernt?

6. Do you think the world feels dangerous today? Do you think the unrest and troubles of the seventies are relevant today? Can we learn from them? What does The Great Alone have to say about the idea of turning one’s back on civilization and the problems of society?

7. If you experienced the seventies, what was it like to read about those years? Did it match up with your memories of it, or color the story for you? Did the popular culture references remind you of your own life? And if you didn’t experience the seventies, what did you learn about the era from the novel?

8. Ernt was a prisoner of war for several years. We know now about PTSD and the ways in which Ernt would have been suffering and the ways in which he could now be helped, but that help didn’t exist in the seventies. Additionally, the Vietnam vets were often treated badly by people upon their return. How do you think Ernt’s war experiences changed him? 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?

9. Cora is a complicated character. When Leni is reminiscing about her mother and their days in the commune, she notes that “her mother changed her personality just enough to fit in.” What do you think this passage tells us about Cora? Why do you think she stayed with Ernt all those years? Was it love? Fear? In general, why do you think women stay with abusive men?

10. One of the issues highlighted in the novel is the lack of legal support for women in the seventies. Large Marge often makes the point that the law can’t help women like Cora, and Leni, even as young as she is, intuits that only Cora can save herself. Do you think that was true then? Is it true today? Does the law do enough to help battered women?

11. Leni is shaped by the complexity of her parents’ toxic relationship. How does she explain her life before she sees the truth of the violence? As is often the case in abusive families, Leni—the child—takes on the role of caretaker. How did it mold Leni’s character, this need to keep the ugly truth of her family, secret?

12. Would you say that Leni is a survivor? Is Cora?

13. “Your mother was a kite string. Without her strong, steady hold on you, you might just float away, be lost somewhere among the clouds.” (126) If you have faced the loss of a loved one, did you find this quote to have special resonance for you? What did the author get right about this sentiment? How else would you describe a mother’s influence? 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?

14. Leni and Matthew experience first friendship and first love. There is an obvious Romeo-and-Juliet aspect to their love story. How did you feel about their relationship as it was growing? Did you root for them? Or did you feel that Leni was taking a terrible risk that was going to have dark consequences.

15. “This is dangerous, she thought again, but she couldn’t make herself care. All she could think about now was Matthew, and how it had felt when he kissed her, and how much she wanted to kiss him again.” (241) Do you recall your own days of young love and that rush of feeling? Do you think the experience is universal?

16. 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? Did you think someone was going to kill Ernt? Who did you think the killer would be? Who did you want it to be?

17. Did you see Cora’s explosive act of protection coming? What did it feel like to read that scene? As a parent, do you think you’d be capable of the same act, or write such a confessional letter?

18. Did you hold Leni responsible in your mind for any of Matthew’s misfortune? Why or why not? How does Leni show her devotion in the end? Did you anticipate the kind of future that is set in motion for them at the close of the book?

19. 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?

  

   

April 4 Meeting
The Last Mrs. Parrish
by Liv Constantine
Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

 LastMrsParrish 314
 LivConstantine 350

Liv Constantine is the pen name of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine, co-authors of THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. Their next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, will be released on May 7, 2019.

Lynne is a coffee-drinking, Twitter-addicted fiction author always working on her next book. She likes to run her plots by Greyson, her charcoal lab, who never criticizes them.

Valerie has always loved books and spent many nights reading by the light of her bedside lamp until 3 a.m. She lives with her husband and their brilliant Cavalier King Charles, Zorba. 

  LastMrsParrish GroupGuide 850

  

May 2 Meeting
Defending Jacob
by William Landay

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis - a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

 Defending Jacob 328
 William Landay 315

William Landay is the author of the New York Times bestseller Defending Jacob. Previous novels include Mission Flats, winner of the Dagger Award for best debut crime novel, and The Strangler, which was an L.A. Times favorite crime novel and nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award as best crime novel of the year.

A graduate of Yale University and Boston College Law School, he was an assistant district attorney before turning to writing. He lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense. 

  

 

June 6 Meeting
Educated
by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

 
 Educated 315
 Tara Westover 306 Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father's junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade. She received a BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014. 
 

 

July 11 Meeting
Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
  

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

 Where Crawdads 299
 Delia Owens 240

Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa—Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in Idaho, where she continues her support for the people and wildlife of Zambia. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel. 

After more than two decades in Africa, Delia and Mark returned to the United States and searched for a wild place with lots of wildlife to be their new home. They contributed their experience, time and resources to the conservation of grizzly bears, wolves and wetlands.

Delia now lives in Idaho where she rides her horse and back-country skies as far into the wilderness as she can go. Elk, bears, moose and deer wander the meadows near her home, but every day she thinks of the elephants Gift and Georgia, the Blue Pride of lions and the Bemba people she knew so closely in Africa for so long.

She wants to continue writing fiction, especially mysteries that explore how our evolutionary past on the savannas influenced our current behavior in a world less wild.

  

 

Past Readings

July 2019 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
June 2019 Educated by Tara Westover
May 2019 Defending Jacob by William Landay
April 2019 The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
March 2019 The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
February 2019 The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
January 2019 Animal Farm / 1984 by George Orwell
December 2018 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
November 2018 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Translation by Aylmer & Louise Maude
October 2018 Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
September 2018 The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown
August 2018 The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
July 2018 Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
June 2018 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
May 2018 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
April 2018 My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt
March 2018 Redemption Road by John Hart
February 2018 No Exit by Taylor Adams
January 2018 Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
December 2017 The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards
November 2017 Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah
October 2017 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
September 2017 The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
August 2017 Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
July 2017 The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
June 2017 Marrow: A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser
May 2017 The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
April 2017 The Lake House by Kate Morton
March 2017 The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield
February 2017 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
January 2017 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
December 2016 Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
November 2016 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
October 2016 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
September 2016 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
August 2016 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
July 2016  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
June 2016  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
May 2016  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
April 2016  Forgiven by Terri Roberts and Jeanette Windle
March 2016 The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
February 2016 Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
 January 2016  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult