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.

 

September 5 Meeting
What the Wind Knows
by Amy Harmon

In an unforgettable love story, a woman’s impossible journey through the ages could change everything…

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?

 What The Wind Knows 333
 Amy Hanson 333

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written fourteen novels including the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Law of Moses, Infinity + One and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her fantasy novel, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Book of the Year finalist. Her newest release, What the Wind Knows, is an Amazon charts bestseller.

Amy Harmon Website

The Story Behind The Story - What The Wind Knows

In the summer of 2016, after doing a little research on my family tree, I traveled to Dromahair, Ireland, to see the place where my great-grandfather, Martin Smith, was born and raised. He emigrated to the States as a young man; my nana said he got involved with the local IRB, and his parents sent him to America because they didn’t want him getting into trouble.

I don’t know if that’s true, as Nana has been gone since 2001, but he was born the same year as Michael Collins, in a period of reformation and revolution. Nana had written a few things on the back of a St. Patrick’s Day card one year about her father, my great-grandfather. I knew when he was born, I knew his mother’s name was Anne Gallagher, and his father was Michael Smith. But that’s all I knew. Just like the main character in What The Wind Knows, I went to Dromahair with the hopes of finding them. And I did.

My parents and my older sister took the trip with me, and the first time we saw Lough Gill, my chest burned, and my eyes teared. Every step of the way, it felt like we were being guided and led. Deirdre Fallon, a real-life librarian—libraries never let you down—in Dromahair directed us to the genealogical center in Ballinamore. We were then directed to Ballinagar, a cemetery behind a church in the middle of fields. When I asked how we would find it, I really was told to pray or pull over and ask someone, just like Anne was told to do in this book. I won’t ever forget how it felt to walk up that rise among the stones and find my family.
The townland where my grandfather was born was called Garvagh Glebe, just like in the story. But Garvagh Glebe is not a manor, and it is not next to Lough Gill. It is a rather barren and rocky stretch of land, a true “rough place” up in the hills above Dromahair where there is a wind farm now. When I saw those big windmills, the title was born. What the Wind Knows was inspired by these events and by ancestors I’ve never met but feel like I know.

I couldn’t give my main character my great-great grandfather’s name (Michael Smith) because Michael Collins was such a central figure in the book, and I didn’t want two Michaels. So Thomas Smith was named for two of my Irish grandfathers, Thomas Keefe of Youghal, County Cork, and Michael Smith of Dromahair, County Leitrim. We also have a Bannon branch that I can’t get a lock on. Maybe there will be another book about John Bannon.

Even though this book has a strong dose of the fantastical, I wanted it to be a historical novel as well. The more research I did into Ireland, the more lost I felt. I didn’t know how to tell the story or even what story to tell. I felt like Anne when she told Eoin, “There is no consensus. I have to have context.” It was Eoin’s response to Anne, “Don’t let the history distract you from the people who lived it,” that gave me hope and direction.

Ireland’s history is a long and tumultuous one, and I did not wish to relitigate it or point fingers of blame in this story. I simply wanted to learn, understand, and fall in love with her and invite my reader to love her too. In the process, I immersed myself in the poetry of Yeats, who walked the streets my great-grandfather walked and who wrote about Dromahair. I also fell in love with Michael Collins.

If you want to know more about him, I highly suggest Tim Pat Coogan’s book, Michael Collins, to gain a deeper appreciation of his life and his place in Irish history. There is so much written about him, and so many opinions, but after all my research, I am still in awe of the young man who committed himself, heart and soul, to his cause. That much is not in dispute. Of course, Thomas Smith is a fictional character, but I think he embodies the kind of friendship and loyalty Michael Collins inspired among those who knew him. I did my best to blend fact and fiction, and many of the events and accounts I inserted Thomas and Anne into actually happened.

Any mistakes or embellishments to the actual record to fill in the historical gaps or to further the story are well intentioned and are completely my own. I only hope when you are finished with What the Wind Knows, you have a greater respect for the men and women who came before and a desire to make the world a better place.

Who are you? Where are you from? What do you like? What do you do?
I’m just a wife and a mom. My coolest claim to fame is that I know Gladys Knight and sang in her choir for seven years. She’s a fantastic lady and an amazing inspiration. I write, I take care of my kids, I love to do research and I adore a good love story. I love food and books and music, not necessarily in that order. I grew up in Utah, lived in Las Vegas for ten years and moved back to Utah in 2010.

When and why did you start writing?
I’ve always been a writer. Poetry, song lyrics, essays. But I didn’t start writing in earnest until about eight years ago. I started publishing because I was desperate. We were seriously broke, I had a new baby, my oldest was in and out of the hospital, and my husband was working in another state. Things had to change, and I jumped in with both feet and published a book I’d written years before. (Running Barefoot)

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Lots of things. There’s never one inspiration. People are built from their experiences, their DNA, their choices, etc. And characters are built the same way, only I have to create their experiences, their choices, their DNA, so to speak. It’s in the creating of the characters that the inspiration comes. Building a book and their characters is like putting together a puzzle. I get my ideas piece by piece.

Which of your books was the hardest to write? Which was the most fun?
Infinity + One was the most fun. It was also difficult because of the math component. Running Barefoot was the most enjoyable because I had no expectations for myself and no plans to publish it. I just did it for me. Making Faces was incredibly stressful and so was The Law of Moses, both for different reasons. I think it just gets harder and harder as you go. The pressure intensifies and people expect so much.

What is your writing style?
Some people say I have a more literary style, and I guess that makes sense. I love words. I like the beauty of language and saying things in a different way. I don’t think I’m better than other writers out there, I just think I’m different. My focus is different. My focus in a love story isn’t on the sex – my focus is always on the emotion.

 

 October 3 Meeting
The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
by Heather Morris

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions. 

 Tattooist of Auschwitz 350
 heather morris 350

I am a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years I studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, I was introduced to an elderly gentleman "who might just have a story worth telling". The day I met Lale Sokolov changed my life, as our friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. I originally wrote Lale's story as a screenplay - which ranked high in international competitions - before reshaping it into my debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

 

 

November 7 Meeting
Code Girls
by Liza Mundy

In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

 Code Girls 350
Liza Mundy 327 

Liza Mundy is a journalist and author of four books, most recently Code Girls. She is a former staff writer for the Washington Post, where she specialized in long-form narrative writing, and her work won a number of awards. Her 2012 book, The Richer Sex, was named one of the top non-fiction books of 2012 by the Washington Post, and a noteworthy book by the New York Times Book Review. Her 2008 book, Michelle, a biography of First Lady Michelle Obama, was a New York Times best-seller and has been translated into 16 languages. Her 2007 book, Everything Conceivable, received the 2008 Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers as the best book on a science topic written for a general audience. She writes widely for publications including The Atlantic, Politico, The New York Times, Slate, and TIME. She has appeared on The Colbert Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, MSNBC, CNN, C-Span, Fox News, Democracy Now, Bloggingheads TV, the Leonard Lopate Show, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, the Diane Rehm Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, On Point, and other television and radio shows. A senior fellow at New America, a non-partisan thinktank, Liza has an AB from Princeton University and an MA in English literature from the University of Virginia. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and two children, just about a mile from Arlington Hall, where the Army code-breaking women worked, and about four miles from the Naval Annex. At various points in her career she has worked full-time, part-time, all-night, at home, in the office, remotely, in person, on trains, in the car, alone, with other people, in dangerous places, under duress, and while simultaneously making dinner.

Liza Mundy Website

Code Girls Picture Gallery 

Code Girls Videos

Code Girls - Resources for Codebreakers and Families

 Discussion Guide:

  1. What particular skills and characteristics did the Army and Navy look for in the women recruited to their code-breaking programs? How were stereotypes about women employed or challenged in the recruitment effort?
  2. How did World War Two affect personal and romantic relationships? What were Americans’ attitudes toward marriage then—and did those attitudes change at all for the “code girls” generation?
  3. Why do you think Dot Braden and Ruth “Crow” Weston became such great friends? If they had met in other circumstances or in peacetime, do you think they would have gotten along just as well?
  4. Consider the various motivations Mundy cites for the women who signed up as code breakers. Do you think they differed from those of the men serving in America’s military then?
  5. Some of the code girls were affected by the extended secrecy of their work. How might keeping secrets, however necessary, affect a person’s relationships or her identity in the world?
  6. What were the particular successes and struggles of Agnes Driscoll? Why might she have eventually resorted “to extreme measures to retain her authority”?
  7. What does it mean that the organizational hierarchy of Arlington Hall was relatively “flat”? How was this beneficial to the code girls?
  8. Frank Raven, while acknowledging the skills of the “damn good gals,” also concluded that many of the code girls were “damn pretty gals.” What effect might this statement and the perspective of people like Raven have had on the women and their work?
  9. Barnard’s Virginia Gildersleeve noticed in the marching WAVES “a remarkable cross section of the women of the United States of America, from all our economic and social classes…and from all our multitude of racial origins and religions.” What might have caused such diversity and co-operation, and how do you think this changed after the war, if at all?
  10. What were the challenges for many of the women after the war?
  11. Why do you think these women’s contributions to cryptanalysis remained a secret for so long?
  12. Mundy suggests that “many of the code-breaking women … advance[d] the feminist movement.” Do you agree?
  13. In January 2016, the American armed services finally lifted a ban on women serving in positions of direct combat. What challenges do you think women still face in the military today?

 

December 5 Meeting
Mr. Dickens and His Carol
by Samantha Silva

Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva's Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever

 Mr Dickens And His Carol 350
 Samtha Silva 350

Samantha Silva is an author and screenwriter based in Idaho. Mr. Dickens and His Carol is her debut novel. Over her career she's sold projects to Paramount, Universal, New Line Cinema, and TNT. A film adaptation of her short story, The Big Burn, won the 1 Potato Short Screenplay Competition at the 2017 Sun Valley Film Festival. Silva will direct, her first time at the helm. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, she's lived in London, Bologna, and Rome, is an avid Italophile and a forever Dickens devotee.

Samantha Silva Website 

 

 

Past Readings

December 2019 Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
November 2019 The Code Girls by Liza Mundy
October 2019 The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
September 2019 What the Wind Knows by Amy Hanson
August 2019 Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
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

 

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