Saturday, June 19, 2010

Of Wine and Words – June 2010

Some time ago, I promised to keep you all current on the goings-on at my little book club, Of Wine and Words. Well, the spring has been a little busy and we’ve had to cancel twice now because of weddings I was performing. Finally, however, we were able to get together last Friday night at Mendi’s house, and instead of getting further behind, we opted to go ahead and discuss both books we had read at the same time.

Our book pick for April was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This book came to me highly recommended by my sister. Unfortunately, I positively hated the book. Sorry, sis. As I have absolutely nothing good to say about the book, except that thanks to I now own a very nice first edition of it, I decided that I would let Whitney share a little review of the book with us, from HER point of view.

Our pick for May was The Last Chinese Chef. This came from my personal wish list since I intended to read it for Cook the Books but didn’t get it done in time, so I have been dying to read it ever since. All three of us were mesmerized by this book. The depictions of the characters and the recurring theme of family in the Chinese culture took us by surprise. The history of food and its evolution in China overwhelmed our senses. It was so well written, we thought we were there.

I should mention that my little group seems to have a curse. Pretty much every other book we read, we love. The others, we hate. For example:

October 2009 - Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn – Loved it!
November 2009 - Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos – eh...not such a good choice.
January 2010 - Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Phenomenal book – loved it.
February 2010 - The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (Nobel Prize Winner)– hated it so much we almost couldn’t finish it
March 2010 - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – Loved it!
April 2010 - The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver– Yeah, hated it.
May 2010 - The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones– LOVED it!

Coming up:
July 2010 – Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
August 2010 – Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Being as we have this curse bestowed upon us somehow, I am hoping that Drowning Ruth can break the curse, otherwise, it could be a very long read. Wish us luck!

In the meantime, here is a quick review from Whitney on The Poisonwood Bible. Although in the end, she recommends the book (and doesn’t hate it quite as vehemently as I did) we all agreed that this was not one that we particularly enjoyed as a group.

When our book club selected The Poisonwood Bible to read, a sense of dread came over me because the book tells the story of a family of missionaries in Uganda during the 1950’s. For those of you who don’t know, I was born and raised in the church. I love the Lord and actually enjoy attending church and reading scripture. However, if there is something that sits wrong with me in overall religious structure, it’s missionaries. I’m close to a few missionaries from my home congregation so it actually pains me to take such a strong stance on this. I understand that Psalm 9:11 says, “Proclaim among the nations what he has done and Mark 13:10 says, “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” This scripture is basically telling us to spread the good news , but let me present you with a couple of questions: The Bible is a book written by man, do we really know if we’re correctly interpreting what God wants and who are we to walk into another country and tell a group of people that their beliefs are wrong? Now you all have a good idea why I was not looking forward to reading this book and surprisingly I enjoyed reading this book. Kingsolver breaks down the book into a series of vignettes told from the women characters’ perspective. The book begins with Oleanna, the matriarch, speaking of Africa. I assumed that Kingsolver would depict her as a typical minister’s wife, meaning she would be at her husband’s beck and call and be seen and not heard. Boy was I ever wrong! I’ve read many reviews where critics say the author doesn’t take the time to let their characters evolve, but Kingsolver did just the opposite. Orleanna began as the stereotypical minister’s wife and evolved into a strong woman that wouldn’t take any crap off of Nathan. Rachel is the eldest of the girls and she is the typical teenager of the 1950’s. All she cared about was having a monumental sweet sixteen party and a pink cashmere sweater set. Her vanity was so strong at times that you wanted to smack her and say, “The world doesn’t revolve around you Rachel!” Adah and Leah are the twins in the Price clan, who are different as night and day. One thing I like about the depictions of these characters is that the author made them strong individuals, which was not typical of women and girls in the 1950’s. The twins were prodigies in math and science, while Leah was normal, Adah was hemiplegic. Many people thought that she was unintelligent because she never spoke, but she quickly became my favorite character because of her thoughts and observations. Closing out the Price clan is the baby, Ruth May. The word I’d use to describe her is poignant. I’m going to leave it that because I don’t want to give too much away. The author did a great job of describing the patriarch of the family, Nathan Price. When I pictured him, I thought of John Lithgow in Footloose. He seemed like a man who would ban dancing in town because it was sinful in his eyes. He’s a character that you will love to hate, believe me. Even though my views, on missionaries will not change, I recommend this book.

That’s all for now! We’ll be back for a review of Drowning Ruth in July!


Joanne said...

Oof I'm sorry you didn't like that book! I guess they can't all be winners. I didn't love the last chinese chef when I read it, but I loved the foodie descriptions!

David said...

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher? As in the actress?

Ty'sMommy said...

Yep, that's right, David. Princess Leia writes good books. :)

Anne said...

WHy did you hate it?

I read drowning Ruth. I am going to guess you won't like it.

Krista said...

The Poisonwood Bible is the first book I read by Barbara Kingsolver and definitely my least favorite. Fortunately, she redeems herself in her other works and I am a fan.

The Last Chinese Chef sounds good. I'll have to check it out.

I actually just found a copy of Drowning Ruth when I did my garage sale last weekend. Apparently, I'd checked it out from the first school that I taught in and never returned it! Stolen goods on my garage sale table. Oh the scandal. It's been a long time since I read it...but I seem to remember it was pretty dark. Good luck. You need a nice beach read!

I'm jealous. I need to find or start a book club.