The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty-Part 2

One of the devices that Vida uses is writing in second person (“You try not to run as you make your way across the lobby and up the elevator to your room.  You place the backpack–the evidence–inside your suitcase and throw your clothes and toiletries on top.”).

In an interview Vida has said, “I didn’t want the female character to have a name or be an I or a She.  Instead I wanted to put the reader immediately in the protagonist’s shoes.  That’s why it’s you.”  (Source:  http://www.Interview–vida)  But I wonder how readers feel about this?  Second-person narratives aren’t common, but did it fit this author’s purpose?  How so?  What is the effect?  Did the second-person prose make it easier or more difficult to identify with the narrator?  How did the use of the second-person narration change the perception of what was going on in the novel?  Or did it?

Vida also brings up some interesting thoughts as to the nature of identity, and exactly what that means to each of us.  Are we in fact the Facebook page that we present to others, or are we more the internal thoughts that we keep private?  The narrator finds identity to be porous and changeable, so is she suggesting that identity is simply a performance?  Would it be liberating, or just terrifying  to suddenly have the ability to assume another identity?

Till the next time…

There are still some copies of the book available at  Jericho Library . Hope to see you there!

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty–An Intro

Since you never get a second chance to make a first impression–let me introduceMary Hirdt Avatar myself.  I’m Mary Hirdt, an adult reference librarian for the past 14 years at Jericho Public Library.  I am taking over the Book in a Blog from the very capable hands of Susan Santa.  I read about 200 books a year, and I run JPL’s afternoon book discussion group called the Passionate Reader.  I have lots of opinions to share, and I hope that over time we can build an online dialog devoted our mutual love of some interesting titles.  Now onto our first title, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida.


The book’s premise is this:  While checking into her Casablanca hotel, the nameless narrator is robbed of her knapsack containing her passport, money, credit cards, and laptop– that is, virtually anything that represents identity in the modern age.  Shortly thereafter, the police notify her that the bag has been found.  But the bag that is returned contains another woman’s possessions, which our heroine (known throughout the book as “you”) then adopts as her own.  And so the adventure begins.  In spare, elegant prose, Vida recounts the narrator’s journey into and through other assumed identities, while slowly revealing to readers the great tragedy that has shaped the narrator and brought her to Morocco.

Stay tuned for next time as we begin our discussion!  Copies of the book are available at the Jericho Library Circulation Desk.


9781444775815At the beginning of the novel Ove is quite solitary and considers himself plagued by his neighbors and other people he encounters. But by the end of the story I think that one of the most heartfelt relationships that he develops (outside of his relationship with Sonja) is with his neighbor Parvaneh as well as her children. What is it about Parvaneh and her family that you think Ove responds to?

The author slowly reveals details about Ove’s character and history. Did you feel differently about Ove by the end of the novel? Was it because Ove had changed or was it that your perception of him had changed? What did you think of Ove being written as a man approaching old age- at certain parts of the book did you feel that he acted older than he was?

This book made me think about the human condition. How do we cope with difficult life events and still find happiness? In Ove’s case he was overwrought with anger and his only solution (or so he thought) was to fight alone. But we see at the end of the novel, when his friend Rune is about to be removed from his apartment, the strength of friendship and community. Reaching out to others, helping others (and allowing them to help him) is Ove’s salvation. Do you think this might be true for all of us? Do our relationships make us who we are and complete us as human beings?

A Man Called Ove made me laugh and cry simultaneously. I did like how events tended to resolve themselves neatly at the end, although some may feel it was predictable. What were your thoughts?

Our next read for November and December will be The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida. I am also excited to introduce our new moderator and fellow librarian, Mary Hirdt. Copies of the book will be available at the Jericho Library circulation desk.(in the main lobby) We look forward to having you join us for our next discussion!


So by now we’ve realized that Ove is dealing with some serious issues. He has lost his job, his wife and his will to live. (Hence the appropriately placed hook.) Ironically every time he plans to commit suicide his attempt is foiled by his neighbors (or the cat) who need his help. As a man who is fond of useful things, he himself has become what he considers useless although as the story unfolds, he is certainly very needed by the others around him. In flashbacks we catch a glimpse of Ove’s history and his relationship with his wife Sonja.

How do you feel about Backman’s use of alternating the present and past to tell the story? Do you think this is more or less effective than if he had told the story from a strictly chronological view?

Ove has many negative things to say about technology, and particularly about IT consultants. When he lose his job he is already falling behind the times with regards to knowledge in this area. How does this come full circle in the novel and does he change his mind about technology?

He is devastated and angry about losing his wife Sonja. What does he do with that anger and sadness? Sonja seems to have been the complete opposite personality of Ove. Why did their relationship work? Ove has very high standards for others but overlooks what he considers flaws in his wife Sonja, why? Sonja quotes Shakespeare to Ove, “They say the best men are born out of their faults and often improve later on, more than if they’d never done anything wrong.” Is Sonja’s gift the ability to see potential in the negative?

Ove likes things to be fair and we find out that his life with Sonja was not fair. They deal with many harsh blows including losing their baby, as well as Sonja getting sick and being relegated to life in a wheelchair. While Sonja forgave, Ove got angry. In the novel it is mentioned that Sonja was much like Ove’s father– too kind. Is there such a thing? And do you consider this a negative or positive quality and why?

Despite these hardships, Backman inserts bits of humor into each situation. Do you think the effect is to present a contrast to the pathos of the situation? Does this approach work?

Until next time…



September/October 2015

And so we meet Ove. Such a charming fellow, isn’t he?

Our first impression of Ove is quite negative and we witness his tirade at the Apple Store. The author impresses upon us that Ove views the world in very definite terms- good/bad and right/wrong. Some might say his character is quite unforgiving of what he perceives as flaws in others, but Ove looks at it as having ‘strong principles’. What do you think about a person who chooses to view the world in this manner? What would be the pros and cons, and the consequences? Have you ever known anyone like Ove? What would motivate someone to have this viewpoint and act in this way? Or is it just a personality trait. (Or flaw?)

We are also introduced to the cat, a quite mangy and worn looking feline (the Cat Annoyance) as well as Ove’s neighbors. He refers to them as the Lanky One, the Blond Weed, the Pregnant Foreign One and so forth, reducing them all to physical descriptions. What is achieved in the story by Ove’s referring to them in this way? Does it imply a distance between Ove and the other characters? Is this effective in the development of Ove’s character?

To delve further into Ove’s personality, we come to find that he likes useful stuff, “Stuff with a function.” Things like nuts, bolts and hooks…

(What is up with that hook? We’ll be figuring that out…)

Do people in general need to feel useful and have a purpose in life? What is it to lead a dignified life, and can this have a different meaning to different people? We see that Ove has an elaborate routine each morning and he is the self-appointed guardian of his housing complex. What does this mean to Ove?

Until next time!


Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman

Let’s meet Fredrik Backman, the Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation and author  of this novel:

“My name is Fredrik. I write things. Before I did that I had a real job, but then I happened to come across some information saying there were people out there willing to pay people just to write things about other people, and I thought ‘surely this must be better than working.’ And it was, it really was. Not to mention the fact that I can sit down for a living now, which has been great for my major interest in cheese-eating.”         (source:

Before Fredrik Backman began his career as a writer and blogger (and professional cheese-eater) he worked as a forklift operator and a busboy. He released his debut novel A Man Called Ove in the autumn of 2012, and two years later the book was subsequently published in English. To date, more than 300,000 copies have been sold in Sweden, and the novel is slated for publication in more than 20 countries and in 25 languages. His second novel, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, was published in September 2013, and he plans to write a book every year. Fredrik lives outside of Stockholm with his wife and two children.

Check out some interviews with Fredrik:

It’s not too late to pick up a copy of A Man Called Ove at the Jericho Library circulation desk. Stay tuned as we get our discussion started in the next post!

(sources:, “Fredrik Backman.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2015. Biography in Context. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.)

New Month, New Book – September

Our next selection is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

September/October 2015

September/October 2015

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.(source: book jacket)

Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions

The Role of Women/Mothers

My mom had one that looked just like this. I still own it evokes fond memories of her.#I'mnotmarilyn

My mom had one that looked just like this. I still own it evokes fond memories of her.#I’mnotmarilyn

Marilyn has become the polar opposite of what she intended to become.  Her goal in attending college was to become a physician and yet almost immediately she falls into a relationship with James.  How much of this was self-fulfillment?  She does spend a great deal of time looking back and regretting her decision, or does she?  Do you think that she is able to reflect upon where she ended up (as a stay-at-home mother) and realize that she is responsible?  She does try to find a job on campus but never follows up until years later. Why?

Marilyn does converse with James about her desire to be more than a mom. What motivates James to encourage and support Marilyn to stay home?

The Betty Crocker Cookbook becomes a touchstone of sorts for many of the characters – Marilyn and her mother, Lydia and Marilyn, and last but not least Hannah.  What is the author trying to convey?

One of the most heartbreaking moments in the novel for me was when Marilyn finally finds the cookbook in Lydia’s room. Is there a moment in the novel that deeply affected you?

Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions Part 3 (Spoiler Alert)

July/August 2015

July/August 2015


The entire Lee family is dealing with the loss of Lydia, but like most families they are handling it in varying ways.  Not only are they dealing with the death of Lydia they are all also still, years later, reeling from the summer that Marilyn took off.  James and the kids have been on their best behavior for years trying their best to ensure that Marilyn is happy, but life cannot survive in an environment where relationships are like the thin and fragile shells of robin’s eggs.

How much of what happened stemmed from the fear of Marilyn leaving?  Do you think that had she not taken off that the family might have seen the town for what it was? Would the events that followed have been prevented?

James, Marilyn and Nath are able to share their grief via the pages of the book, but Hannah never seems to have been able to share her grief with anyone.  She sees the family grappling with the loss and their inability to deal with it communicate within the family, but they don’t see her.  Why?

Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions Part 2 (Spoiler Alert)

July/August 2015

July/August 2015

The story deals with prejudice in the 1960’s all the way up to 1977.  According to Celeste Ng, “at the time, of course, interracial marriages were both rare and stigmatized.  Now, it’s getting to be much more common… but at the time, it would’ve been a much bigger deal.”

Each of the characters experienced discrimination of one sort or another, even Jack who had he come out of the closet would have dealt with prejudice and the ramifications of “being different” in a very homogeneous community.  While they did all face it they each chose to deal with it in different ways.  Who do you feel was able to adapt the best/least?  Could James and Marilyn have made decisions that would have made their lives and the kids lives easier?  After finding out that Lydia had died James thinks back on why he bought the house by the lake and wondered if he had chosen differently Lydia might not have died, were there decisions that were made earlier that made events inevitable?  Where they inevitable?

Celeste Ng is the child of two parents of Chinese decent.  Growing up in the ’90s she says “virtually all of the overtly racist things, large and small, in the book are things that either my family experienced of other Asian families that i knew experienced.  Sadly, I didn’t really have to do much research on that at all.”  Do you think it’s significant that Ng chose to set the book 20 years before she experienced racism as a teen, and wrote the novel 20 years (or so) after her teenage years? If so why?

I heard one comment that a reader thought that this novel felt more like a veiled memoir to her.  She truly thought that, perhaps, this was just Ng telling her own story (albeit dramatized – she did not lose a family member to drowning.)  What do you think?