The End of the Point – Discussion Questions – Bea (Spoiler Alert)

The End of the Point - July 2014

The End of the Point – July 2014

I hope that you are all a few chapters into the novel at this point.

By Chapter X we’ve met the porter family except for Charlie (he’s off fighting the war,) via the nursemaid Bea.

Why do you think that the author chose to introduce the family from Bea’s perspective? 

In my opinion, Graver has managed to make what could have been an innocuous character multifaceted and compelling.

What do you think of Bea?

Not Bea and Smitty but I couldn't resist-it just seemed so right.  This is actually a still from "Nanny McPhee"

Not Bea and Smitty but I couldn’t resist-it just seemed so right. This is actually a still from “Nanny McPhee”

Seemingly content with her life, and totally committed to the care of Janie she does mention that she feels that nothing is truly hers – her money (Mr. Porter takes care of it), her room, even the person that she loves more than life (Janie) isn’t hers.  Janie is at an age where she is beginning to pull away from Bea and is expressing her desire for more autonomy.  Bea on the other hand is being given the opportunity to finally have a life of her own with Smitty and yet seems reluctant.

     “Not since tending Janie as an infant had she come so close to someone, not since tending her mother on her deathbed, though this was even closer, to be inside his mouth this way and he in hers.  He wanted her, that was the difference- he was no baby or old woman: he wanted her because he wanted her, because she was a woman and he a man, because perhaps?) she was herself.”(page 51-52)

Why then at that moment of realization does Bea pull away?

We have also learned why Bea left her Scotland.  After caring for  her mother during her two-year illness, decline and ultimate death, Bea finds herself at twenty-three untethered, unloved and redundant.  Her father and brother don’t need her. Shortly after her mother’s death Bea’s aunt moves in and fills the void for her father.  Callum is about to get married.  “…but more potent was her sense that both she and her mother were being quickly and practically replaced.”

Having already experienced redundancy why doesn’t Bea follow her mother’s advice “take care of yourself”, and jump at the opportunity of having a life with Smitty?  

Is she too much like her father?  “He did not try, as far as she could tell, to help himself.”

 

 

Posted in Discussion Questions, JPL's Book-In-A-Blog, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I hope

I do hope that you’ve all picked up a copy of The End of the Point and have begun your journey to Ashaunt Point.  While you are beginning your immersion into the lives of the Porter family I thought you might like to hear a bit from Elizabeth Graver.

I have pinned an interview from Bookaholic with Elizabeth Graver.  Visit our Pinterest account for the interview and much more.

Listen to the interview on WNYC Leonard Lopate Show.

Watch the interview on Furious Fiction.

Posted in Ashaunt Point, Author Interview, Bookaholic, Elizabeth Graver, JPL's Book-In-A-Blog, Leonard Lopate show, Massachusetts, Pinterest, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Leave a comment

Something About Elizabeth Graver

Elizabeth Graver-Wf-M.Music-MACD-12-004,#205From the author’s website:

Elizabeth Graver’s fourth novel, The End of the Point, was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction  and selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.  Her other novels  are AwakeThe Honey Thief,and Unravelling. Her story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized inBest American Short Stories(1991, 2001); Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards (1994, 1996, 2001), The Pushcart Prize Anthology (2001), and Best American Essays (1998).  She teaches at Boston College and is at work on a new project that draws on the Sephardic Jewish history of her family.

For more information visit Jericho Public Library . The library subscribes to a database “Literature Resource Center.” This is a complete literature reference database rich in biographical, bibliographical and critical content on literary figures from all time periods writing in such genres as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, history, journalism and more.

 You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit jericholibrary.org, click on the “Databases” tab and then click on “Adults.”  You can find the database either on the A-Z listing or click on the link for BiographyYou will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)


Posted in Elizabeth Graver, JPL's Book-In-A-Blog, Literature Resource Center, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Leave a comment

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver

The End of the Point - July 2014

The End of the Point – July 2014

So far for the books that we’ve read I haven’t given you my opinion (well not as blatantly as I could have), but with The End of the Point I’m breaking that tradition.  I truly want you all to read this novel.  Hopefully my review will encourage that.

The End of the Point is a beautifully told family saga that follows the Porters of Ashaunt Point, Massachusetts from the tumultuous years during World War II up until 1999 (mentally insert Prince lyrics here – I know I have a warped mind – this book has nothing in common with the song except the year.)

When we first meet the Porters they are spending their summer in their second home on this tiny point of land that juts into Buzzards Bay.  Graver draws each family member from Bea the Scottish nurse to the Porter children, to Gaga the matriarch with a fine brush. Each member is integral part of the whole and truly human with desires, faults, and frailties.  What draws them together and keeps them whole is this ill-gotten parcel of land, bought from Native Americans before the Porter’s  ancestors came ashore by the first settlers for “thirty yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen hoes…” a true bargain. It’s the land that draws the family back year after year, summer after summer.  It’s the land that holds them together, shelters them, comforts and holds them.  A land that will change over time with hurricanes,  wars, and impending development – changes that take place outside of the Porter’s control.  The land  that is at once a  permanent member of Porter family, but their hold is tenuous at best.  A land that, like the Porter’s themselves,  is subjected to being disturbed and destroyed by the heavy hand of human intervention.

Graver gently reminds us that the earth doesn’t belong to us, we inhabit it and are entrusted with stewardship.  The house and the land that the Porters return to grounds them and sustains them, but in the end it will go on when they no longer exist.

There are books that as you read them you think “I could have written this.”  The End of the Point is a novel that reminds one that writing is a gift bestowed upon the few who are true artists.  Each word, each character, each event is deftly placed and beautifully done.  This is a book that is wholly human and elegant. Graver is a master and The End of the Point a masterpiece.

Visit Elizabeth’s blog: elizabethgraver.com

 

 

 

Posted in Elizabeth Graver, My review, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Our Summer Selection

The End of the Point - July 2014

The End of the Point – July 2014

What better way to begin the summer, but with a great summer book!  Our next selection is The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver.

Long Listed for the 2013 National Book Award this novel brings us to Ashaunt Point, a tiny (fictional) finger of land jutting into Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

New York Times review of the novel.

Come into the library and pick up a copy.

Visit Elizabeth Graver’s website for more about the book.

 

Posted in JPL's Book-In-A-Blog, Massachusetts, New York Times, Next Book, Summer Selection, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? To the End of the Earth!

Ok, if you've read the book you understand the symbol for this last section.  Think wisdom teeth - funny that Bernadette had to have hers out just as she's gaining perspective. No?

Ok, if you’ve read the book you understand the symbol for this last section. Think wisdom teeth – funny that Bernadette had to have hers out just as she’s gaining perspective. No?

Well it’s July 1st and a hot and humid day here on Long Island.  How appropriate that we end at the South Pole.

I have so many thoughts and a few questions for you.

Discussing the book with a friend we talked about Bernadette and Elgie and what the future holds for their marriage.  The book ends with a letter to Bee from Bernadette telling her that she’s going to stay at the Pole for a bit but then is coming home to lead a more normal life as a family.  Do you think that’s possible? My friend was left to wonder how Bernadette will react to the pregnancy of Soo-Lin.  I think that Bernadette is in such a much better place and is more powerful and clear that she’ll take it in stride.  What do you think?  Given her struggles to have a child how do you think Bernadette will react?

What about Elgie – does he truly love Bernadette for who she is?  Has he taken off his Microsoft glasses and reviewed why he loved her in the first place?

We were also discussing the fact that Elgie wanted to put Bernadette away for treatment. Oddly enough, and in true Bernadette extreme fashion, she ends up putting herself away. Why do you think her excursion to the South Pole was so therapeutic?

Some of the discussion questions provided by the publisher mention that people have commented that this is really Bee’s story.  What do you think?

Lastly, I hope that you enjoyed the book.  I did.  I also loved that a book so silly and seemingly uncomplicated offered so much to discuss.

Please let me know what you thought, and join me for our next novel – The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver.

Posted in Elgie, Next Book, Soo-Lin, South Pole, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver, Where'd You Go Bernadette, Wisdom teeth | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – A Gnat Saves the Day!

gnatI am so excited that we have gotten to the “juicy” part of the book.  I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.  For so long we have endured Audrey and her meddling.  Were you as frustrated as I was?  At times I wanted to reach through the pages and shake Audrey.  To be honest I wanted to reach through and shake many of the characters.  As in life sometimes we don’t take the opportunity to say what needs to be said. But I digress.

We find out so much about what as actually transpired via the letter that Audrey has written to her husband. She lied about Bernadette running over her foot, she accepts responsibility for the mudslide, she has finally seen Kyle for who he is and is actively trying to rectify her mistakes.

Were you surprised to find out that it was Audrey that aided Bernadette in her escape?

Like me did you wonder how Bee had been able to get her hands on the e-mails etc that comprise the novel?  The realization that it was Audrey that compiled all the documentation and sent it off to Bee at Choate and how she did it was a surprise to me.  She does explain her reasoning, but why do you think her character went to the lengths that she did?

Next and last post for Bernadette – Off the “The White Continent.”

Posted in Audrey, Gnat saves the day, Where'd You Go Bernadette - The Movie | Leave a comment

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Elgin and Soo-Lin

debtEveryone thinks so highly of Elgin Branch.   I got to the point that if one more character mentioned the TEDTalk I would scream.  Oh OK not really but….

Soo-Lin is smitten and even Dr. Kurtz when she finally meets him is enthralled by his notoriety.

What do you think of Elgie?  Why do you think that he was so intent on having Bernadette put on an involuntary hold?  

Now let’s talk about the Soo-Lin/Elgie liason.

As the book progresses it seems as though Soo-Lin and Elgie have fallen in love only then to find out via the faxes between Soo-Lin and Audrey that their liaison was a very awkward and unsatisfying one night stand that occurred at a very low point for Elgie.

Why do you think Maria Semple formatted the revelation in this manner?

Soo-Lin writes to Audrey about victimization.  Semple has written the novel in such a way that the lines between victim and victimized are blurred.  If there are true victims in the novel, who do you think it is?

Posted in Elgie, Soo-Lin, Victimization, Where'd You Go Bernadette | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Feral Sailor

bunnyWe’re coming to the end of the book and the discussion, but I’ve been pondering a section that we’ve already passed.  I just can’t get it out of my mind and I wonder if any of you feel the same.

In the letter dated Monday December 13 from Mom to Paul Jellinek (page 122 in the hardcover edition.) At the end of the letter Bernadette wraps it up by reminiscing about her bet bunny Sailor.  She went to camp, her parents went away and the maid robbed them and ran off leaving Sailor alone for two months. On Bernadette’s return she ran to him to ensure he was alive.

” He was backed into the corner, shivering, and in the most wretched condition…”

Bernadette “opened the cage door to hug little Sailor, but, in a spastic fury, he started scratching my face and neck.  I still have the scars. without anyone attending to him, he had gone feral. That’s what’s happened to me, in Seattle. Come at me, even in love, and I’ll scratch the hell out of you.”

Why do you think that Bernadette went “feral” in Seattle?  Has someone abandoned her or is she to blame?

 

Posted in Feral Sailor, Uncategorized, Where'd You Go Bernadette | 2 Comments

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Discussion Questions Take 2

where'd you goI’m conflicted about the character Paul Jellinek.  He’s considered a mentor and confidante of Bernadette’s but I don’t think his character is as simple and removed from Bernadette as he would like to be.  On page 122 in the hardcover Bernadette begins a letter (sneaky how Semple manages to let us hear from Bernadette this way – no?) to Paul where we find out a little bit about what she has been dealing with since the destruction of the Twenty-Mile house.  She bares her soul to him about how devastating that was and how she suffered four miscarriages and then is blessed with a daughter who wasn’t expected to survive her underdeveloped heart. His response to her:

“Are you done?  You can’t honestly believe any of this nonsense.  People like you must create.  If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”

Is it a guy thing?

Is it an architect thing?

What do you think of Paul – friend, adviser, confidante, mentor, symbolic representation of the male dominated architectural establishment?

Just for the fun of it here’s a link to a letter from Paul to Maria Semple.

Posted in Architect, Where'd You Go Bernadette | Leave a comment