Julia Dahl – Invisible City

Our globetrotting literary tour continues.

We’ve gone from Alaska back to the East Coast – Brooklyn to be specific.  It’s nice tmaps_borough_park_o know that all it will take to get from there to here is a trip on mass transit – no I don’t recommend the BQE I have been in the most horrific traffic going through and to Brooklyn.

juliadahlBefore we get to know the characters I always like to introduce you to their creator. Our next author is Julia Dahl – this time in her own words.

I was born and raised in Fresno, Calif. I stumbled onto the staff of my high school newspaper in 1994 and have been chasing stories ever since. I have been an editor at Marie Claire, a stringer for the New York Post, a staff writer for The Crime Report, and I now work producing articles and video about crime and justice for Crimesider, the 48 Hours blog on CBSNews.com.

My first novel, a murder mystery entitled “INVISIBLE CITY,” will be published by Minotaur Books in May 2014.

I’ve written features about subjects ranging from suicide-by-cop to prosecuting rape to my own involvement in the unsolved murder of a Hurricane Katrina victim for publications including the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Pacific Standard (formerly Miller-McCune), Seventeen, Salon and the Columbia Journalism Review.

I have lived on-and-off in NYC since 1999 and now reside in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I am a massive Bruce Springsteen fan and consider David Simon, Joan Didion and Katherine Boo my literary/journalistic idols.(Source: http://muckrack.com/juliadahl/bio)

The Jericho Public Library subscribes to a database “Gale Literature
Resource Center” it offers a substantial biography of Ms. Dahl.  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 LiteratureYou will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

Our Next Selection

invisible cityThis time around I thought I would try a mystery, so our next selection is Invisible City by Julia Dahl.

Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it’s clear that she’s not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider. (Source:http://www.juliadahl.com/books/invisible-city)

Pick up a copy at the circulation desk or download a copy from Overdrive and stop back for the discussion.

The Snow Child – A fond farewell

March/April 2015

March/April 2015

We’re at the end of our discussion and ready to move on to the next book (I’ll get to that in the next post), but before we move on I’d like to spend just a bit more time with Mabel, Jack, Faina, and the rest of the Alaska crew.

One thing that has been bugging me is why Garrett chose to shoot the fox.  Why was it such a compulsion for him?  He was pointedly asked not to go after the fox, but the idea of the fox seemed always present before and after the directive.

Alternately, why was it important that he not shoot the foxfox?

After the death of the fox the story for me took such a drastic turn.  The attempt at taming Faina and her acceptance of attempting to live a “normal” life, coming out of the woods and spending more of the year on the farm, connecting to  and forming relationships, and then the birth of a child.  Why does the author force Faina off the mountain and out of the wild?  What do you believe that she was trying to convey.

Why does Eowyn Ivey end the novel the way that she did?  Did Mabel finally get her child via the birth of the baby?  Why doesn’t Faina name either her dog or her baby?  What does a name signify that Faina couldn’t manage?

Finally, did you enjoy your time with the book and the characters?  I do hope so.

We’re off to something entirely different next time!

Snow Child – Characters

Thankfully (well at least for me) there aren’t very many characters in the novel.

mistery-character[1]I don’t normally focus on a favorite character in my posts, but I did have one and will share it with you if you share yours with me.  I don’t think it’s fair to, even though you do come here to hear my musings and opinions ( no?), force my opinions on you as you read.  I do hope that you come away with your own opinions!

Although as I write this it does make me wonder about authors.  Let’s start today’s discussion about authors and their characters.

Do you ever feel manipulated by an authors rendering of a character – forcing you to like or dislike them?  Can an author avoid hoisting their opinion of a character on the reader?  Does the act of creating a character force the author to try to feel a certain way about a character?  Does it necessarily follow that in order to create a story he/she must persuade you to like, dislike, sympathize with, etc.characters to create a plausible narrative?

Now back to The Snow Child.  Was there a character that spoke to you above all others?  Did you have a favorite?  There were characters that we met but didn’t find out much about and others that were more well rounded regarding their history.  In the end I felt we learned the most about Mable.  Do you agree?  Was there a character you wanted to see more of?  One that you could have done without?

I have led in person discussions about The Snow Child and a few members mentioned Faina and the mystery surrounding her appearance and her ability to remain alone in the cold Alaska woods even as a child.  We do find out a little about her father – possibly Russian (coincidence that the novel is based on a Russian folk tale), died because of or aided by alcohol consumption, and her mother likely died during childbirth.  Did you want more?  Would that have added to or detracted from the narrative? Even though this novel truly needed the reader to suspend disbelief a few readers had difficulty accepting the possibility that Faina could have managed on her own.  Did you face the same issue?  Would you prefer more reality based fiction or are you up to the challenge of the fairy tale?  I was a big fairy tale reader as a child.  Do we lose the ability to lose reality as we grow up?

I’d love to hear from you!

The Snow Child – Setting and More Part Two (Spoiler Alert)

DaffodilsHappy Spring. We’re finally encountering weather appropriate to the middle of April.

Sooo….Back to my trip to Western Pennsylvania.

This was a brutal winter here on Long Island – the cold, the snow!  I was prepared to snow-fallingencounter much of the same, and maybe a bit worse, when I visited the family.  One night we got to talking about the weather and commiserating about “cabin fever.”  Silly me I told them my tale of woe and they retorted with days of 30 degree below wind chill temps.  Need I say I couldn’t compete?

Eowyn Ivey has not only written about Alaska she’s living the lifestyle in small town Alaska.  As you read the novel did you contemplate how isolating the weather can be? Why do you think that the author timed the arrival of Faina during the first snow? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?  Was the setting vital to the tale?

I’ve had a few readers mention that they found it unbelievable that Faina could possibly have survived on her own especially given the cruel winters. Were you able to suspend disbelief in that regard?  Could a young child survive on her wits and the little bit of knowledge gleaned from an alcoholic father to survive in the wilds of Alaska?

The Snow Child – Discussion Questions – Setting Part One (Spoiler Alert)

Western PennsylvaniaI took a vacation to Western Pennsylvania last week to visit relatives.  It’s not quite the cross-country trip that I would have had to make to visit Alaska but it did get me thinking about The Snow Child.  The hills and people of Western Pennsylvania are very different in so many ways that my flat landed, overpopulated Nassau County.

As I drove along I 80 headed West and watching for my exit I thought about how far away from family that Mabel and Jack had actually traveled.  A trip to see family that I put off because of distance, 362 + miles that took me over six hours by car means that I just can’t manage to see them as often as I would like.  I couldn’t help but ponder moving away from family knowing that I would in all likelihood never see them again and yet Jack and Mabel did just that.  Would you be able to pull up your roots and leave everyone in your life knowing that you might never see them again?  Why do you think Jack and Mabel made this decision?  Did you get a sense from any of the characters that they regretted leaving kit and kin?

Given their ages (around 50 at the beginning of the novel) do you think that either gave much thought to the possibility of being abandoned and alone in this desolate area should one of them die?  Do you think that Mabel would have been able to carry on in the wilds of Alaska?  What do you think she would have done had this occurred?  Was Jack better suited to the wilderness?  Would he have remained or do you think he might have been tempted back to Pennsylvania?

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey Discussion Questions (Spoiler Alert)

snow childWe’ve entered the magical world of 1920’s Alaska and have met Mable and Jack.

Were you shocked to learn that it was Mable that suggested that they move to Alaska?

Why do you think that, having lived so long as a childless couple, they decided at nearly 50 years old to leave the comfort of home and family?

On page 5 we begin to see the desperation that Mabel feels

” There were guns in the house, and she had thought of them before…She had never fired them, but that wasn’t what kept her.  It was the violence and unseemly gore of such an act, and the blame that would inevitably come in its wake.  People would say she was weak in mind or spirit, or Jack was a poor husband. And what of Jack?  What shame and anger would he harbor?”

She decides to commit suicide by river, how does she justify this?  How would her death have been easier for Jack?

As she travels across the icy river why do you think that she changed her mind?  Did she change her mind?

There is a chill between Mable and Jack yet on the night of the first snowfall they play like children.  It’s not until this night that Faina appears.  What is the significance of her appearance at this point?

More to follow.

Eowyn Ivey

snow childI hope that you have gotten your copy of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – either by picking up one at the circulation desk or downloaded as a e-book or audio book.

Eowyn Ivey isn’t just an author she also works in an independent bookstore in Palmer Alaska, Fireside Books.  Now normally I would hide the URL and just hyperlink the title of the bookstore but I just can’t this time it’s so cool.  Here goes – http://www.goodbooksbadcoffee.com

I’m sharing a video of Eowyn mostly to allow you to meet her, but also because so many people have wondered how to pronounce Eowyn! So now you know also. In the video she invites us into the background of how she came upon the idea to write the novel, and tells us a bit of what it’s like to live in Alaska.

I do hope that you’re enjoying The Snow Child.  I’m re-reading it for the second time and love it just as much as I did the first time.

Let me know how you’re doing and stop back for the beginning of the discussion.

Oh and how glorious is it that we’re finally out from under our mounds of snow!!!!!!!!! Come on Spring.