The End of the Point – Helen

Fashionable woman in New York City, 1949 (1)

Courtesy of Vintage Everyday

I know that I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing Bea, but now it is time to talk about Helen. Her presence in the novel blossoms in the second part of the book “Plants and Their Children 1947-1961.” At this point the novel becomes epistolary.

Graver seems to quickly elapse time within this section. The time between 1947-1961 transports us from Helen’s visit to Charlies’s grave in 1947 to the birth of Percy.  We have learned that the girls have grown.  Helen is attending school, and is in analysis.  Why do you think Grave chose to cover such a long period of time in this manner?

A really good question from BookBrowse (there are more questions there if you would like to experience them) – Helen, who comes of age in the 1940’s and 50’s, is torn between a number of ambitions and drives. How do the circumstances she was born into inform who she is? What do you view as her strengths and weaknesses as a sister, wife, intellectual, and mother?

Next we’ll discuss “Trespass 1970.”

Posted in Discussion Questions, Elizabeth Graver, Helen Porter, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Leave a comment

The End of the Point – Regret

il_340x270.238893704

A box made out of shells is empty unless you fill it.

So much of what goes on in the novel is about choice or lack thereof.  When we end the first section that takes place in 1942 Bea comes to the realization that she has had the luxury of making her first choice – to not marry Smitty.

“…staying at home because her mother was ill and needed nursing; coming to America because her mother had died; staying in  America because-why?  A tightly wrapped bundle that mewed like a cat.” “All of this was true, though none of it quite hers.  That summer, finally: a choice.”

Juxtapose Bea’s decision to remain with the Porter family and not marry Smitty with the decision that Charlie makes to run off and marry? What drives them to make their decision?

In the caption of the picture above I made the observation about the empty box.  Do you think that Bea has lost her chance to fill her life, or do you think she’s satisfied with the choices that she’s made along the way?  Given the pull of outside influences can any of us truly be satisfied?

Elizabeth Graver has kept us in 1942 during this section, but has chosen to end with Janie’s visit  to Scotland.  Why do you think Graver has ended this way?

During the visit Janie recalls that Bea refused the proposal because Janie forbid it.  Whose memory do you believe.

Posted in Elizabeth Graver, Family Relationships, JPL's Book-In-A-Blog, Marriage proposal, Online Book Discussion, Smitty, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver | Leave a comment

The End of the Point – Discussion Questions

Not Bea, but perhaps this is what Smitty saw.

Not Bea, but perhaps this is what Smitty saw.

Until the incident with Janie I wasn’t certain about Bea’s true feelings for Smitty.  On page 97 she finally admits “The problem was her falling for Smitty in the first place, for she’d fallen badly, hadn’t she, and she was falling still.”

Why do you think that she realizes this now?  

Do you think Mrs. Porter was fair to Bea with her thinly veiled plea to Bea to stay with the family?

Even if the incident with Janie had not occurred do you think that Bea could/would have ever left the Porter family?

Prior Stewart showing up, Bea and Smitty began to share the idea of having a future together and having a family.  “She had long ago given up the idea of having her own child-not given up, even, just never let the desire quite take shape, until in its shapelessness, it evaporated, slipped away. Now, fresh from the water, met by his words, she felt as if anything could happen: inside, out.” (page 85)

Why does she relinquish her future with Smitty so quickly?  

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

Setting

9558933I love Cape Cod unfortunately this year I won’t be able to get there so why not drag you all along as I visit one of my favorite places via one of my favorite novels.

We have left the West Coast and traveled over 2500 miles and have landed in a fictional jut of land near Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Yet again I’ve chosen a novel where sense of place is so important.  In Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Seattle was a crucial aspect of the plot. One might argue that Semple could have placed Bernadette anywhere and she might have cracked regardless of place, but I get the sense that the peculiarities of Seattle (weather, population, Microsoft, proximity to Canada, etc.) were instrumental in pushing our beloved Bernadette over the proverbial Blackberry bush overrun cliff.

I said in my earlier review “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.”

Do you agree? Does Ashaunt Point play a vital role in the story?  Why or why not?

In an interview with BookBrowse Elizabeth Graver discusses in length about the setting and why she chose Buzzards Bay.

“Over they ears, as the story took shape, I spent a part of every summer and many fall and spring weekends at the real place that my fictional place grew out of. Often,while I was there, I wrote. I walked the paths, navigated the rocks to swim in the ocean and began to feel that the land—and the one-room cabin my husband had built on it—was a kind of home to me—not(as it is to my husband and our daughters) a first home, but a surrogate second home, at once alluring and vexed. I watched my children learn to walk, swim and ve in nature there, the place a great gift for them but also a complicated privilege and even a danger—for how fully it can shelter and how much it can exclude. I used this real place as a way to begin to imagine my fictional Ashaunt Point.”

Is there a place that evokes this feeling for you?  

 

“Generations of my husband’s immediate and extended family have spent summers at this place, the land getting increasingly divided up, as smaller cabins were built behind bigger houses and property changed hands or was sold off. During WWII, part of the peninsula was taken over by the army, which established a Harbor Entrance Control Post where it stationed 200 troops.  Later, new property owners, “outsiders,”bought land and built houses with heat and swimming pools.  What used to be fields kept low by sheep have grown into thickets.”

Even if there is no “special place” that you visit on vacation if you live on  Long Island you may be noticing a shrinking of what make “the Island” special – huge houses are being constructed on land that was set aside for much smaller homes, the “urbanization” of a suburban community.  Does this resonate with you?  

Keep reading and please share your thoughts with all of us.

 

Posted in Ashaunt Point, Author Interview, BookBrowse, Elizabeth Graver, Setting, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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