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During the Reign of the Queen of Persia
During the Reign of the Queen of Persia | Joan Chase
37 posts | 18 read | 18 to read
Joan Chase's subtle story of three generations of women negotiating lifetimes of ojoy and ruino deserves its place alongside such achievements as Marilynne Robinson's Housekeepingand Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. The Queen of Persia is in fact Gram, who presides over an Ohio farmhouse teeming with daughters, granddaughters, and the occasional son-in-law. For the youngest generation, the four girls who together narrate the novel, the farm is a kind of Eden, at once life-giving and the locus of terrible discoveries about desire and loss. The girls bicker and scrap, whisper secrets at bedtime, and above all watch as their mothers draft templates of womanhood that they will come to either reject or embrace. Ingeniously orchestrated in overlapping, thematic narratives, the story of Gram, her five daughters, and her grandchildren reveals itself through the accumulation of emotional truths, reaching its heights in the decline of Grace, whose eventual death from cancer is a loss felt throughout the book. Set in the 1950s and '60s, During the Reign of the Queen of Persiais deeply rooted in its particular time and place, as the local, rural, and hardscrabble world the girls are born into remakes itself into a materially rich suburb, indistinguishable from so many others.
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Liz_M
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A family saga, the story of a matriarchal rural Ohioan family, told through the collective “we” of four female cousins. This perspective allows a close portrayal of tragedy while simultaneously creating the distance of a less personal viewpoint. Moreover, a non-chronological structure allows supporting male characters to be real, further deepening the portrayal of complex family relations-the strength that both bolsters and undercuts its members.

Liz_M 4.5⭐, #nyrbbookclub 1y
LeahBergen Great review! 👍🏻 1y
vivastory Fantastic review & wonderful picture! 1y
BarbaraBB I love all about this post - except the book itself 😂 1y
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batsy
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Pickpick

After the first chapter, which felt like a fairly ordinary slice of domestic fiction despite being beautifully-written, I thought I would be giving this a so-so. But the novel upped the stakes in the next chapter, & where the book dwells on terminal illness & death & how it rocks a family to the core, it leaves a lasting impression. I loved Chase's stylistic choices in the multiperson-plural "we" & the time shifts. Familial love is ruthless.

batsy At times, this felt a bit like an American Midwest Gothic. Every large family home feels like "the house was open to all the spirits". In short, everyone is always in the process of grieving. Love & hate coexist. Atwood said the book was like a "Norman Rockwell painting gone bad", which made me think of Grant Wood's painting American Gothic. I ended this book feeling very glad to have discovered it. 1y
batsy Thanks to @emilyhaldi @vivastory and the rest for yet another illuminating #nyrbbookclub discussion! 1y
emilyhaldi Fabulous review as always!! So glad you enjoyed the book 😃 1y
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Billypar Great review! I went through the same trajectory of feelings - I was still a little bored even in Part 2. But by Grace and Neil's section, I was fully invested and started to enjoy more than the well-crafted sentences. Familial love is indeed ruthless! 1y
batsy @emilyhaldi Thank you! 😘 1y
batsy @Billypar Yeah, I get that! The start was a little ho-hum but she really knocked it out of the park for me with the middle and how she brought it to an end. 1y
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DrexEdit
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Finished this book late last night and attempted to say something intelligent about it for the #NYRBBookClub discussion today. I probably should not go so far as to say I enjoyed the book, but it was well-worth the time to read. I felt like I knew or have known these people. So much darkness lurking under the surface of the hard lives these people live. But also a great story of female bonds and perspective. 4 ⭐

vivastory Glad to have you chime in with the discussion today! 1y
DrexEdit @vivastory Thanks! I finished too close to discussion time to have anything really meaningful to say, but I did very much enjoy reading all the different things everybody else had to post. This book definitely made you think! 1y
vivastory In a few weeks we will be discussing Warner's Lolly Willowes. If interested feel free to join the discussion! 1y
DrexEdit @vivastory Thank you! :-) 1y
38 likes4 comments
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emilyhaldi
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Question 6: What do you make of the non-chronological sequence of the book? Why might Chase present the story this way? Did this make you feel outside of the clan or part of it?
#NYRBbookclub

vivastory I greatly appreciated the way Chase constructed her story. The non-linear telling of it enhanced it. Although I was never sure where it was going next I found it very effective. 1y
vivastory Also, fantastic choice with the paintings, Emily! 1y
emilyhaldi @vivastory I think the non-linear storytelling also contributed to the dreamlike quality of the book and agree that it enhanced the reading for me. And thank you! I had a lot of fun picking out paintings for each question 👩🏻‍🎨 1y
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BarbaraBB I bailed on the book as you know and I feel sorry now after reading the discussion. I also love the paintings you chose! 1y
GatheringBooks Despite the non-linearity of the narrative, i still felt it was structured and coherent in its presentation, with episodes and memories inserted here and there like when your grandmother or favourite aunt tells you a story. I thought it was melodic, even. 1y
GatheringBooks And yes, super apt art work paired with the questions @emilyhaldi - very thought-provoking. 1y
emilyhaldi @BarbaraBB no need to feel sorry!! I can understand why you would bail on this book- I think it takes a certain mood and patience… 🙃 1y
vivastory @GatheringBooks I think the melodic aspect is important. There were multiple references to music throughout the book & it did seem to play an important role for Chase. 1y
quietjenn It felt very right to me. When you're sitting around weekend family or a close group of friends and reminiscing, chronology just isn't that important. And while that is for sure not what this book is seems appropriate. 1y
quietjenn @emilyhaldi also chumming in to say I love the art choices! 1y
batsy It worked very well, and I thought the combination of the first-person we with the shifts in time very effective in terms of trying to tell the story of a large family. And it works like collective memories do: it's never chronological and people remember things differently. To capture all of the details in this way, it makes sense that there's a "we" observing all of it, and that it moves back and forth. 1y
batsy I agree with everyone, clever use of Rockwell paintings @emilyhaldi it definitely adds a unique dimension to the discussions! 1y
Reviewsbylola Agree, your art choices are 👌🏻. I don‘t love the back and forth of this style narrative but Chase did it expertly and in this case it didn‘t bother me. 1y
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Billypar
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This had the feel of five linked short stories about a family rather than a novel. At first, so much plotless observation left me a bit bored, but the fascinating characters won me over in the end. The complex verbosity of Libby, Elinore, Gram, and Neil is captured perfectly through the collective eyes of the young narrators, and so are the more muted presences of the other members. I've never seen family arguments viewed in quite the same way.

vivastory Great review! This one ended up being a real surprise for me
(edited) 1y
merelybookish Yes, lots of good characters! 1y
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emilyhaldi
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Question 5: What does this book tell you about dependence and independence? Gram clearly values being self-sufficient (see page 70, for example), but she also opens her doors to her daughters and their families, buys them houses, and generally sets up a lifestyle in which very few people actually have to work. Is there any way in which she teaches her family independence?
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Liz_M This is harder to answer, given the viewpoints of the narrators, but I think Gram must have taught her daughters independence. Elinor moves to New York and becomes a successful Ad Executive ( in the age of Mad Men!). May runs a hotel. Rachel divorced and seems to managing well on her own and her remarriage doesn't seem to be one of necessity. Grace seems to be the only one that stayed in a bad marriage. 1y
Liz_M And this is in a time where women weren't really allowed monetary independence, usually needing a male relative or husband for bank accounts, credit cards, land ownership. And didn't one of the girls have to lie about being married to keep a teaching job? (edited) 1y
vivastory @Liz_M I also thought of Mad Men 😂 I agree about Gram teaching her daughters independence. I think that she has always been a support system for her family when they needed it, someone that they know they can rely on when they encounter challenges & hardships. She would rather do so than having them wind up in bad situations with men. 1y
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vivastory @Liz_M If I remember correctly it might have been Grace who had to lie...or Libby... 1y
sarahbarnes @vivastory I agree - it seems like she would rather have her daughter there than in bad situations, as well as her granddaughters. And it‘s interesting that at the same time she models a type of independence in the way she refuses to go out of her way cooking or anything. And in some ways through the deal she made with her husband in their relationship. 1y
vivastory @sarahbarnes I appreciated her independence, but also how she was willing to change her mind too (I'm thinking of Grace's will & the house at the end) if it became impractical or seemed too harsh 1y
GatheringBooks I was also amused not just by Gram‘s refusal to cook as @sarahbarnes noted but how religiously she would leave for her card games come hell or high water. I thought that it was independence she taught her kids and grand-kids, while also showing them tough love. And she had no patience with the free-loading men. 1y
merelybookish I felt the character of the grandmother and the donkey Queenie were linked. (Some of the heavy handed imagery I didn't love about this book.) But Queenie wanders but can never completely leaves. Just a general stubbornness and will-to-survive. 1y
quietjenn I do think the girls learned independence by watching Gram and knowing that "the homestead" was there and that they could always come back to it (even if it wasn't the farm, by the end of the book), is what partially have them the ability to try and go, be it to NY, Chicago, or anywhere else. 1y
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emilyhaldi
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Question 4: In her NY Times review of Chase's book, Atwood called it, "a Norman Rockwell painting gone bad." Do you think that this is an upending of domestic fiction, or a realistic portrait of the lives of the characters?
#NYRBbookclub

vivastory I think Atwood also said that menace hangs over the entire novel & I def agree with both statements. I think it is a frank, & refreshing, portrait of the lives of the characters! I loved how Chase treated their lives with this degree of frankness while also crafting memorable characters for a great story. I tend to gravitate towards stories in urban & cosmopolitan settings & this was a wonderful reminder that great fiction can take place anywhere 1y
merelybookish This book reminded me of Alice Munro and her idea that everyone's lives are "deep caves covered in linoleum." Part of storytelling is peeling back the veneer to see all that complexity that lies beneath. 1y
vivastory @merelybookish Although I have only read a couple of Munro stories that quote has always stuck with me 1y
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Liz_M I wonder if it is both? I'd be curious to know what influenced Chase and what was popular at the time. 1y
GatheringBooks I googled Rockwell‘s paintings - very bucolic and pastoral and wholesome. I suppose what also makes the art even more fascinating is the inherent/implicit knowledge we all carry that there is always an undercurrent of negativity running alongside the polished positivity. Same thing with cheerful IG photos on social media. Chase merely exposed those undercurrents and disentangled them for everyone to see. 1y
merelybookish @vivastory Me too. One of my favorites! 1y
Billypar @vivastory It's so true what you said about great fiction - this is 1y
LeahBergen @merelybookish @vivastory Yes! I love that Alice Munro quote and this novel reminded me of some of her writing, too. I was also reminded of Margaret Laurence, another Canadian known for writing “farmhouse noir” (to coin a phrase 😆😆). 1y
emilyhaldi I‘m digging the term “farmhouse noir”! @LeahBergen perfect descriptor for this novel 👩🏻‍🌾 1y
vivastory @LeahBergen I'm curious about Laurence, are there any in particular that you would recommend? 1y
Billypar @vivastory I'm the same way - slow to pick up stories in rural/Midwest settings. But it's true - no place has a monopoly on good fiction. 1y
Billypar @merelybookish I love that Munro quote! 1y
merelybookish @vivastory The Stone Angel or The Diviners are good places to start, imo. 🙂 1y
merelybookish @LeahBergen Farmhouse noir. 👍 1y
vivastory @merelybookish Thanks, I just added both to my TBR! I noticed Atwood reviewed Laurence's Jest of God in 1y
merelybookish @vivastory There is also The Fire-Dwellers. They're all good (well I thought so in my early 20s when I read them). They are all part of the Manawaka Series, all set in the same town with some connected/overlapping characters. I would like to re-read so let me know if/when you decide to read one and I might join you. 1y
vivastory @merelybookish I'm going to order The Stone Angel now. Want to plan on starting the beginning of July? (Would you be interested in joining us @LeahBergen ) 1y
LeahBergen @vivastory Yes to @merelybookish ‘s suggestions! I would definitely start with The Stone Angel. I will skip reading along with you two on this one as it‘s pretty fresh in my memory but I‘ll jump in for any other Laurences you may read. 👍🏻 1y
vivastory @LeahBergen Okay, I'll tag you before starting any future Laurence novels. Really looking forward to trying them out! 1y
merelybookish @vivastory Sounds good! I will order a copy. 1y
quietjenn @merelybookish thank you for those Laurence suggestions. You and @LeahBergen mentioning her definitely made me curious! 1y
quietjenn I for sure felt like this was realistic. Just personally, I was very strongly reminded of families that I knew growing up, who lived in a similar setting. We were in the city, but I had country cousins we'd visit over the summer and, yeah. I recognize some of the dynamics here. 1y
vivastory @quietjenn Feel free to join us! 1y
quietjenn @vivastory I'll see if I can hunt down a copy. I told myself I was going to take a break from book buying, but that never last very long ... 1y
batsy @LeahBergen Farmhouse noir is perfect! 👌🏾 1y
batsy I love the "Norman Rockwell painting gone bad" description. It did feel kind of like a lowkey American Midwest gothic, at times. One of my favourite lines in the Grace chapter is, "The house was open to all the spirits; gravestones were shifting". I think this is very much the reality of the best kind domestic fiction. Dig deep enough to tell the truth about any family and you'll find all of this. 1y
Reviewsbylola Uh first of all, the term farmhouse noir is AMAZING @LeahBergen , second, how harsh of Atwood! 1y
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emilyhaldi
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Question 3: How are male characters treated in this book? Are they well-rounded characters with nuanced motivations and conflicts, or are they merely supporting actors, propping up the real work of the female characters? Does this change section to section?
#NYRBbookclub

vivastory I liked what I read on The Millions. “This novel is unique in that its single-gender point of view is not coalesced around a subject of the opposite gender.“ We do get glimpses of the men, but this is not their story & that's okay. I found it to be remarkable for an inversion of how much of an insight we get into the women's perspective, rather than the men's. Here's the link for the millions first person plural novels where I read the above: 1y
Billypar I thought they were as well-drawn as the women. A pet peeve of mine for many novels that have violent or emotionally abusive male characters is how there is barely a character apart from that violence. Not so for Grandad and Neil - they have complicated and three dimensional awfulness. 1y
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vivastory @Billypar Yes! There were major incidents that were related over a couple of paragraphs & then never really addressed again, although they seemed significant. Like Grandad running the Amish buggy off the road. It felt true to the way that families will ignore or barely acknowledge emotional & physical violence at times.. (edited) 1y
emilyhaldi I found Uncle Dan to be a sympathetic character… this quote struck me- “Uncle Dan counting the years, planning that one day he would take another job, would move, that his life would begin.” It‘s so deeply sad and poignant and relatable. While we don‘t hear as much directly from the male perspective in this book, it‘s clear that the men all struggle with the hard lives they live and take it out on their family in different ways. 1y
vivastory @emilyhaldi I forgot about Uncle Dan. I completely agree that he was a sympathetic character, I liked how he'd make popcorn & sit with them at night. 1y
Liz_M The men were secondary characters, but not two dimensional. We see Dan, Grandad, and even Neil at different points in their lives and under different circumstances. We see how they are hurt by the various women in the family and also moments of tenderness. 1y
GatheringBooks My initial response to the question was how female-centered the novel is, but reading @Billypar and @emilyhaldi ‘s responses reminded me of how “nuanced” the male characters are in all their hatefulness & normalized forms of abuse & violence. Even the male cousin had this streak & it was taken as a matter of course. Yet despite this nuance, they were peripheral, a “prop” to the storytelling, like anecdotes/back-stories that are good to know :) 1y
Billypar @emilyhaldi Absolutely agree about Uncle Dan. He felt like such a real person to me, especially his understated sense of humor. 1y
LeahBergen @emilyhaldi @vivastory Oh, yes! I momentarily forgot about Uncle Dan, too. He had such a sweetness about him that none of the other male characters had. 1y
youneverarrived @Billypar this is one thing I really liked in the novel. Neil comes across at first very one dimensional, not a very likeable person but as the novel progresses you get more glimpses of him as a real person. I wouldn‘t say I warmed to him but I definitely saw him from a different angle. 1y
quietjenn @youneverarrived @GatheringBooks @Billypar I really appreciated that about this book as well. It would've been so easy to portray these men as one-dimensional stereotypes or define then completely by their worst action or characteristic. 1y
quietjenn I felt like the men were a thread, woven in and out of the book as necessary, but it's not their tale to tell. Although yes, Uncle Dan was the best of them! 1y
vivastory @quietjenn I really like your analogy of them as a thread. I think that's really accurate! 1y
batsy @quietjenn That's a lovely way to put it! 1y
batsy I found the male characters well-drawn and complex, though they are secondary figures during the Queen of Persia's reign. Grandad was a very compelling malevolent figure—those sudden bouts of violence & aggression, then retreating into the background with his usual odd eating habits, etc. Feel like the formation of Gram's adult character was in response to the kind of man she had married, & it was well depicted in the book. 1y
Reviewsbylola Definitely supporting characters. And I think that was intentional for multiple reasons. One reason is that men can often be seen as supportive characters in general when it comes to the running of a household. Our society, as well as many others, is steeped in the tradition of men not being involved in the running of a household and the child rearing. 1y
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emilyhaldi
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Question 2: Chase tells the story using the first person plural. The narrative “we” adjusts throughout the book. For example, Celia is sometimes a part of it and sometimes not. Do these adjustments and
separations make sense to you? What do you make of the very end of the book in relation to the separation and cohesion of the narrative voice?
#NYRBbookclub

vivastory The use of the first person plural is so striking, it's what first drew me into this book. I found it to be very effective, although the girls at the center of the story are at different ages they are close enough to feel a common bond. 1y
Billypar It felt authentic to me - it was less of a showy literary style than what it really feels like to be part of a family when someone does something at odds with 'the rest of us.' 1y
vivastory I also loved this quote from O'Rourke's intro “The collective first-person narration could easily feel mannered, but here it is essential, a device that allows the book to move forward and backward in time fluidly, in an almost Faulknerian manner, foregrounding sensual perception over the rational armature of recollection, and underscoring the novel‘s preoccupation with memory. The book has a dreamlike quality of immersion, as if time were not a 1y
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vivastory (cont.) river but a pool.“ 1y
emilyhaldi I love that quote! @vivastory 1y
vivastory @emilyhaldi I was reminded of Virgin Suicides while reading the book & this quote makes me think of VS too 1y
merelybookish Lots of great points! It feels appropriate to adolescence in a way, when what your peer group thinks is so important, that you think as a group. This is doubly reinforced in this scenario when the peer group consists of relatives. I also have been thinking about the concept of a 'reign' and the royal we, although that usually applies to the monarch. 1y
vivastory @merelybookish Your last point about the concept of a “reign.“ Do you feel like Chase explored the concept of her title satisfactorily in the book? (edited) 1y
sarahbarnes Yes! Love all of these thoughts. I was fascinated by the narrative voice, too, and how it showed the collective. It felt intentional that you can‘t tell who is talking about different events - it doesn‘t seem to matter. 1y
sarahbarnes I also think the point about Cecilia is interesting. She acts as though she wants to be separate from the collective at certain points in the story. And then at the end you see that Cecilia also needs the connection to the family collective. 1y
vivastory @sarahbarnes If I remember correctly Celia is only 2 years older than the next oldest but when you are younger it does seem like the oldest, even if it's only by a couple of years, always feels significantly older. I agree about Celia needing the connection. 1y
Liz_M Given that Grace's death is at the heart of the story, the first person plural is an effective method for both telling the story of the closeness of the family and its eventual dissolution with emotion, but also with enough distance to be only heartbreaking rather than devastating. 1y
vivastory @Liz_M I completely agree. I was deeply moved by the passages towards the end dealing with this 1y
GatheringBooks Love reading all your thoughts. I didn‘t even realize Celia was disentangled from the “we.” Initially, I thought it was jarring, but as @Billypar pointed out, it felt authentic and real. Like a chorus of voices sharing stories of bygone years, where one and another are perceived as indivisible. Or as the profound quote shared by @vivastory says, like a collective “pool” of memories or if we were to go Jungian: a collective consciousness of sorts. 1y
GatheringBooks @Liz_M this is so spot-on. There is grief, yes, but as you pointed out “only heartbreaking rather than devastating.” There is always a sidestep, a counter-move, that seems to protect both reader and author from fully losing one‘s self in despair. Yet the anger and barely-reined-in hysteria can be discerned in the occasional outbursts and sibling attacks that seem near homicidal - but also a form of self-annihilation, with the collective “we” 1y
vivastory @GatheringBooks I def got the sense of a collective consciousness from this perspective 1y
LeahBergen I really thought I‘d find the first person plural narrative annoying at first but I rapidly found it imperative to the strength of this whole book. I can‘t imagine it being written any other way now! 1y
merelybookish @vivastory I felt like the reign was over at the end, and a way of life was over. The land sold, ready to be developed into a strip mall. Individualistic, capitalistic, patriarchal society has taken over. 1y
vivastory @LeahBergen This is such a great point! I think that a unique narrative voice does make it impossible to imagine the story being told in any other way. 1y
vivastory @merelybookish Agreed. It felt a little wistful since it was being narrated from the pov of the younger characters, but Gram who was older felt relieved to not have quite as many responsibilities. Such a wonderful balance between the two! 1y
quietjenn @merelybookish ah, that royal we is such a good point! 1y
quietjenn Great points, everyone! Like @LeahBergen I thought I'd find the plural narrative a bit irksome initially, but it really is essential and I can't imagine any other way to tell this story. 1y
batsy @merelybookish Great point on the royal "we", the monarch's reign, the citizens' collective power in numbers (I think I'm getting this book mixed up with our Shakespeare read ?). But yes, especially the passing of an era with what becomes of the house and the land and neoliberal modernisation. 1y
batsy It took some getting used to at first & I felt it a bit jarring when we first entered the Grace and Neil section. But as @LeahBergen points out it was essential to the book & I found the use of that perspective very clever in a subtle way. It also maybe raises some points about how their togetherness—though it could be harmful (those fights!)—actually gave them strength. Celia was somewhat unmoored, being older & mysterious, but it came at a cost. 1y
Reviewsbylola Omg @vivastory my mind immediately went to The Virgin Suicides too! I kept imagining the five sisters (mothers) as being the grown up versions of Eugenides‘ five sisters! 1y
Reviewsbylola I‘m sure I would have been put off by a collective narrative had I known about it going in. Like @LeahBergen said, I can‘t imagine it being written any other way. 1y
vivastory @Reviewsbylola I googled to see if Eugenides commented on the book & haven't been able to find anything, but for me the resemblance was too striking for him not to have read it at some point. Also, now I feel like rereading Virgin Suicides 😂 (edited) 1y
Reviewsbylola The movie was my absolute favorite as a teenager. I liked the book too! @vivastory 1y
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emilyhaldi
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Question 1: The book presents a cohesive clan, with Gram at the head. What do you make of the way Chase presents motherhood and mothering in this book? Does daughterhood ever take importance over motherhood?
#nyrbbookclub

Liz_M It's certainly a different view of motherhood (Parenthood) than modern, urban America. Knowing that my 12 year old nephew isn't allowed to bike to the park on his own, the freedom these young girls seem to have is strange. But I also remember long summer days of running wild with the neighborhood kids for hours on end, seemingly unsupervised, but mom always knew if we had really been misbehaving.... 1y
Liz_M More to the point of the question, Gram was a force of personality and everyone is loyal to her -- the girls feel like they are betraying her when they spend time with grandad or their own father. 1y
vivastory @Liz_M That's a really interesting point (rural vs urban childhoods). I grew up in a less urban setting & def had a lot more freedom than I would have had I grown up in a city. Gram's personality def was one of the most striking for me in the book. 1y
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sarahbarnes Motherhood feels like a burden in many ways, and daughters are a source of stress, or they are held at a distance. Among them, the daughters have their own dynamics, which take precedence over the dynamics between daughters and mothers. 1y
vivastory @sarahbarnes "daughters have their own dynamics.." this is such a great point & I think it's one of the things that makes it such a unique book 1y
Reviewsbylola Ok, so I‘m only halfway through the book but I plan to finish tonight. I think it‘s a very accurate portrayal of motherhood. There is a burden involved that is especially heavy when all of the household responsibilities fall on the woman‘s shoulders. I think this family has a very close relationship, yet they‘re also separate due to societal familial distinctions. The women bind to the others in their “tier”. 1y
Reviewsbylola And Gram is especially jaded, having lived the longest and having possibly the heaviest burden. 1y
vivastory @Reviewsbylola That's a great point about Gram being jaded 1y
arubabookwoman I'm dealing with some medical issues with my husband, and haven't been able to read much or participate on Litsy much. Sorry to miss this month's discussion. Hope things are resolved by next month's discussion. 1y
GatheringBooks I really like this question. I thought that the sisterhood and daughterhood were definitely highlighted more than motherhood per se. i felt much more keenly the bonds among females/sisters/girl-cousins/aunts-nieces, more than mother and child. I also like @Liz_M‘s insights about diff types of childhood as defined by places/spaces. The childhood depicted in the novel is one that is definitely uncommon in this day and age. 1y
arubabookwoman P.S. I love the paintings too! (edited) 1y
DrexEdit I think the author presents cohesive sets of females rather than a family clan. The men never really seem to be part of the family, even when they are part of the family. And there are divisions between mothers and daughters with each age group not really understanding the others. I don't think daughterhood ever takes precedence over motherhood in the novel. Each mother generation thought they had life figured out best. 1y
vivastory @arubabookwoman I'm so sorry to hear about the medical issues! Hope that things improve & I look forward to your posts! 1y
GatheringBooks @arubabookwoman sending you lots of light and positive energies! 💕💕 1y
LeahBergen @arubabookwoman So sorry to hear this! Sending ❤️❤️❤️. 1y
emilyhaldi @arubabookwoman Hope that things improve for you soon ❤️ 1y
quietjenn @arubabookwoman sending good thought your way. Hope things get better soon. 💙 1y
quietjenn @GatheringBooks I very much felt this! The connections between mothers and daughters felt almost incidental, and the collective we def. contributed. The most significant relationships felt like those between the sisters (especially of the "middle" generation). But I did feel like the younger girls learned to define what it means to be a woman by observing their moms, aunts, and Gram. 1y
Leftcoastzen @arubabookwoman hope things improve soon! 1y
batsy Some really interesting points here! I thought the depiction of motherhood was a fraught one; certainly the loyalties between sisters & cousins, & between daughters/granddaughters & Gram, took precedence. The most "visible" form of mothering was Libby's intervention in Celia'a burgeoning romantic life. Because of how enmeshed they all were, it seemed like the mothering was collective...reminded me a lot of Asian extended families, in that sense. 1y
batsy @arubabookwoman I'm sorry to hear about your husband's medical issues. I hope things improve very soon ❤️ 1y
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review
mklong
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Pickpick

Much darker than I was expecting, and I am here for it!

Looking forward to tomorrow‘s #NYRBBookClub discussion. @vivastory @emilyhaldi

vivastory I'm glad it worked for you! I agree, I was surprised by how dark it is 1y
BarbaraBB I guess I didn‘t make it so far to discover that it‘s dark. I am sorry now that I bailed. 1y
50 likes2 comments
review
vivastory
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Pickpick

My expectations going into Chase's debut novel were somewhat low. I feared that it would be a work of dull pastoral fiction filled with tedious details of domestic life. I was immediately struck by the unique choice of narrative voice in During the Reign etc. It is narrated in first-person plural from the viewpoint of 4 adolescent females. The events are narrated in a non-chronological order & take place during the summer, when two of the👇

vivastory characters (Anne & Katie) are on the farm with their cousins Celia & Jenny. In her review in the NY Times, Atwood wrote, ''During the Reign of the Queen of Persia' is a Norman Rockwell painting gone bad“ & I couldn't agree more. This is at once both a realistic look at the challenges faced by women & the support that they offer one another; while also being an impressionistic recollection of adolescence, with all of the attending joys & 1y
vivastory griefs. I was profoundly moved by certain passages in this novel (for example “With the vanishing of Aunt Grace, something that had bound us together and had given us strength beyond the ordinary had vanished too. Now we were simply going on, with what we'd ended up with, which was not enough but would have to do.“) I thought that this was absolutely fantastic. Looking forward to discussion Sunday! #NYRBBookClub 1y
TrishB Great review 👍🏻 1y
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emilyhaldi Love your review!! And the reference to Norman Rockwell painting gone bad 🙃 1y
sarahbarnes Loved this one, too! 1y
BarbaraBB Great review. I am glad you enjoyed it that much. I might give it another try. I seem to be unable to engage in any book at the moment 1y
merelybookish Great review! 1y
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Leftcoastzen
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A weird one for me , I really disliked Part 1: Celia & if it wasn‘t the #NYRBBookClub read I may have stopped reading . I still am unsure what I think of it , maybe our discussion might help me decide. One thing I loved , Gram had a line my grandparents used all the time , “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

emilyhaldi I'm hoping the discussion will give me more insights into this one too! 🙃 1y
Buechersuechtling Let‘s see if I can mesmerise this line. 😁 I like it. 😂 1y
48 likes2 comments
review
youneverarrived
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Mehso-so

I liked this initially, then it got a bit monotonous but I enjoyed the last two chapters, once Aunt Elinor got involved, so I‘m glad I stuck with it. It‘s not the most riveting read but there‘s things to admire; the perspective of the girls as ‘we‘ is done really well, the feeling of being adolescent & looking in, the family dynamics & the different opinions that comes with that. Should make for a good discussion. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ #nyrbbookclub

squirrelbrain Great review! 1y
emilyhaldi I‘m not quite finished with this one yet but I think it‘s looking like a “so-so” for me as well 🙂 1y
59 likes3 comments
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quietjenn
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Not quite halfway through this #NYRBBookClub pick and hoping to devote more of the afternoon to it. I can see why it wouldn't work for everyone, although personally I'm quite enjoying it. It may help that I grew up in Ohio (in a city, but still), am reminded of families I knew, and Alice Munro is one of my favorite writers.

BarbaraBB Happy you‘re enjoying it! 1y
vivastory I really enjoyed it! 1y
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review
merelybookish
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Pickpick

The story of a family of five grown sisters, their tough, hardscrabble parents, told from the perspective of four daughter/nieces/ granddaughters, and set in the family home, a farmhouse out in middle-of-nowhere Ohio. A slow book about family dynamics and relationships, about survival and loss, about what happens to those who stay and those who leave, about blood ties and old habits.It's unclear where one person ends and the next begins 👇

merelybookish It's a story about women. Whether it's joy, pain, sacrifice, insight, or gumption, women seem to have more of it. There are no happy endings here, only memories and deep loss. I liked this book but it was slow and sad. More than a character study, it's a family study. Each family member remains somewhat of a mystery but crucial for understanding the larger unit. I look forward to discussing with the #nyrbbookclub @vivastory 1y
merelybookish It did remind me of Alice Munro's Lives is Girls and Women. (Similar time period, setting, structure.) Although I think Munro is a superior writer. Chase is a good writer but at times the prose felt a little self consciously literary. 1y
emilyhaldi Love your review- very well said. I‘m looking forward to everyone‘s insights during the discussion! 1y
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LeahBergen Great review! And I was reminded a bit of Margaret Laurence. 1y
merelybookish @emilyhaldi Thank you! No doubt our discussion will give me more to think about. 1y
merelybookish @LeahBergen Yes! I posted on Barbara's post that the book felt Canadian to me somehow. The earnestness maybe? 1y
vivastory Fantastic review!! I can't wait for the discussion next weekend. I have added the Munro to my TBR as well 1y
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LeahBergen
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Well, I‘m surprised to say that I‘m really enjoying this. 😆

I was a bit worried after reading a few of our club members initial impressions but so far, so good for me. 🤞

#NYRBBookClub

vivastory Glad to hear it's working for you! I'm starting it soon 2y
daena About 70 pages in and I was really vested. 2y
BarbaraBB I am really glad you DO like it! 2y
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emilyhaldi Whew!! 😅 2y
merelybookish I'm just finishing. I have enjoyed it! Reminds me of early Alice Munro. 1y
youneverarrived I liked it initially then lost interest, but I‘m glad I stuck with it as the latter chapters are great! Glad you‘re liking it 💕 (edited) 1y
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youneverarrived
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I know I‘m not properly into a book when I put off reading it. This started off so good too. I‘ll keep persevering with it though - think it‘s just one of those where not much happens so you have to really get invested in the characters (but none of them are overly interesting to me 🙈) #nyrbbookclub

BarbaraBB I know what you mean 🤷🏻‍♀️ 2y
youneverarrived @BarbaraBB shame as it sounded brill! 2y
42 likes2 comments
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daena

“Well, I never will understand what all the fuss is about anyway,” Aunt Rachel says. “Seems to me anybody that can read can cook.” 🤣😂 #nyrbbookclub

Tamra I just said the same to my family the other day. 😄 2y
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sarahbarnes
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Heading out for the first camping trip of the season! 🏕 📚

BarbaraBB Looking good! Enjoy 🤍 2y
Cathythoughts Exciting ! 2y
vivastory I hope you had a great time! 2y
37 likes3 comments
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Leftcoastzen
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Big Friday plans !😀Gotta start this book for the
#NYRBBookClub .The Ruffles are a #blameitonLitsy
I‘m looking a you @rather_be_reading 😂You too
@vivastory Happy Friday everyone!

vivastory Enjoy! I had chips for breakfast/ lunch today (Ruffles Jalapeno Ranch) 😂 2y
AmyG The ruffles are a great choice. 2y
Hooked_on_books I‘m a fan of that flavor as well 2y
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batsy That flavour is my favourite Ruffles! 2y
Leftcoastzen @batsy I don‘t buy chips very often, hard to stop till the bag is gone , also why I usually buy single serving size ! 2y
rather_be_reading 😂 😂 Ill take the blame for this all day every day! 2y
54 likes6 comments
review
BarbaraBB
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Bailedbailed

I‘m sorry to say I didn‘t like this one at all. After 50 pages I was so bored I decided to put it away for now. It‘s my impatience I‘m sure. I often can‘t deal with this kind of book. So homey. I am not a fan of Marilynne Robinson either for that matter. Oh and the dense type didn‘t help. #NYRBBookClub

emilyhaldi 😖 I was just waiting for someone to say this! I‘m about half way through but it‘s quite dry.. (edited) 2y
batsy Oh no! 2y
BarbaraBB @emilyhaldi I‘m glad you feel the same. Dry is the right word and for me it was not engaging enough to struggle on. (edited) 2y
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Tanisha_A Oh damn! 2y
BarbaraBB @batsy @Tanisha_A No worries, it might be just me. I think @GatheringBooks and @merelybookish are enjoying it! 2y
LeahBergen Oh oh! I haven‘t started it yet. 😬 2y
GatheringBooks @BarbaraBB hello all! Yes, it is definitely a quiet sort of novel. But i love its moments, the restraint despite the unexpected violence, and the female family dynamics. 💕💕 2y
merelybookish @GatheringBooks Well said! I do like it but understand why it could bore. It feels old-fashioned to me and weighed down by a kind of earnestness that feels Canadian to me. (Although I realize this is American.) Just a lot of Canlit takes a "I am writing serious, realistic literary fiction" tone to it like this does. 2y
73 likes8 comments
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merelybookish
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Look who just might finish the #nyrbbookclub pick in time for the discussion. 🙋 @vivastory

vivastory Are you enjoying this one? 2y
merelybookish @vivastory I'm only 20 or so pages in but so far, so good. I get the comparisons to Munro and Robinson. Subtle character studies. 2y
LeahBergen Woohoo! I guess I‘d best start it soon. 😉 2y
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batsy Cutie! 🐈 2y
merelybookish @batsy He loves being used as a book prop. 😸 2y
merelybookish @LeahBergen Nice that we have an extra week! 2y
54 likes6 comments
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daena
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A nice cuppa and book to de stress from virtual schooling the kiddos. We‘re almost done....at the homestretch!! #nyrbbookclub

vivastory I can't imagine how much extra stress this is. Good vibes your way! 2y
Leftcoastzen I need to get started on this one ! 2y
BarbaraBB I just started it too. 2y
37 likes3 comments
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GatheringBooks
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#MayCharacters Day 20: #Maladjusted characters abound in this #NYRBBookClub title - and yes, @vivastory I am definitely enjoying our BOTM. Paired with steak/barbacoa burrito bowl.

vivastory I'm really looking forward to starting it! And, now I'm starving 😂 2y
Eggs ❤️📚🙏🏻😍👍🏼 2y
46 likes2 comments
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GatheringBooks
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#MayCharacters Day 18: Quite a few #Maddening characters in our #NYRBBookClub pick for May.

Soubhiville Ooooo, that all looks delicious! 2y
Eggs Lovely bookish/reading setting❣️❣️ 2y
vivastory Are you enjoying the book so far? 2y
50 likes3 comments
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BarbaraBB
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#WeeklyForecast 20/21

I am a bit at loss what to read after the fabulous Migrations. I figured I can‘t go wrong with a #persephone and our #NYRBBookClub read and have high hopes of Expecting Adam, a gift from one of my booktwins, @Suet624 🤍. But first I‘ll finish Wild, which I have been enjoying so far.

squirrelbrain These all look great! 2y
Cinfhen Ohhh, they all look good 😌 enjoy 2y
LeahBergen I think I‘ll be getting to our #NYRBBookClub pick this week, too. 👍🏻 2y
Suet624 It‘s always hard to find a good one after you‘ve read a stunner. 2y
TrishB You really have a book hangover ❤️ 2y
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vivastory
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Due to Memorial Day Weekend, the #NYRBBookClub discussion is scheduled for Sunday 6/6 @ 12 EST. Join @emilyhaldi & I as we discuss Chase's novel! The voting for the July selection will proceed as normal. I look forward to your nominations towards the end of the month @sprainedbrain

Suet624 Thank you! I was just starting to wonder if I might have to skip this one. Way too many library books that I‘ve waited weeks to get have finally arrived. First world problems. 2y
vivastory @Suet624 I try to avoid scheduling the discussion on holiday weekends 👍 2y
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DrexEdit Awesome! On the calendar! 😊 2y
vivastory @DrexEdit Glad you're joining us! 2y
BarbaraBB Looking forward to it. I‘ll get to the book soon! 2y
vivastory @BarbaraBB Looking forward to your thoughts on it! 2y
merelybookish Up next! Excited that it's compared to Robinson & Munro. Also excited to have another week 😉 2y
Liz_M Excellent! I have to much on the go for May and now I can read this the first week of June. 😁 2y
batsy Looking forward! And glad to have some extra time 😁 2y
LeahBergen Perfect! 👌 2y
Tanisha_A Woohooo! 2y
emilyhaldi Looking forward to it! 🤗 2y
vivastory @merelybookish I was intrigued by those comparisons too! 2y
vivastory @Liz_M The eternal struggle 📚📚 2y
vivastory @batsy Looking forward to your thoughts! 2y
vivastory @LeahBergen A bit of extra time is always a good thing! 2y
vivastory @Tanisha_A Glad to have you joining us 👍 2y
vivastory @emilyhaldi I think it'll be a good one 2y
sprainedbrain I‘m narrowing down my list! 2y
vivastory @sprainedbrain I'm looking forward to your nominations 👍 2y
60 likes21 comments
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GatheringBooks
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#MayCharacters Day 12: Evidently, there is a #matriarch in this story. #NYRBBookClub pick this May.

Suet624 Yum 2y
Hooked_on_books Oh, I‘m sorry, were there words on your post? Cuz all I can see is those churros! 🤤 2y
quietjenn I admit I'm hungry, but those look amazing. 😋 2y
53 likes3 comments
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Tanisha_A
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Ladies and gentlemen, i am ready.

@vivastory @emilyhaldi

#nyrbbookclub

BarbaraBB Yay! Looking forward to your thoughts! 2y
emilyhaldi Woohoo!!! Can‘t wait to hear how everyone likes it 🤗 2y
vivastory I can't wait to hear your thoughts! I should receive my copy tomorrow 2y
53 likes3 comments
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vivastory
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Thanks to @arubabookwoman for co-hosting this month. The discussion yesterday was thoughtful & drew out many details in what was for me a real gem. Join @emilyhaldi & I in May as we read & discuss Chase's novel. I look forward to your nominations @quietjenn (Sidenote: June selection will mark book 25 of #NYRBBookClub 📚📚🥳)

BarbaraBB 25 already? That is quite an achievement! (edited) 2y
merelybookish Great! Sorry I've been a bit MIA lately but I'm hoping to get this one read early! 🤞 And happy 25th to us! 🥂 2y
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BarbaraBB @arubabookwoman Thank you for co-hosting yesterday. Such insightful questions and photos! 2y
vivastory @BarbaraBB It seems like just yesterday we were enthusing over Cassandra & the Wedding 2y
vivastory @merelybookish I'm really curious about this one, esp with the Robinson comparison. Glad to have you in the group! 2y
BarbaraBB @vivastory Right?! Time flies, even with a pandemic 😷 2y
vivastory @BarbaraBB So true! Do you have any idea when you will be eligible for the vaccine? 2y
mklong April somehow slipped by while I wasn‘t looking, but I hope to get back on track in May. 2y
batsy What @mklong said! This month has been a little nutty & I just started Skylark today but I hope to be timely with my reading for the May discussion. 2y
vivastory @mklong It happens! Looking forward to discussing this one so I hope you can join us! 2y
BarbaraBB The idea is that the whole country should be vaccinated at least once before July 🤞🏽. Have you got your second yet? 2y
vivastory @batsy I think you're going to really like Skylark. I'm looking forward to your thoughts. On an unrelated note are you keeping up with the International Booker lists? 2y
vivastory @BarbaraBB I'm so happy for you! I only wish it was sooner! Yeah, I received my second dose in February. I was in the first tier because of my job. I felt relief, but guilt and anger about the other people who had to wait 2y
BarbaraBB Wow, you‘re completely safe! Is life getting back to normal for you now? 2y
sarahbarnes Thank you! I‘m still working on finishing this one and I‘m sorry to have missed the discussion yesterday. Glad it was a good one! 2y
batsy @vivastory I am trying to; it's a great list & I'm really keen to read through it. The one that really has my attention, Olga Ravn's The Employees, seems to be unavailable atm on Book Depository though but I hope it gets reprinted soon. 2y
vivastory @BarbaraBB Slowly. I will most likely be eating out in a restaurant for the first time since the pandemic this upcoming weekend & I also bought tickets for a concert. It's not until next year, but I'm still very excited. 2y
vivastory @sarahbarnes Look forward to your thoughts on it. If you enjoy it I highly recommend the following which was a group fave from from round 1 2y
vivastory @batsy It's a fascinating, & surprising, list! I haven't read any of them yet. Like you I am intrigued by The Employees, but also have my eyes on War of the Poor, At Night All Blood is Black & The Danger of Smoking in Bed 2y
sarahbarnes @batsy @vivastory I‘m really interested in The Employees, too, and can‘t find a copy of it. I did buy In Memory of Memory though and hope to start it soon. 2y
LeahBergen 25 books already?? I love our little club! ❤️❤️❤️ 2y
vivastory @LeahBergen Here's to 25 more 🍻📚 2y
vivastory @sarahbarnes In Memory of Memory does sound intriguing. I will probably read it. Has a nf book ever won the MB? 2y
Leftcoastzen I thought it was a real gem as well . 2y
quietjenn Ah, I get to nominate for a milestone! Excellent. Trying to narrow down all the tempting choices and will post soon. I'm sorry I missed yesterday, but just finished Skylark and am going to go peek at the discussion, which I'm sure was excellent. But very excited for Persia! (edited) 2y
sarahbarnes I‘m not sure if one has. It‘s interesting that it is actually categorized as fiction, even though I think it‘s based on her life. 2y
vivastory @quietjenn Looking forward to your nominations and I hope you liked Skylark. And yes, Queen of Persia sounds fascinating! 2y
vivastory @sarahbarnes It seems like there's a couple of short listed books that are blurring lines. I heard similar things about War of the Poor 2y
sarahbarnes Interesting - good to know. Also, I just finished Skylark and really enjoyed it and am looking through the great discussion. The end was a little heartbreaking. 2y
vivastory @sarahbarnes I don't see much hope for redemption for any of them unfortunately. This one seems to be one that will stick with you too. 2y
batsy @vivastory Those that you mentioned are also intriguing picks! War of the Poor seems to divide opinion based on what little I've seen so that seems especially interesting. 2y
emilyhaldi I loved yesterday‘s discussion- thanks @vivastory & @arubabookwoman !! Looking forward to hosting in May 🤗 2y
vivastory @batsy It's funny because two people who I trust are equally divided on it. I have decided to read it & decide for myself. 2y
vivastory @emilyhaldi I doubt it will be as divisive as After Claude ( #teamharriet ) but I'm looking forward to it! 2y
Tanisha_A Aha! Yay! I really liked reading Skylark, and i am defo going to read the 3 I missed from this year. Do you have a list of everything you all read? 2y
vivastory @Tanisha_A I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed Skylark! Here's a link to my GR shelf of the books our group have read:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/53745996-scott?ref=nav_mybooks&shelf=nyrbb...
2y
65 likes37 comments
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Leftcoastzen
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Found some good things on Book Cultures sale book page, including the tagged #NYRBBookClub May pick! Wish I could shop in person, maybe someday.

LeahBergen Nice! 👍 2y
batsy Great finds! Hardwick 👌🏽 And I so want the Collins and Bove! 2y
Leftcoastzen @batsy the sad thing was I tried to order the Hardwick stories as well but they were out of stock . They always have smart people sale books.😄 2y
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Leftcoastzen @LeahBergen thanks ! A great store with many temptations.I used to go to this location up by Columbia U when I would visit NYC. (edited) 2y
Suet624 Look at all those NYRB‘s! 2y
Leftcoastzen @Suet624 they make an effort to get sale NYRBs 2y
vivastory You'll have to let me know what you think of the Hardwick. I've been curious about it. 2y
Leftcoastzen @vivastory I might get it into the mix soon, I‘m buried in my #TBRMountain 2y
50 likes8 comments
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vivastory
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With an overwhelming majority of the votes, Joan Chase's During the Reign of the Queen of Persia is the May #NYRBBookClub selection. Join me & @emilyhaldi in May as we read & discuss!

emilyhaldi Looking forward to it!! ☺️ 2y
vivastory @emilyhaldi Same! I had never heard of this one but was so intrigued by the description that although I *just* bought the Williams I had to vote for it. Great selections! 2y
See All 22 Comments
LeahBergen Dang! That was a quick voting session. 😆 2y
BarbaraBB We‘ve never before been so much in unison! Looking forward to it. Thanks @emilyhaldi ! (edited) 2y
batsy Oh! I just saw the poll this morning and was gonna vote 😂 2y
vivastory @LeahBergen It really was 😂 2y
vivastory @BarbaraBB It sounds wonderful! 2y
vivastory @batsy It was a quick turn around this time. I don't know which one you were planning on voting for but I'm probably going to read the Williams sometime over the next couple of months 2y
vivastory @saresmoore I can tag you when I plan on starting the Williams. I was thinking of reading it over the next month or so 2y
quietjenn Really looking forward to it! 2y
vivastory @quietjenn Me too👏 It sounds great 2y
batsy I have this on my shelf, so my vote would have been either for this one or My Friends :) The Williams one also sounds good! 2y
LeahBergen @batsy I was really contemplating My Friends, too! 2y
Tanisha_A Hi, hi! I am now trying to get my reading mojo back. Lots of books to catch up on (all the 3 NYRB selections). Looking forward to Skylark though, and then this. 😊 2y
vivastory @Tanisha_A Glad to see you back!! I hope you enjoyed your trip ☺️ I really enjoyed all 3 of the NYRB selections so far & they each have their own advaocates, but if you were to only read one I'd say that the one that the group had an overwhelming positive response towards was 2y
vivastory *advocates 2y
saresmoore @vivastory Yes! That sounds great! 2y
vivastory @saresmoore Wonderful! Why don't we just plan for mid-April? Does the week of the 19th work for you? 2y
saresmoore Yep! Thank you! 2y
KVanRead Oops I‘ve been busy and not checking Litsy so totally missed the vote, but this one sounds excellent. Looking forward to it! And @Tanisha_A I totally agree about The True Deceiver. I absolutely loved it! 2y
GatheringBooks So happy that we will be reading this one for may as it is already in my shelves waiting to be read! Yay for that! 💕💕📚📚🧚🏻‍♀️🧚🏻‍♀️ 2y
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review
sisilia
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Pickpick

4⭐️ This is a story of three generations of women; which is interestingly told in first person made up collectively of the 4 granddaughters. Emotions run high; the bittersweet family dynamic left me in a morose state 😢

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sisilia
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I started this book two weeks ago, and then I got distracted by other books 🙈 You have my attention now, ladies (it‘s a story of three generations of women)

Cathythoughts I like these generational stories. Look forward to your review 3y
erzascarletbookgasm Yup look forward to your review:) 3y
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sisilia
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Has anyone read this? I‘m going in now 😄

Leftcoastzen I‘ve heard of it . Didn‘t know there was NYRB edition. 3y
batsy I have it, but haven't read it yet! 3y
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Lcsmcat
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@Kaye I‘d never heard of this novel. Thanks for opening my eyes to something new, and for putting this all together. It‘s been fun!

Kaye I‘m glad you had so much fun with it. Pretty neat ! ♥️ 5y
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