HMB Book Club :: October Book Recap and Our Next Book!

Can you believe October came and went so fast? I have a feeling I’ll be thinking the same thing in a few minutes when it’s December!

Our last book club meeting was a lot of fun. Thank you to all who were able to tune in and participate! If you missed our Facebook Live, you can watch it here. {Time Saving Tip :: skip ahead to about 7:45 when we get past the technical difficulties.} You can still comment and participate in the conversation even though it’s after the fact! We’ll still see them and chances are other moms will join in, too.

Our October book was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  Let’s dive right in!

What was your overall impression of the book?

I mentioned that I was so emotionally invested in the book early-on that I had to stop a few times when I thought the story would go a certain way. I had to step back for a few days and sort of psych myself up for it before I could return to the book. Each time, though, I was wrong in my expectation and it went in a completely different direction. Ann says her reaction was the exact opposite! She got sucked into the book, but could not put it down! She basically devoured it and then she was emotionally drained and exhausted when she finished it. We both admitted to crying in this book!

What is a hero?

We discussed how this book gives us two very different versions of heroism–both in women! Yes! We may identify one as a heroine early on, but by the end, we recognize that both of these women are strong, influential heros even though they are in many other ways polar opposites. 

French pronunciation!

Since neither of us speak French, please don’t cringe if you do and we butchered the pronunciations!  We tried our best!

The mystery of the book…

One of the most compelling parts of the novel is this mystery of which sister is still alive. I kept holding on to the fact that I already knew that someone would survive. Ann said she put it out of her mind for most of the story because she was so engrossed in the individual characters’ stories.

Book themes

We could have talked all night about themes, but here are a few we discussed during the meeting.

Survival

Ann mentioned this theme of surival amid the war and all of the challenges that come with it. It really makes you question what you would do if you were in their situations. 

Family

I discussed some of the different familial relations addressed in the book, like the girls’ father.  My question was whether the father really changes in the novel or if the girls’ perception and understanding of him evolves instead. I am leaning towards the perception side of things, but I also am reminded of the quote from the beginning of the novel that Ann mentioned earlier: “In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” Maybe for their father, it took two wars for him to really figure out who he was.

Much like in the previous “survival” theme, we questioned how we might fare if we had been Vianne, thrown into adulthood too young and expected to be a mother to her younger sister. We discussed whether we could really fault Vianne for abandoning Isabelle or if it was simply the reality of a fourteen-year-old overwhelmed girl. 

Love

We also compared and contrasted the love of Vianne and her husband Antoine to Isabelle and Gaetan. Ann pointed out how their relationships are so representative of their personalities. Don’t you agree?

Do you like it when a book makes you cry?

Nicole chimed in with this question during the response! What do you think? Share in the comments {it could help influence our future book choices…}! Ann said that she likes it because it shows that it reached her on an emotional level. “This,” she said, “was one of those books that stayed with  me for days afterward.” 

I agreed with Ann—and Nicole!—that books that make you cry are books you have become invested in. 

They should make it into a movie!

Ann thought this would be a fantastic movie. She said she thought it was very similar to The Zookeeper’s Wife {if you loved The Nightingale and you’re looking for more, check it out!} and that it could be a gripping movie. 

If both sisters had lived, how would things have been different?

We speculated that maybe they would have all stayed together in France. Maybe Vianne would have fought to keep Ari more than she did. We agreed that both sisters would have been stronger leaning on the strengths of one another. We also wondered if the secret paternity of Vianne’s son would have remained a secret if Isabelle were there to divine the truth. Ann pointed out how Sophie may have been different—perhaps more like Isabelle—if things had been different.

As an author, do you flesh out all of the directions in a novel before deciding what to write?

Nicole asked this question during our discussion. I’m always nervous to answer writing questions because I am a firm believer that everyone approaches the creative process a little differently, but in my experience this is a “no and yes” sort of question. Usually for me, I see the big picture first and see where the beginning and end of a story will be. But much of what happens in the middle is character-driven and comes as I get to know a character better. So no, I do not necessarily consider every scenario while I’m writing, though I often go back and consider more when I am revising. I do mentally {and often in separate exercises that never make it into a book} put my character into different situations to see how he or she will react because it helps me learn more about this character that I am writing. Many times {and countless fiction authors of all genres will agree with me here}, our characters will surprise us the more we get to know them. Much like people in real life {my kids!!!!}.

How do the characters of the novel change {or do they change}?

Vianne

Ann felt like Vianne did change during the course of the novel when she started defying authority and helping the children and her BFF and Ari. Maybe that strength was always inside her, but she grew into that strength even more through the adversity she experienced. Ann labeled Vianne as a “Mama Llama.” Don’t you LOVE that?! 

I pointed out how Vianne tried to hide behind a cloak of normalcy and that maybe that gave her the strength to withstand all that she did. Antoine reminds Vianne that she is stronger than she thinks she is and Vianne denies it, silently. She even resumes this normalcy after the war when their family relocates to the U.S.  I didn’t think to mention it during the discussion, but in the first chapter, Vianne reflects on her life relenting, “If I had told him the truth long ago, or had danced and runk and sung more, maybe he would have seen me instead of a dependable, ordinary mother. He loves a version of me that is incomplete. I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.”

Isabelle

Ann loved Isabelle. Kathy said she was amazing. We agree! We admired the work that she did with the Resistance and the courage she possessed amid all of the adversity and horrible things going on around her. She lived always committed to doing what mattered to her. She lived with great conviction. We felt that she didn’t change in a dramatic way, but rather matured. She grew up in this war from a spirited girl to a courageous woman full of conviction. We also agreed that the final, redemptive act of her father really completed Isabelle and helped fill a void that had existed for most of her life. When Isabelle was sent out of Paris to return to her sister in Carriveau and she saw the innocent women and children shot down by Nazi planes, we pinpointed this scene as the turning point in her life when she turned from the playfulness and lightness of youth to the burden of experience and adulthood.

Julien

We took a moment to consider {maybe because we’re moms?} how learning about the courageous acts of his mother and aunt change Julien–Vianne’s son. We consider if Vianne goes on to share the whole truth or if she intends to let the final secret die with her. What a powerful change in perception must come to him when he realizes that his mom–who was probably his hero just for being his mom–is a bigger hero than he ever could have imagined.

How do you feel about the ending?

Ann loved it. We agreed that it was the right amount of closure and it tied up the biggest loose ends. Ann says she has always enjoyed historical novels based in WWII. If you do, too, here are a few more favorites that you might enjoy {if you haven’t already!}::

Nazi Officer’s Wife

All the Light We Cannot See

The Zookeeper’s Wife

The Book Thief

This novel changed my perception of survival and heroism. I loved the characters and am still haunted by them! Since reading this book, I have considered even more how important and heroic my everyday life as a mother is as I try to raise my five children to see and be the good in the world.

Our November Book

On Thursday, November 29, 2018, we will meet on Facebook Live to discuss Houston’s own Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly :: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Join us! Come with questions, examples, and favorite takeaways. This will be a totally different discussion as we consider ways to apply this to our lives as women and mothers. It will be LIFE CHANGING! Nicole will be our hostess with the mostest. I can’t wait to hear her take on this inspirational book.

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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at AliMcJoy.com, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.

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