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Book Club

One of the really great things about being in a book club is that you end up reading books that you would never consider otherwise. You are introduced to characters, places and time periods that you wouldn’t have discovered on your own.

Our Book Club meets at Kehillat Israel, 2014 Forest Rd, Lansing, 12:30p, bring a brown-bag dairy lunch. 

 
April 23, 2014
World Cup Wishes by Eshkol Nevo

Four friends get together to watch the 1998 World Cup final. One of them has an idea: let's write down our wishes for the next few years, put them away, and during the next final - four years from now - we'll get them out and see how many we've achieved. This is how World Cup Wishes opens, and from here we watch what happens to their wishes and their friendships as life marches on.

The four men's bond is deep and solid, but tested by betrayal, death,and distance their alliance comes under pressure. Each friend offers a different perspective, though not necessarily a reliable one... and as they and the world around them change, so do their ideas of friendship and happiness. By the end they are forced to ask whether wishes can really be fulfilled. Or will their story turn out to be a requiem - for a generation, for friendship, or even for one of the four young men?

May 28, 2014
Children and Fire
by Ursela Hegi

Though more than fifteen years have passed since Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River captivated critics and readers alike, it retains its popularity, is on academic reading lists, and continues to be adopted by book groups.

Also set in Burgdorf, Germany, Hegi’s Children and Fire tells the story of a single day that will forever transform the lives of the townspeople. At the core of this remarkable novel is the question of how one teacher—gifted and joyful, passionate and inventive—can become seduced by propaganda during the early months of Hitler’s regime and encourage her ten-year-old students to join the “Hitler-Jugend” with its hikes and songs and bonfires. Membership, she believes, will be a step toward better schools, better apprenticeships.

How can a woman we admire choose a direction we don’t admire? So much has changed for the teacher, Thekla Jansen, and the people of Burgdorf in the year since the parliament building burned. Thekla’s lover, Emil Hesping, is sure the Nazis did it to frame the communists. But Thekla believes what she hears on the radio, that the communists set the fire, and she’s willing to relinquish some of her freedoms to keep her teaching position. She has always taken her moral courage for granted, but when each silent agreement chips away at that courage, she knows she must reclaim it.

Hegi funnels pivotal moments in history through the experiences of individual characters: Thekla’s mother, who works as a housekeeper for a Jewish family; her employers, Michel and Ilse Abramowitz; Thekla’s mentally ill father; Trudi Montag and her father, Leo Montag; Fräulein Siderova, midwife to the dying; and the students who adore their young teacher. As Ursula Hegi writes along that edge where sorrow and bliss meet, she shows us how one society—educated, cultural, compassionate—can slip into a reality that’s fabricated by propaganda and controlled by fear, how a surge of national unity can be manipulated into the dehumanization of a perceived enemy and the justification of torture and murder.

Gorgeously rendered and emotionally taut, Children and Fire confirms Ursula Hegi’s position as one of the most distinguished writers of her generation.


June 25, 2014
A Man and a Woman and a Man by Savyon Liebrecht

An international bestseller--a novel of passion by one of Israel's finest writers. In the unlikely setting of a Tel Aviv nursing home, Hamutal, wife and mother, falls in love with a man in a green jacket. Like herself, he has come to visit a dying parent. As Hamutal's mother reveals unsettling truths about her Holocaust past, Hamutal's obsession with the man grows. With sensitivity and insight, Liebrecht captures the intensity of their sudden love affair and its aftermath.



July 23, 2014
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
 
As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. It was stolen moments spent with the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realized that, for the sake of herself and her son, she had to escape.

 
August 27, 2014
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid: A Novel by Shani Boianjiu
 
Yael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending a high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life. When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain. Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys. Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences. Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day. They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view. They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come. They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.
In a relentlessly energetic and arresting voice marked by humor and fierce intelligence, Shani Boianjiu, winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35,” creates an unforgettably intense world, capturing that unique time in a young woman's life when a single moment can change everything.
 
(From Lois: The novel is written as a non-linear narrative. Keep notes on the 3 girls so you don't confuse them.)
 
Monday, September 22, 2014
Note: This meeting has been shifted to Monday because Rosh Hashana begins on Wednesday night.)
 
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balsom
 
The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man?

Once We Were Brothers is Ronald H. Balson's compelling tale of two boys and a family who struggle to survive in war-torn Poland, and a young love that struggles to endure the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust. Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for a moving and powerful tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit
.
 
October 22, 2014
A Guide for the Perplexed: A Novel by Dara Horn
 
The incomparable Dara Horn returns with a spellbinding novel of how technology changes memory and how memory shapes the soul.

Software prodigy Josie Ashkenazi has invented an application that records everything its users do. When an Egyptian library invites her to visit as a consultant, her jealous sister Judith persuades her to go. But in Egypt’s postrevolutionary chaos, Josie is abducted—leaving Judith free to take over Josie’s life at home, including her husband and daughter, while Josie’s talent for preserving memories becomes a surprising test of her empathy and her only means of escape.

A century earlier, another traveler arrives in Egypt: Solomon Schechter, a Cambridge professor hunting for a medieval archive hidden in a Cairo synagogue. Both he and Josie are haunted by the work of the medieval philosopher Moses Maimonides, a doctor and rationalist who sought to reconcile faith and science, destiny and free will. But what Schechter finds, as he tracks down the remnants of a thousand-year-old community’s once-vibrant life, will reveal the power and perils of what Josie’s ingenious work brings into being: a world where nothing is ever forgotten.
 
 
 


 

 



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