Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Author Visit: Jennifer duBois
The Round Rock New Neighbors Book Group Discussions are always a welcome addition to the great books we read. An author visit brings us more of everything we like about our book club: more incentive to read the author's book, more looking forward to the meeting, and more depth of understanding of the author and the book. It was exciting to have a visit with Jennifer duBois, author of A Partial History of Lost Causes, published in 2011; and Cartwheel, published in 2013 (and available in paperback the day after our visit with the author)!
DuBois began the meeting by reading the beginning of Cartwheel aloud. We had a question and answer session, with Marla first asking whether duBois found it difficult to act as a neutral narrator when writing Cartwheel, which is about a murder case somewhat similar to the current Amanda Knox case. (I didn't read Cartwheel yet, so please pardon any inaccuracies or confusion I might inadvertently create.) The author answered that she had her own ideas about the case in the book but tried to present the story from a neutral point of view. She accepted the challenge of trying to imagine the characters as individuals who could think differently from her. She suggested that the reader could probably decipher her personal position by the end of the book. Dennis asked whether politics induced her to change her position about the murder case, and duBois answered that she tried to ignore them but that her original position didn't change. Comments are welcome from those of you who read Cartwheel.
Although A Partial History of Lost Causes also contains many examples of discrepant points of view, I want to highlight the ways that our questions about this book uncovered more influences from Jennifer duBois' personal life. Cindy asked whether it was research or imagination that created the implications about Vladimir Putin's political crimes in the book. DuBois majored in political science in college, and she enjoyed researching the story. She said the events in the book were mostly true, outside of the conspiracy, which she added to the novel. She said she is still interested in political science and has been surprised by Putin's recent behavior. In response to a question Pam presented as to whether duBois is now persona non grata in Russia or perhaps worse, duBois answered that she was interviewed about the book by the Voice of Russia state-run radio station and that everyone was friendly. She did not indicate any upcoming travel plans, though!
Along those lines, Ken asked her whether she had experienced the kind of cold weather she describes in the book, because she captured the aspects of cold so well. I think all of us felt the influences of the bitterly cold weather and also the seasonal changes while reading the book. DuBois grew up in Massachusetts, so she did have some background in winter. Later in the discussion, duBois told us that her father had suffered from Alzheimer's disease and that that this had influenced some of her choices in the story. The strong theme of a mentally debilitating disease with uncertain genetic implications and a long, slow decline certainly added a dynamic dimension to the story. Of interest to us also was duBois noting that she noticed both valiant efforts and small efforts in watching her father's decline. The valiant efforts of a family coping with such a disease are known. What duBois also noticed were subtle ways in which her mother helped her father and worked to increase his comfort even though he was unable to notice or openly appreciate them. The idea of small and uncelebrated but caring comforts added richness to the ways Alexsandr treated both Irina and Elizabeta and even sometimes his wife.
I enjoyed reading A Partial History of Lost Causes! The book was a well-crafted story involving chess and Russian politics. As an omnivorous reader but with little interest in either chess or Russian history, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the story kept a pace of human interest without ever slowing down for a history lesson. The timing of this read was particularly poignant for me because of the recent Putin perpetrations, which ended up juxtaposed against the political indecencies in the novel that were attributed to Putin's rise to power at the beginning of the century.
Although I didn't think to take a poll of raised hands, I know that several other book club members enjoyed Cartwheel, and at least 4 or 5 read both books. We were fortunate to get such personal interaction with Jennifer duBois, and we look forward to her next book.