St. James Book Club
Book Club meetings are held at 6.30 p.m in the parlour.
Contact Joanie (465-3557) for more information.
2017-18 Season

The Poisonwood Bible is narrated by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist minister who drags his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The narrators soon realize that they don't belong there, while Nathan blindly and stubbornly pursues his doomed attempt to convert the natives. The wife is ever fearful of the future but is powerless to mitigate their situation. Each of the daughters reveals herself in rich and clearly differentiated self-portraits. This is a masterpiece. It is beautiful, sad, funny, terrifying, and compelling, with lyrical prose and vivid characters, both major and minor. Its many well-developed themes include guilt, forgiveness, and moral engagement. The depiction of Africa and the Africans is exquisite and the account of the rise and fall of independence provides a lesson that the West never seems to learn. Unanimously and strongly recommended.

Charleston, South Carolina, 1803. On her eleventh birthday, Sarah Grimke is given an unusual present, 10-year-old Hetty (Handful) Grimke, her new handmaiden and slave. They become friends and allies, though the relationship is often awkward and has its limits. They alternate as narrators of a story that takes place over 35 years. The Invention of Wings is a skillful blend of fact and fiction (Sarah Grimke was a well-known abolitionist and women's-rights advocate). It is a tale of two courageous, determined woman who struggle to break free of their very different bonds. And it is an unflinching depiction of a culture that has been dismantled and thoroughly discredited but has left a lasting stain on a nation. This is a very fine novel, heartbreaking and uplifting, despairing and hopeful. The prose is elegant and graceful, the characters memorable. Definitely recommended.

The Round House opens with a brutal attack on an Ojibwe woman on a North Dakota reservation. She retreats into solitude, silence, and depression. Her husband, a tribal judge, looks for justice in the courts but is frustrated by jurisdictional and other issues. Their 13-year-old son, Joe, the narrator of the story, feels his parents slipping away from him and is frustrated with the official investigation. He sets out to get some answers and enlists his friends in his quest. With deceptively simple but effective prose, Erdrich embraces the tragic and comic, imbuing the novel with memorable characters and Native legends. It is a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving chronicle of family, history, and culture. It deservedly won the National Book Award and we recommend it.

January 9
Barney's Version, Mordecai Richler's last novel and a Giller Prize winner, is among the best by one of Canada's literary legends. Barny Panofsky is crude, rude, and disrespectful. Among the charges hurled at him: he murdered his best friend. Barney does not deny his undesirable traits, but he wants to set the record straight, to refute all of the lies and half-truths. However, his memory has become unreliable and he (and the reader) are not sure what to believe. He lashes out at various individuals and groups with a biting, sarcastic wit, a talent for which Richler is famous. This apologia/confession is well-written, entertaining, and very funny. It is sectioned by Barney's three marriages but, like Barney's mind, it constantly wanders. Many fully-realized, interesting characters (including a former member of the St. James United Church choir) appear and reappear, delighting and tormenting our hero. A really good read.

      January 30  Select, read, and discuss two or three poems
      February 27  Do Not Say We Have Nothing  Madeleine Thien
      March 27  His Bloody Project  Graeme Macrae Burnet
      April 24  On Beauty  Zadie Smith
      May 29  My Name is Lucy Barton  Elizabeth Strout