“We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.”

We Were Liars book coverAs the longer days of summer started to stretch out, the Brown Baggers visited a private island near Martha’s Vineyard by reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. The choice was a bit of a departure for the group, as it is generally classified as a Young Adult book. This point started off our discussion, as some group members wondered about the subject matter and how appropriate it is for teenagers. As the group contains a number of librarians, both retired and current, there was a valiant defense in favor of a wide range of YA content. This did lead to an absorbing tangent about fiction classification, especially for books that have a wide appeal across age groups. Continue reading

“Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily.”

the-reader-bernhard-schlinkThe starkly beautiful prose of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader served as the focus of the Brown Baggers’ May meeting. Although a short novel, the layered moral issues and character relationships gave the group plenty to discuss.

One reader immediately mentioned how this book reminded her of Lolita, stories by Salinger, and the movie Summer of ‘42. This served as a springboard for discussion of the relationship between Michael and Hanna. While some felt that their age difference made the affair seem unrealistic — teenage Michael’s fantasy come to life — Hanna’s neediness proved to others why the characters were drawn to each other. Other readers pointed out that the upheaval and confusion in Germany at the time left both characters more vulnerable. Continue reading

“Redemption, transformation–God, how she wanted these things. Every day, every minute. Didn’t everyone?”

a-visit-from-the-goon-squadDespite the numerous critical accolades, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad didn’t prove to be a smash hit for the Brown Baggers. Only a few readers (full disclosure: myself included!) enjoyed the layered narrative that garnered Egan both the National Book Circle Critics Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Continue reading