Friday, July 17, 2009

People of the Book

We had an amazing turnout at our first morning meeting of book group - 13 people - and everyone loved the book. It always seems to me that the best discussions are from mixed feelings about a book, but this discussion could not have been more interesting or stimulating. I was intimidated by the large size but you guys are awesome, the way you provide insight, comments and listen to each other.

I'm sorry to have let so much time lapse between the meeting and this recap - I have forgotten who said what. It's been a little exciting out here with the wildfire, but the danger to us has passed. We just have to live with the smoke.

Several said that they enjoyed the historical interludes and would have liked more expansion on those stories. A great deal of discussion was on Sarah Heath and her strange relationship with her daughter. Someone pointed out that Sarah had chosen career over family and didn't want to raise a child. The accidental pregnancy was unwelcome and then was followed shortly thereafter by the death of her lover, Aaron. It seemed that Sarah was punishing Hanna for being Aaron's daughter when she couldn't have Aaron.

We also wondered what damage the decision to let Aaron die had done to her emotional health, if any of her odd behavior came from that. Jeanette was particularly appalled that she chose death for him over blindness.

We felt sorry that Sarah denied Delilah the joy of her granddaughter. We also felt that Hanna became a much stronger woman for having to face down her mother and sever the ties. As Leslie pointed out, the dynamic between mothers and daughters is always changing and that the severance might not be as permanent as it seemed in the book. The old Hanna might not have the ability to deal with the aftermath of the deception, had she not stood up to Sarah. The new Hanna was willing to face down the lie told to her by the two people she trusted.

We entertained the question, who was your favorite character and I think we all agreed that it was Zahra, the Moor. Because of Sarah's push for leadership in a man's world, feminism was an element in this book. We thought that Zahra was certainly the strongest female character and the only one who self-actualized her life, given its limitations. Kathy said that this book reminded her of Galilleo's Daughter, which we read last year. We were reminded again how little entitlement women had then.

Brooks referred to "the people of the book" as those who had handled the book along its 500 year history. Kathy told us that actually "people of the book" is the term that in Islam, is used for non-Muslim peoples who received scriptures which were revealed to them by God before the time of Muhammad, most notably Christians and Jews. So actually the title is a bit of a double entredre.

Ozren said that not every story has a happy ending, and there certainly weren't very many happy endings in this book, except for the actual ending. I know I've forgotten a lot of the discussion. Please feel free to add what I can't remember in the comments.