Evening Book Club

Fourth Monday @ 5:30 pm

Upcoming Discussions:

March 25 @ 5:30 pm

When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford professor and the beloved writer of The Chronicles of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

April 22 @ 5:30 pm

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, an Oxford garden shed in which her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip and, learning that the word means “slave girl,” begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

May 20 @ 5:30 pm

The story of the Astors is a quintessentially American story—of ambition, invention, destruction, and reinvention.

From 1783, when German immigrant John Jacob Astor first arrived in the United States, until 2009, when Brooke Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, was convicted of defrauding his elderly mother, the Astor name occupied a unique place in American society.

The family fortune, first made by a beaver trapping business that grew into an empire, was then amplified by holdings in Manhattan real estate. Over the ensuing generations, Astors ruled Gilded Age New York society and inserted themselves into political and cultural life, but also suffered the most famous loss on the Titanic, one of many shocking and unexpected twists in the family’s story.

Past Discussions:

February 26 @ 5:30 pm

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

January 22 @ 5:30 pm

Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake—a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led—her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.

But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: her sisters are hiding things, too. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own.

Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo’s inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces—one family’s journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.

November 27 @ 5:30 pm

The Scarlet Letter: A Romance is an 1850 work of fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and is considered to be his best work.

The story begins in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, then a Puritan settlement. A young woman, Hester Prynne, is led from the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her breast. The scarlet letter “A” represents the act of adultery that she has committed; it is to be a symbol of her sin for all to see. She will not reveal her lover’s identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her public shaming, is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy.

October 23 @ 5:30 pm

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

September 25 @ 5:30 pm

Set in the late 1950s through 1960s in a small town in Massachusetts, All the Children Are Home follows the Moscatelli family—Dahlia and Louie, foster parents, and their long-term foster children Jimmy, Zaidie, and Jon—and the irrevocable changes in their lives when a six-year-old indigenous girl, Agnes,  comes to live with them.

When Dahlia decided to become a foster mother, she had a few caveats: no howling newborns, no delinquents, and above all, no girls. A harrowing incident years before left her a virtual prisoner in her own home, forever wary of the heartbreak and limitation of a girl’s life.

Eleven years after they began fostering, Dahlia and Louie consider their family complete, but when the social worker begs them to take a young girl who has been horrifically abused and neglected, they can’t say no.

 

Six-year-old Agnes Juniper arrives with no knowledge of her Native American heritage or herself beyond a box of trinkets given to her by her mother and dreamlike memories of her sister. As the years pass and outside forces threaten to tear them apart, the children, now young adults, must find the courage and resilience to save themselves and each other. Heartfelt and enthralling, All the Children Are Home is a moving testament to the enduring power of love in the face of devastating loss

August 28 @ 5:30 pm

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America. Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery—apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.
 
For this groundbreaking triple biography, history scholar Catherine Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. The richly interwoven stories of these strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies shed new light on issues of race and gender that are still relevant today—and on the legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

July 24 @ 5:30 pm

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

June 26 @ 6:30 pm

In 1943, as the war against Nazi Germany raged abroad, President Franklin Roosevelt had a critical goal: a face-to-face sit-down with his allies Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. This first-ever meeting of the Big Three in Tehran, Iran, would decide some of the most crucial strategic details of the war. Yet when the Nazis found out about the meeting, their own secret plan took shape―an assassination plot that would’ve changed history.

A true story filled with daring rescues, body doubles, and political intrigue, The Nazi Conspiracy details FDR’s pivotal meeting in Tehran and the deadly Nazi plot against the heads of state of the three major Allied powers who attended it.

With all the hallmarks of a Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch page-turner, The Nazi Conspiracy explores the great political minds of the twentieth century, investigating the pivotal years of the war in gripping detail. This meeting of the Big Three changed the course of World War II. Here’s the inside story of how it almost led to a world-shattering disaster.

May 22 @ 6:30 pm

Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
 
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
 
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.

April 24 @ 6:30 pm

It’s 1978, and Ave Maria Mulligan is the thirty-five-year-old self-proclaimed spinster of Big Stone Gap, a sleepy hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She’s also the local pharmacist, the co-captain of the Rescue Squad, and the director of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the town’s long-running Outdoor Drama. Ave Maria is content with her life—until, one fateful day, her past opens wide with the revelation of a long-buried secret that will alter the course of her life. Before she knows it, Ave Maria is fielding marriage proposals, trying to claim her rightful inheritance, and planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy—one that will change her view of the world and her own place in it forever.

Millions of readers around the world have fallen in love with the small town of Big Stone Gap, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and its self-proclaimed spinster. Full of wit and wonder, hilarity and heart, Big Stone Gap is a gem of a book, and one that you will share with friends and family for years to come.

March 27 @ 6:30 pm

With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer’s extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age.

Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer’s most celebrated paintings.

Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . . . even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil. 

February 27 @ 6:30 pm

In this lush, atmospheric page-turner, nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper has married Laurence, the seductively mysterious owner of a vast tea empire in colonial Ceylon, after a whirlwind romance in London. When she joins him at his faraway tea plantation, she’s filled with hope for their life together, eager to take on the role of mistress of the house, learn the tea business, and start a family. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbors and her new sister-in-law treacherous. Gwen finds herself drawn to a local Sinhalese man of questionable intentions and worries about her new husband’s connection to a brash American businesswoman. But most troubling are the unanswered questions surrounding Laurence’s first marriage. Why won’t anyone discuss the fate of his first wife? Who’s buried in the unmarked grave in the forest? As the darkness of her husband’s past emerges, Gwen is forced to make a devastating choice, one that could destroy their future and Gwen’s chance at happiness.

January 23 @ 6:30 pm

What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke remains a mystery, but the women who descended from Eleanor Dare have long known that the truth lies in what she left behind: a message carved onto a large stone and the contents of her treasured commonplace book. Brought from England on Eleanor’s fateful voyage to the New World, her book was passed down through the fifteen generations of daughters who followed as they came of age. Thirteen-year-old Alice had been next in line to receive it, but her mother’s tragic death fractured the unbroken legacy and the Dare Stone and the shadowy history recorded in the book faded into memory. Or so Alice hoped.

November 28 @ 6:30 pm

On a sultry August day in 1922, Jay Gatsby is shot dead in his West Egg swimming pool. To the police, it appears to be an open-and-shut case of murder/suicide when the body of George Wilson, a local mechanic, is found in the woods nearby.

Then a diamond hairpin is discovered in the bushes by the pool, and three women fall under suspicion. Each holds a key that can unlock the truth to the mysterious life and death of this enigmatic millionaire. 

Daisy Buchanan once thought she might marry Gatsby—before her family was torn apart by an unspeakable tragedy that sent her into the arms of the philandering Tom Buchanan.

Jordan Baker, Daisy’s best friend, guards a secret that derailed her promising golf career and threatens to ruin her friendship with Daisy as well.

Catherine McCoy, a suffragette, fights for women’s freedom and independence, and especially for her sister, Myrtle Wilson, who’s trapped in a terrible marriage.

Their stories unfold in the years leading up to that fateful summer of 1922, when all three of their lives are on the brink of unraveling. Each woman is pulled deeper into Jay Gatsby’s romantic obsession, with devastating consequences for all of them.

October 24 @ 6:30 pm

In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.

Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.

Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall–an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman’s fierce persistence helped win the war.

CONNECT. DISCOVER. CREATE.