Between the Covers (Book Group)

Book discussion series at Shir Shalom, currently enjoying another successful year in this format. All are welcome!

Each meeting focuses on a selected work of contemporary Jewish fiction by a Jewish author. Discussion leadership rotates. We are a friendly, intelligent and intergenerational group of readers who love to explore books and make new friends by sharing ideas and feelings through literature.

Sponsored by Sisterhood, Between the Covers meetings welcome all women, men and mature teens of the community. We meet in the Library free of charge. Newcomers are especially welcome at any meeting.  Brown Bag Lunch at 11:30 AM, Discussion from Noon until 1:30 PM.

Books are ordered in advance by individual members. They may be found new or used at area bookstores, online or sometimes through the local library and inter-library loan (depending on how recent the title is). If you are unable to finish the book in time for the meeting, please come anyway to hear the discussion!

NEXT UP:

Sept. 16, 2016:

Night, by Elie Wiesel

1986     19 copies in library   109 pages

Night– A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it  the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

Oct. 21, 2016:

The Boston Girl: A Novel, by Anita Diamant

2014     26 copies in library   322 pages

A story “about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century. Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine–a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love. Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.””–

Nov. 18, 2016:

And After the Fire: A Novel, by Lauren Belfer

2016     40 copies in library   451 pages

“A new powerful and passionate novel–inspired by historical events–about two women, one European and one American, and the mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes both their lives. In the ruins of Germany in 1945, at the end of World War II, American soldier Henry Sachs takes a souvenir, an old music manuscript, from a seemingly deserted mansion and mistakenly kills the girl who tries to stop him. In America in 2010, Henry’s niece, Susanna Kessler, struggles to rebuild her life after she experiences a devastating act of violence on the streets of New York City. When Henry dies soon after, she uncovers the long-hidden music manuscript. She becomes determined to discover what it is and to return it to its rightful owner, a journey that will challenge her preconceptions about herself and her family’s history–and also offer her an opportunity to finally make peace with the past. In Berlin, Germany, in 1796, amid the city’s glittering salons where aristocrats and commoners, Christians and Jews, mingle freely despite simmering anti-Semitism, Sara Itzig Levy, a renowned musician, conceals the manuscript of an anti-Jewish cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, an unsettling gift to her from Bach’s son, her teacher. This work and its disturbing message will haunt Sara and her family for generations to come. Interweaving the stories of Susanna and Sara, and their families, And After the Fire traverses over two hundred years of history, from the eighteenth century through the Holocaust and into today, seamlessly melding past and present, real and imagined.”—

Dec. 16, 2016

Between Friends, by Amos Oz

2013   4 copies in library   179 pages

“Oz lifts the veil on kibbutz existence without palaver. His pinpoint descriptions are pared to perfection. His people twitch with life.” — Scotsman In Between Friends, Amos Oz returns to the kibbutz of the late 1950s, the time and place where his writing began. These eight interconnected stories, set in the fictitious Kibbutz Yekhat, draw masterly profiles of idealistic men and women enduring personal hardships in the shadow of one of the greatest collective dreams of the twentieth century. A devoted father who fails to challenge his daughter’s lover, an old friend, a man his own age; an elderly gardener who carries on his shoulders the sorrows of the world; a woman writing poignant letters to her husband’s mistress–amid this motley group of people, a man named Martin attempts to teach everyone Esperanto. Each of these stories is a luminous human and literary study; together they offer an eloquent portrait of an idea and of a charged and fascinating epoch. Amos Oz at home. And at his best. Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston “—

Jan. 20 2017:

My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem        

2015    18 copies in library   276 pages

“Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. Every fall, her father would pack the family into the car and they would drive across the country, in search of their next adventure. The seeds were planted: Steinem would spend much of her life on the road, as a journalist, organizer, activist, and speaker. In vivid stories that span an entire career, Steinem writes about her time on the campaign trail, from Bobby Kennedy to Hillary Clinton; her early exposure to social activism in India, and the decades spent organizing ground-up movements in America; the taxi drivers who were “vectors of modern myths” and the airline stewardesses who embraced the feminist revolution; and the infinite, surprising contrasts, the “surrealism in everyday life” that Steinem encountered as she traveled back and forth across the country. With the unique perspective of one of the greatest feminist icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, here is an inspiring, profound, enlightening memoir of one woman’s life-long journey”–

Feb. 17 2017:

The English Spy, by Daniel Silva       

2015    41 copies in library   484 pages

The target is royal

The game is revenge

Gabriel Allon returns in the summer’s hottest thriller, from #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva.

Stretched topless upon the foredeck, drink in hand, her flawless skin baking in the sun, was the most famous woman in the world. And one deck below, preparing an appetizer of tuna tartare, cucumber, and pineapple, was the man who was going to kill her. . . .

She is an iconic member of the British Royal Family, beloved for her beauty and charitable works, resented by her former husband and his mother, the Queen of England. But when a bomb explodes aboard her holiday yacht, British intelligence turns to one man to track down her killer: legendary spy and assassin Gabriel Allon.

Gabriel’s target is Eamon Quinn, a master bomb maker and mercenary of death who sells his services to the highest bidder. Quinn is an elusive man of the shadows–“a whisper in a half-lit chapel, a loose thread at the hem of a discarded garment”–but fortunately Gabriel does not pursue him alone. At his side is Christopher Keller, a British commando turned professional assassin who knows Quinn’s murderous handiwork all too well.

The English Spy moves at light speed from the glamorous island of Saint Barthélemy to the mean streets of West Belfast to a cottage atop the cliffs of Cornwall that Gabriel holds dear. And though he does not realize it, he is stalking an old enemy–a cabal of evil that wants nothing more than to see him dead. Gabriel will find it necessary to oblige them, for when a man is out for vengeance, death has its distinct advantages.

Filled with breathtaking twists, The English Spy will hold readers spellbound from its riveting opening passages to its heart-stopping conclusion. It is a timely reminder that there are some men in the world who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. And it proves once again why Daniel Silva is regarded as his generation’s finest writer of international thrillers.

Mar 17 2017:

The Secret Chord: A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks       

2015    29 copies in library   302 pages

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected. We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him–from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.

Apr 21 2017:

The Four of Us: The Story of a Family, by Elizabeth Swados 

1991    9 copies in library   243 pages

The moving story of the author’s talented family, which is haunted by the tragedy of the first child’s schizophrenia. Four essays, one for each family member’s story, combine to create a complex and resonant picture of the four sides of a family rectangle. (Local Buffalo connection)

May 19 2017:

The Last Flight of Poxi West, by Daniel Torday          

2015    15 copies in library  291 pages

“All his life, Elijah Goldstein has idolized his charismatic Uncle Poxl. Intensely magnetic, cultured and brilliant, Poxl takes Elijah under his wing, introducing him to opera and art and literature. But when Poxl publishes a memoir of how he was forced to leave his home north of Prague at the start of WWII and then avenged the deaths of his parents by flying RAF bombers over Germany during the war, killing thousands of German citizens, Elijah watches as the carefully constructed world his uncle has created begins to unravel. As Elijah discovers the darker truth of Poxl’s past, he comes to understand that the fearless war hero he always revered is in fact a broken and devastated man who suffered unimaginable losses from which he has never recovered. [This book, the author’s] debut novel, weaves together what it means to be a family in the shadow of war– to love, to lose, and to heal”—

June 16 2017:

The Fortune Teller’s Kiss, by Brenda Serotte  

2012    Not in Library yet   220 pages

There was always the incantation: “Whoever wishes you harm, may harm come to them!” And just in case that didn’t work, there were garlic and cloves to repel the Evil Eye—or, better yet, the dried foreskin from a baby boy’s circumcision, ground to a fine powder. But whatever precautions Brenda Serotte was subjected to, they were not enough. Shortly before her eighth birthday, in the fall of 1954, she came down with polio—painfully singled out in a world already marked by differences. Her bout with the dreaded disease is at the heart of this poignant and heartbreakingly hilarious memoir of growing up a Sephardic Jew among Ashkenazi neighbors in the Bronx.

This was a world of belly dancers and fortune tellers, shelter drills and vast quantities of Mediterranean food; a world of staunchly joined and endlessly contrary aunts and uncles, all drawn here in loving, merciless detail. The Fortune Teller’s Kiss is a heartfelt tribute to a disappearing culture and a paean to the author’s truly quirky clan, especially her beloved champion, her father. It is also a deft and intimate cultural history of the Bronx fifty years ago and of its middle-class inhabitants, their attitudes toward contagious illness, womanly beauty, poverty, and belonging.

July 21 2017:

Why We Remain Jews, The Path to Faith, by Vladimir Tsesis, MD     

2013    Not in Library yet   254 pages  

Dr. Tsesis describes the path he traversed from religious ignorance to strong belief in the Jewish religion. In this book whose themes intersect with philosophy, theology, and ethics, Tsesis assigns a special place to the proof of his conclusion that religion and science–especially in light of recent discoveries–are not antagonists, and are, in fact, in complete harmony, supplementing and not excluding each other. In the spirit of ecumenism Tsesis speaks about coexistence of different religions, which share the common objective of assurance of perpetual survival of the human race. The unifying theme of this book, however, is the beauty of the Jewish religion and a possible answer to the question of why we remain Jews.

Last updated: September 3, 2016 at 15:30 pm