Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Club: March

There were times while reading this book that I looked over at it sitting on my bedside stand and just couldn't pick it up. Sometimes I do that if a book is boring or if the story is making me nervous but this was different. I couldn't pick it up because I felt like I was watching a man being stripped of his pride, his ideals and his belief in humanity.

The writing was incredible, the story is good, the characters are strong. But be prepared, I don't know if you have ever read a book that is this sad. Perhaps book club member Rachel put it best when she said, "Oh March...March made me so sad."

Book club member Joan said, "I loved the book. It didn't make me sad, but it was sobering. I grew up with a father whom I adored, but he wasn't as successful at negotiating the world as he wanted to be. I guess that's part of the reason the book resonated with me."

For those of you who have not read the book, the basic premise is that it follows Pa' March (who we know from the book Little Women) as he is "away at war." Pa' March, an abolitionist who has been part of the underground railroad goes off to fight in the civil war. He is a minister (being too old for the cavalry) and spends most of his time helping out and teaching the x-slaves to read. I won't give away too much of the story, but the x-plantation he is working on is recaptured. Pa is injured and ill and is sent to a hospital in the North to recover.

As he is starting recovering physically, he questions if he will ever be able to recover mentally. He sees terrible things happen to good people (on a side note, I liked how the book was able to portray terrible things without being too gory). I have since found myself thinking about recovery.

The world breaks all of of us and yet, we recover. We are able to get up in the morning. Our first boyfriend breaks our heart and we're sure that love doesn't exist but we date again. And maybe not to the extent of Pa March but I think we each lose our faith in humanity and remarkably, we come back. We may be a little less trustful, a little more guarded, but we come back.

As Ernest Hemingway said in A Farewell to Arms, “The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places.”

So book club, here is the question for March (and the good news is you can answer it even if you didn't read the book)

How do we recover? How do we become stronger at the broken places?

**Just a warning, not all of our book club members liked March. Mary said, "I was so excited to read this, since I love Little Women so much! I was thrilled to think of the possibilities that are gained from seeing the stories through the eyes of Mr. March, their father.

However, I was sorely disappointed. The story was not written in the same spirit or style as the original, which can be expected with a different author. However, the main character did not have the morals and character that you would hope, gleaning from an optimistic book like Little Women."

***Next month we are reading American Pastoral by Philip Roth.  First Friday of July.  I have no idea what the book is about but it sounds very patriotic doesn't it?  Perfect for July.


  1. Sallee love, I think you've forgotten that we read American Pastorale last year. It was depressing. It's told from the point of view of a journalist who goes to his old reunion and makes connections with one of his idols from growing up, his best friend's older brother. Swede is the idol, and his life looks perfect, but it's not. His daughter committed a terroist act, killing people, and the narrator has had prostate surgery and is now incontinent but is asked to write Swede's family history...not much to celebrate here....I remember it because we read it right after we finished Middlesex, and it wasn't as good as that book. Sorry.....I don't think I finished it but I remember reading it in France.

  2. Oh Dear Sallee--American Pastoral is a DARK book. There are scenes that still haunt me a decade after reading it. Just a heads up, in case you were looking for something to celebrate the 4th with.
    Gilead by Marilyn Robinson is lovely, but a bit slow (but oh so moving) or Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter Maladies is a great collection of short stories.
    House Made of Dawn or Angle of Repose are goodies too.

    As for March, I'm embarrassed to admit that it is still on my nightstand. I have been having too much fun reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.