July Read -“Red Notice”

Melissa was inspired by a recent suggestion from Katherine for our July read. See below for a synopsis of “Red Notice” as well as two other compelling choices Melissa suggested.

red notice


Red Notice by Bill Browder – This is not technically my own proposal since Kathryn recommended it to us all. I am including it, though, because it sounds like something I would enjoy reading.  From Amazon: A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin’s corruption. Bill Browder’s journey started on the South Side of Chicago and moved through Stanford Business School to the dog-eat-dog world of hedge fund investing in the 1990s. It continued in Moscow, where Browder made his fortune heading the largest investment fund in Russia after the Soviet Union’s collapse. But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs who were robbing the companies in which he was investing, Vladimir Putin turned on him and, in 2005, had him expelled from Russia.  In 2007, a group of law enforcement officers raided Browder’s offices in Moscow and stole $230 million of taxes that his fund’s companies had paid to the Russian government. Browder’s attorney Sergei Magnitsky investigated the incident and uncovered a sprawling criminal enterprise. A month after Sergei testified against the officials involved, he was arrested and thrown into pre-trial detention, where he was tortured for a year. On November 16, 2009, he was led to an isolation chamber, handcuffed to a bedrail, and beaten to death by eight guards in full riot gear. Browder glimpsed the heart of darkness, and it transformed his life: he embarked on an unrelenting quest for justice in Sergei’s name, exposing the towering cover-up that leads right up to Putin. A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world.


Almost reads:

1 – Southern Vapors by Lynn Garson – I saw this author speak at a continuing legal education seminar recently and felt she was intelligent, interesting, and engaging. She is a practicing attorney and is very open about her struggles with mental illness. Turns out she wrote a book about it and this is it. Here is the Amazon summary: Southern Vapors chronicles the author’s life from childhood through college, law school, marriage, children, careers, and finally, the landscape of divorce and single parenthood. There are glimpses of her early life as an heiress-in-waiting, big white house more Tara than Tara itself, travels on a grand scale and glamor at home. The author’s careers make appearances—lawyer, retailer, administrative assistant, purveyor of vintage handbags, editor and writer. The descent from the dizzying heights of prosperity follows, culminating in seven days locked in a low income mental institution. The author figures in most of the hospital scenes as the quintessential outsider, the observer, even when her eye is turned inward. A savvy country boy shows her new found respect when he mistakenly assumes that she drove to the hospital by herself as a way to plan her escape in advance. He was wrong, but she watches him make decisions about her both ways, first as a dumb chick hard to square with his image of a lawyer and then as a savvy lady who figured out how to work the system. After her stay at the hospital, the author observes her mind as it ebbs and flows and skirts around depression, perhaps even madness. Southern Vapors describes her quest for recovery, from traditional therapy to Native American shamanism and everything in between. She explores her relationship with each parent, unearthing some long-held secrets and ultimately achieving reconciliation with her mother and a tentative peace with her father, who is no longer living. By the end of the book, the author has two years under her belt as a practicing attorney and has regained her emotional and mental footing. Her ascent back to health is clearly apparent and enormously inspiring. You can visit the website for Southern Vapors at www.southernvapors.com and follow the book on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SouthernVapors.


2 – – I went to a reading of hers earlier this year and thought she was great.  Here’s what Amazon says about this book:  Maria Sirena tells stories. She does it for money—she was a favorite in the cigar factorThe Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo y where she worked as a lettora—and for love, spinning gossamer tales out of her own past for the benefit of friends, neighbors, and family. But now, like a modern-day Scheherazade, she will be asked to tell one last story so that eight women can keep both hope and themselves alive.

Cuba, 1963. Hurricane Flora, one of the deadliest hurricanes in recorded history, is bearing down on the island. Seven women have been forcibly evacuated from their homes and herded into the former governor’s mansion, where they are watched over by another woman, a young soldier of Castro’s new Cuba named Ofelia. Outside the storm is raging and the floodwaters are rising. In a single room on the top floor of the governor’s mansion, Maria Sirena begins to tell the incredible story of her childhood during Cuba’s Third War of Independence; of her father Augustin, a ferocious rebel; of her mother, Lulu, an astonishing woman who fought, loved, dreamed, and suffered as fiercely as her husband. Stories, however, have a way of taking on a life of their own, and transported by her story’s momentum, Maria Sirena will reveal more about herself than she or anyone ever expected. Chantel Acevedo’s The Distant Marvels is an epic adventure tale, a family saga, a love story, a stunning historical account of armed struggle against oppressors, and a long tender plea for forgiveness. It is, finally, a life-affirming novel about the kind of love that lasts a lifetime and the very art of storytelling itself.



April Book Club

April 9th Bonnie will be our host andKim will lead our conversation on “All the Light We Cannot See”. Below I have pasted the discussion questions Kim emailed us.

Bonnie is making us a scrumptious curry and asks for everyone to bring apps, wine, dessert and any other accompaniment that suits your fancy. Please “leave a comment” below to let us know if you can come and what you will bring.


1. The book opens with two epigraphs. How do these quotes set the scene for the rest of the book? Discuss how the radio plays a major part in the story and the time period. How do you think the impact of the radio back then compares with the impact of the Internet on today’s society?

2. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How did this affect your reading experience? How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?

3. Whose story did you enjoy the most? Was there any character you wanted more insight into?

4. When Werner and Jutta first hear the Frenchman on the radio, he concludes his broadcast by saying “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” (pages 48–49), and Werner recalls these words throughout the book (pages 86, 264, and 409). How do you think this phrase relates to the overall message of the story? How does it relate to Madame Manec’s question: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (page 270)?

5. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This…is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

6. Reread Madame Manec’s boiling frog analogy on page 284. Etienne later asks Marie-Laure, “Who was supposed to be the frog? Her? Or the Germans?” (page 328) Who did you think Madame Manec meant? Could it have been someone other than herself or the Germans? What does it say about Etienne that he doesn’t consider himself to be the frog?

7. On page 368, Werner thinks, “That is how things are…with everybody in this unit, in this army, in this world, they do as they’re told, they get scared, they move about with only themselves in mind. Name me someone who does not.” But in fact many of the characters show great courage and selflessness throughout the story in some way, big or small. Talk about the different ways they put themselves at risk in order to do what they think is right. What do you think were some shining moments? Who did you admire most?

8. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

9. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

10. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

11. Von Rumpel seemed to believe in the power of the Sea of Flames, but was it truly a supernatural object or was it merely a gemstone at the center of coincidence? Do you think it brought any protection to Marie-Laure and/or bad luck to those she loved?

12. When Werner and Marie-Laure discuss the unknown fate of Captain Nemo at the end of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Marie-Laure suggests the open-endedness is intentional and meant to make us wonder (page 472). Are there any unanswered questions from this story that you think are meant to make us wonder?

13. The 1970s image of Jutta is one of a woman deeply guilt-ridden and self-conscious about her identity as a German. Why do you think she feels so much guilt over the crimes of others? Can you relate to this? Do you think she should feel any shame about her identity?

14. What do you think of the author’s decision to flash forward at the end of the book? Did you like getting a peek into the future of some of these characters? Did anything surprise you?

15. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” All the Light We Cannot See is filled with examples of human nature at its best and worst. Discuss the themes of good versus evil throughout the story. How do they drive each other? What do you think are the ultimate lessons that these characters and the resolution of their stories teach us?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)