The latest issue of Domino Magazine features Hemingway’s Key West writing studio, where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and Have and Have Not.
See the photos and read the story in the Spring 2015 issue of Domino Magazine.
One of my favorite sources for design inspiration is Design Taxi. Today, Design Taxi shared images of Lester, a “3D printed book holder” by designers Ludwig Mattsson and Simon Eriksson (leave it to the Scandinavians to be the arbiters of cool). I was confused by the description at first. Does 3D printed book holder mean that it is for the printed book, or that it was printed with a 3D printer? Both! Newfangled gadgets for the old-fashioned reader.LOVE
— TAXI (@designtaxi) March 9, 2015
“Ripe for reading groups.” The Sacramento Bee A Books-a-Million Book Club Pick
“Golden State‘s fast-moving plot combines political turmoil, a birth, a hostage situation, and a woman’s struggle to find inner strength after divorce…a perfect summer page-turner! ” Coastal Living Magazine May Book Club pick
“[A] riveting read . . . Mesmerizing and intricate, Richmond’s dissection of a California on the violent brink of secession from the nation provides the backdrop to her deeper inspection of the uneasy, fragile relationship between siblings.”—Booklist (starred review)
Reading Group Guide
1. The author uses an unconventional timeline to tell her story, moving back and forth between past, present, and earlier that morning. What elements does this add to the reading experience? How would the experience have changed had the author used a strictly linear approach?
2. How are music and lyrics important throughout the story? What does the incessancy of Tom’s voice on the radio mean to Julie?
3. Describe how Heather and Julie’s relationship changes. What are the most influential moments? If you were Julie, would you have been able to forgive Heather?
4. On page 148, Julie questions her and Tom’s relationship by saying, “Without a child, are we even a family?” Ethan undoubtedly transforms Julie and Tom’s life, but does he prove that children are necessary to have a real family?
5. On page 80, Julie wonders, “Between a marriage one chooses and a blood relation one doesn’t, shouldn’t marriage be the more powerful bond?” Does Julie find an answer to this question? Which do you think is the stronger bond?
6. What does Julie’s mother represent? Why are Julie’s memories of Mississippi and her childhood so important? Why might she reflect on them during the stress of the hostage situation?
7. The characters in Golden State grapple with the idea of things either happening for a reason or happening due to cause and effect. Julie spends most of the novel defending the latter, but which do you believe in? Why?
8. Explain Dennis and Julie’s relationship. How is it possible that Julie could feel remorse for Dennis in the midst of a hostage crisis?
9. Throughout the novel, Julie views her life as a series of beginnings and endings, rather than a continuum of learning and growing. Does this mindset hurt or help her? Does her attitude change by the end of the novel? Through which interpretation do you view your life?
10. The author leaves certain questions unanswered at the close of the story. If you were to write a sequel, how would you tie up the novel’s loose ends?
11. On page 94, Tom says, “We become so used to the way things are . . . we can’t imagine things being any other way.” What does he mean by this? How does the premise of Golden State encourage readers to imagine the impossible?
12. Of all the themes in the novel—-forgiveness, family, belief, patriotism, identity, etc.—-which was the most relevant to you? Why?
Read an excerpt from Golden State on my Random House author page.
An exquisitely wrought piece of storytelling that is sure to linger in the mind long after the last page is read…in the hands of talented author Michelle Richmond, we very soon find ourselves completely invested and onboard…A many-layered page-turner that is emotionally resonant and satisfying, enriched by a playlist of songs composing a mental soundtrack that music lovers will embrace. Bookreporter
The Room, by Jonas Karlsson
A delightfully strange, unflinchingly surreal novel that brings to mind Kafka and Hrabal. When a narcissistic government worker named Bjorn discovers a secret room, his co-workers, who do not believe the room exists, ostracize him. While in the room, however, Bjorn does his best work, making himself indispensable. The co-workers who despise him come to resentfully rely on him to keep their entire department relevant. A slim, tricky, maddeningly amusing novel that leaves many questions unanswered. Of all the books I’ve read this year, this is the one that most often comes to mind at random moments.
Crown Publishing, Feb. 2015
There Must Be Some Mistake, by Frederick Barthelme
Forgetful Bay reminds me a lot of the Gulf Coast, where I grew up. No one does Gulf Coast torpor–the heat and humidity and wrenching boredom of it–quite like Barthelme. Wallace Webster lives a quiet life, observing the strange goings-on and frequent deaths in this backwater community with a sharp eye and quick wit. I was reminded of the short story “The School,” by Barthelme’s brother Donald, in which a series of small animals dies, leaving a group of innocent children wondering, “Is death that which gives meaning to life?” As with “The School,” the crimes that befall Forgetful Bay become increasingly difficult to ignore.
Barthelme draws Webster’s relationships with the various women in his life–daughter, co-worker, and occasional lover–with tenderness and complexity. A wonderful novel by one of my favorite writers, whose work proves, again and again, that you don’t need a lot of pages to cover a whole lot of emotional ground.
If, like me, you were raised on a steady diet of Rapture sermons, you’ll find much to relate to in Coming of Age at the End of Days, the darkly entertaining novel of faith gone awry by Alice LaPlante, the bestselling author of Circle of Wives.
Sixteen year old Anna, unpopular at school and searching for something to hold on to, falls under the spell of the Goldshmidts. The Goldshmidt parents and their teenaged son, Lars, belong to a cult whose mission is to speed up the coming of the Tribulation–the dark period of hell on earth that fundamentalist Christians believe will follow the second coming of Christ. When she is suddenly orphaned, Anna becomes ever more obsessed with the Tribulation and her role in making it happen.
The cult’s mission centers on the breeding of pure red heifers; Orthodox Judaism holds that Jews must be purified by the ashes of a red heifer in order to rebuild the Third Temple. Evangelical Christians have long been on this bandwagon, as they believe that the rebuilding of the Third Temple is a prerequisite for the coming of Christ. This is great stuff, and it’s not even made up. For a fascinating, in-depth explanation of the red heifer mythology and a profile of the Mississippi preacher named Clyde Lott and the Orthodox Rabbi who are in cahoots to breed cattle to get things rolling, read the excellent PBS Frontline report, Forcing the End: Why Do a Pentecostal Preacher from Mississippi and an Orthodox Rabbi from Jerusalem Believe That a Red Heifer Can Bring Change?
In the background of LaPlante’s novel is a far-away figure who is working to breed the heifers–a character who seems to be based to large extent on Lott. For readers who didn’t grow up with the terrifying Left Behind series (we watched them at church lock-ins) and with the Rapture in the background as a constant threat, LaPlante’s novel may seem delightfully far-fetched. As someone who believed all this stuff hook, line, and sinker until I left high school, it’s fun to read it as an adult, when I am able to see it as a dark fairy tale instead of a terrifying inevitability.
Anna is an interesting character, and I easily found myself rooting for her. The only bit that didn’t quite ring true was Anna’s initial fascination with Lars. He utters a few words to her at a bus stop, and she falls instantly under his spell. I would have liked to see her more gradually sucked in; a deeper exploration of why she fell for Lars’s story, and for and Lars’s outsized view of his own elevated place in the world, would have made for a richer character.
What I find most interesting about the Tribulation is its potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Evangelical American presidents have made monumentally dangerous decisions based upon the belief that it is their duty to move the world in the direction of the Second Coming. As I write this, ISIS too is attempting to bring on the Apocalypse. With three distinctly different groups–evangelical Christians, Islamic extremists, and Orthodox Jews–moving toward three very different versions of the end of days, the Tribulation, which Evangelical Christian envision as hell on earth, may very well come to pass.
In Coming of Age at the End of Days, LaPlante has crafted a darkly entertaining and often enlightening cautionary tale about what happens when youth and faith collide.
Atlantic Monthly Press, August 2015