JCC MetroWest Book Group
Our book group is free, open to both members and non-members, and you can join and begin attending at any time! Click here for the Book Group archives.
February: Wednesday, February 15, 12:00 noon (Bring your lunch!)
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The German Girl sweeps from Berlin at the brink of the Second World War, to Cuba on the cusp of revolution, to New York in the wake of September 11, before reaching its deeply moving conclusion in the tumult of present-day Havana. Based on a true story, this masterful novel gives voice to the joys and sorrows of generations of exiles, forever seeking a place called home. In 1939, the transatlantic liner St. Louis set sail for Cuba with more than 900 passengers, most of them German Jewish refugees. In journalist Correa’s first novel, among the passengers is 12-year-old Hannah Rosenthal, her parents, her best friend, Leo, and Leo’s father. When they reach Havana, only Hannah and her mother are allowed to disembark. Many years later, a package arrives at the home of 12-year-old Anna Rosen, who lives in New York with her mother. The contents, a copy of a magazine with Hannah’s picture and a cache of photographic negatives, prove the catalyst for Anna’s exploration of her own identity, and she and her mother travel to Cuba to meet Hannah, Anna’s great-aunt.
March: Tuesday, March 14 at 12:00 noon (Bring your lunch!)
The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
When Alizée Benoit, an American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her artistic patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie’s auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now-famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt? Another thrilling tale from the art world, by the author of The Art Forger.
April: Wednesday, April 19 at 12:00 noon (Bring your lunch!)
The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz
The Gold family celebrates the Passover seder together every year. Matriarch Sylvia wants this seder to be extra special because her youngest daughter, Becca, is bringing her boyfriend and his parents, part of the legendary Rothschild family. Sylvia goes a little overboard in her preparations — she even hires a famous chef to cook the dinner. Her other daughter, Sarah, finds these preparations especially egregious, as Sylvia has never done anything remotely as grand for Sarah’s longtime (and non-Jewish) beau, Joe. Things get even more chaotic when son Gideon arrives with his new fiancée. Through the course of dinner, secrets are exposed and resentments are aired. With an impeccable eye for detail, Janowitz skillfully creates scenarios and relationships so authentic that they’re simultaneously hilarious and cringe-worthy. Equally compelling is the cast of emotionally complex, nuanced characters who are lovable even at their most exasperating.
May: Monday, May 22 at 12:00 noon (Bring your lunch!)
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
Brooklyn, 1947: In the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage: dutiful, quiet Rose, who wants nothing more than to please her difficult husband; and warm, generous Helen, the exhausted mother of four rambunctious boys. Raising their families side by side, supporting one another, Rose and Helen share an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic winter night. When the storm passes, life seems to return to normal; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and the once deep friendship between the two women begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost, but not quite, wins. Moving and evocative, Lynda Cohen Loigman’s debut novel The Two-Family House is a heart-wrenching, gripping multi-generational story, woven around the deepest of secrets.
June: Friday, June 16 at 12:00 noon (Bring your lunch!)
Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon
In 1917, Bea, the privileged daughter of Jewish industrialists in Boston and a prominent temperance leader, leaves her out-of-wedlock baby girl in her uncle’s orchard in Cape Ann. The baby is found by Emma, a dirt-poor Irish Catholic fisherman’s wife and mother of nine, who takes her in and names her Lucy Pear. Bea and Emma cross paths again in 1927 when Emma, the mistress of a politician courting Bea’s endorsement, becomes a maid for Bea’s aging uncle. Solomon slowly unravels the revelation of the women’s shared past, and future, and the horrific secret the little girl hides from both of them. The story of these women, and their little girl’s tortuous past, is set against the tumultuous labor unrest and racial politics of the era.
July: Thursday, July 13 at 12:00 noon (Bring your lunch!)
Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen
On a trip to Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell, the narrator of this haunting thriller, buys an old music book from an antique shop. Inside the book, on a loose sheet of paper, is a handwritten waltz, Incendio, by one L. Todesco. Back home in Boston, Julia plays Incendio on her violin, but doing so appears to set off a series of calamities, starting with the death of the family cat, that upset her relationships with her husband, Rob, and their three-year-old daughter, Lily. Julia subsequently travels to Venice, to try to learn more about the music and its Jewish composer, Lorenzo Todesco. Flashbacks spanning 1938 to 1944 chronicle Lorenzo’s tragic story, in particular his romance with Catholic Laura Balboni, as the Fascist regime’s ever harsher anti-Semitic laws tear families and friends apart. Gerritsen movingly depicts Julia’s search, which has some surprising repercussions and builds to a satisfying crescendo.