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 button below for the Book Group archives. For more information contact, Sarah Diamond, 973-929-2938, [email protected]
Wednesday, March 13, 12pm
The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
In 1969, the four rambunctious Gold children, Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya, visit a psychic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side who predicts the date each of them will die. The novel then follows how the siblings deal with news of their expiration dates. In the late ’70s, Klara and Simon, the youngest, run off to San Francisco, where the closeted Simon becomes a dancer and Klara a magician and stage illusionist. In 2006, Daniel, a married army doctor based in Kingston, N.Y., learns that the psychic who foretold their fates is a con artist wanted by the FBI, and attempts to track her down. In 2010, Varya, the eldest Gold, is a longevity researcher who feels closest to the rhesus monkeys she uses for her experiments. One day, a journalist interviews her and changes the course of her life. This is a cleverly structured novel steeped in Jewish lore and the history of four decades of American life. The four Gold siblings are wonderful creations, and their story becomes a moving meditation on fate, faith, and the family ties that alternately hurt and heal. (Publishers Weekly)
Tuesday, April 9, 12pm
Promised Land: A Novel of Israel, by Martin Fletcher
*Martin Fletcher will speak at the JCC on Thursday, April 11 at 7:30 PM*
Fourteen-year-old Peter is sent west to America to escape the growing horror of Nazi Germany. But his younger brother Arie and their entire family are sent east to the death camps. Only Arie survives. The brothers reunite in the nascent Jewish state, where Arie becomes a businessman and one of the richest men in Israel, while Peter becomes a top Mossad agent heading some of Israel’s most vital espionage operations. One brother builds Israel, the other protects it. But they also fall in love with the same woman, Tamara, a lonely Jewish refugee from Cairo. And over the next two decades, as their new homeland faces extraordinary obstacles that could destroy it, the brothers’ intrigues and jealousies threaten to tear their new lives apart.
Tuesday, May 14, 12pm
Memento Park, by Mark Sarvas
Matt, a Hollywood actor, and unobservant Jew, learns that a valuable painting that was looted from his family during WWII may be returned. Matt has a tormented relationship with his father, who refuses to discuss the painting. The stories of the Hungarian artist, Ervin Kálmán, and Matt’s family intertwine, as Matt reveals how the painting came to his forebears in Hungary and played a role in saving members of his family during the Holocaust. Sarvas couples a suspenseful mystery with nuanced meditations on father-son bonds, the intricacies of identity, the aftershocks of history’s horrors, and the ways people and artworks can, perhaps even must, be endlessly reinterpreted.
Thursday, June 13, 12pm
Stolen Beauty, by Laurie Lico Albanese
Maria Altmann was a “love-struck newlywed” when Adolf Hitler invaded Austria, and with her opening sentence, Albanese draws readers into a world of glamour, art, intrigue, power and fear. Maria and husband Fritz soon learn their money and talent are of little use to the Third Reich, especially with Jewish blood in the family. Even more compelling is the interwoven story of Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, muse to artist Gustav Klimt and a woman ahead of her time in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Klimt’s commissioned gold-leaf portrait of Adele is of high interest to the Nazis and will inspire Maria to find inner strength to survive the war and save her family’s legacy. Essentially a true story, the real Maria Altmann was dauntless in restoring to her family what had been taken from them; the historical Adele Bloch-Bauer was exceptional as the queen of Vienna salon society.
Monday, July 15, 12pm
Sadness Is a White Bird, by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Israeli American teenager Jonathan and his family move back to Israel, where his grandfather was among the founding generation. Hearing his grandfather’s stories, Jonathan dreams of joining the army. However, through his mother, who is involved in the peace movement, Jonathan learns another side of Israel’s history, meeting and becoming close friends with Palestinian twins Laith and Nimreen. Their carefree explorations around Haifa eventually lead to a relationship with Nimreen. While Jonathan dreams of a future with her, their relationship begins to fracture when he introduces Laith and Nimreen to his Israeli friends, and when Nimreen takes him to meet her grandmother on the West Bank. A passionate, poetic coming-of-age story set in a minefield, brilliantly capturing the intensity of feeling on both sides of the conflict.
August 2019 — BREAK
Wednesday, Sept 11, 12pm
Gateway to the Moon, by Mary Morris
Skillfully moving back and forth between New Spain in the 16th century and northern New Mexico in the late 20th century, Morris tells the story of the Crypto-Jews, who converted to Catholicism in order to escape the Inquisition but secretly maintained many of their Jewish traditions into the present. Morris begins with Luis de Torres, a translator who traveled with Christopher Columbus to the New World. As the story moves to 1992, we meet the descendants of the Torres family living in a small town in northern New Mexico, still lighting candles on the Sabbath, avoiding pork and shellfish, not mixing meat with dairy, and having no idea why they continue these traditions. Among them is teenage Miguel, an amateur astronomer, who takes a babysitting job with a Jewish family and discovers they follow similar customs.
Thursday, Oct 10, 12pm
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, by Michael David Lukas
A package arrives at Joseph’s apartment in Berkeley three months after his father’s death in Cairo, unleashing memories from his youthful visit to Egypt, including his father’s fantastical tale of a perfect Torah, the mystical Ezra Scroll, protected by Muslim men for over 1,000 years. Drawing on the true story of the Geniza documents uncovered in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, Lukas’s entrancing novel spans generations, beginning with Ali al Raqb, a Muslim orphan trusted by rabbinical leaders to be the first watchman of the temple, a sacred duty accepted by Ali’s descendants down to Joseph’s father. Part mystery, part character study, the novel enlivens a fascinating epoch when Jews and Muslims bridged cultural divides for a common cause.
Tuesday, Nov 12, 12pm
The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck
Shattuck explores the lives of three widows at the tail end of World War II. Marianne von Lingenfels, whose husband was one of many resisters murdered in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, returns to the beautiful but dilapidated Bavarian castle, Burg Lingenfels, as the war comes to an end. Seeking safety in numbers after the deaths of husbands, Marianne invites Benita to live with her, as well as another widow, Ania, and her two sons. The women come to rely on each other as a makeshift family, much as the entire country, reeling after the horrors of the war, must imagine a new future and forge a new identity. The story provides a unique glimpse into what the average German was and was not aware of during World War II’s darkest months. A beautiful story of survival, love, and forgiveness.
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An Afterlife – Intense – 4-Star – “Many books have been written about the Holocaust but not that many about the survivors and their life afterward. This book follows Ruby and Ilya, first in a DP camp in Germany and then trying to make a new life for themselves as refugees in New Jersey.” -Gaye Olin