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! Meetings will be held on Zoom. All book discussions will begin at 12 PM and will be immediately followed by talks with the authors at 1 PM.
Click the button below for the Book Group archives. For more information contact, Katy Strulson, 973-530-3915, [email protected].
The House Is On Fire, by Rachel Beanland
Told from the perspectives of four people whose actions changed the course of history, this masterful work of historical fiction takes readers back to 1811 Richmond, Virginia, where, on the night after Christmas, the city’s only theater burned to the ground in the middle of a performance, tearing apart a community. These four pivotal characters, all somehow connected to the theater, make a series of split-second decisions that will not only affect their own lives but those of countless others. And in the days following the fire, as news of the disaster spreads across the United States, the paths of these four people will become forever intertwined.
Kunstlers in Paradise, by Cathleen Schine
For years, clever and glamorous Mamie Künstler, 93, has lived happily in her bungalow in Venice, California with her housekeeper and gigantic St. Bernard dog. Their tranquility is upended when Mamie’s twenty-something grandson, Julian, arrives from New York City to seek his fortune in Hollywood. But it is 2020, the global pandemic sweeps in, and Julian’s short visit suddenly has no end in sight. Mamie was only eleven when the Künstlers escaped Vienna in 1939. They made their way, stunned and overwhelmed, to sunny, surreal Los Angeles where they joined a colony of distinguished Jewish musicians, writers and intellectuals also escaping Hitler. Now, faced with months of lockdown and a willing listener, Mamie begins to tell Julian the buried stories of her early years in Los Angeles.
To Die Beautiful, by Buzzy Jackson
Based on the true story of Hannie Schaft, known to the Nazis as the Girl with Red Hair. It’s 1940 and Hannie Schaft is a shy nineteen-year-old law student living in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The timid, studious university student who once dreamed of becoming a League of Nations lawyer undertakes steadily more risky acts of defiance against the occupiers, from merely delivering supplies to stealing IDs to carrying a loaded gun. She conceals her Jewish friends and begins to fall for a fellow Resistance fighter, working to find any act, no matter how small, to combat the enemy. Exquisitely balanced between cloak-and-dagger secrecy, the grinding realities of waiting out your quarry, and the crushing fear of discovery, To Die Beautiful displays the courage and power of a woman committed to doing what is right in a world gone terribly wrong.
Hope, by Andrew Ridker
Ridker’s slashing satire of upper-middle-class life turns on the foibles of a seemingly charmed Jewish family in Brookline, Mass. Scott Greenspan is a well-respected cardiac surgeon. His wife, Deb, is known for her good work on various school and synagogue activities. Their daughter, Maya, works at a prestigious New York publishing house, while her younger brother, Gideon, is a biology major at Columbia and hopes to become a doctor. The Greenspans’ perfect facade is shattered after Scott is caught falsifying data on a clinical trial. Ridker’s account of characters in free fall is painfully funny, filled with cringeworthy scenes that expose them at their most needy. Yet he never loses sight of their basic humanity. (Publisher’s Weekly)
Once We Were Home, by Jennifer Rosner
Among the tragedies of WWII were the Jewish children separated from their families, given new names, and instructed to follow new religions. Rosner follows The Yellow Bird Sings (2020), with this complex tale about fear, survival, and what it means to be a family, as four children grapple with their identities during and after the war. Roger, taken to a French convent and baptized into Catholicism, is smuggled away to Spain when his relatives petition for his return. Their mother sends seven-year-old Mira and her three-year-old brother, Daniel, away from the Jewish ghetto to the relative safety of a childless couple in the Polish countryside, who tell prying neighbors the children are their niece and nephew. And in the late 1960s, Renata, a German-born Brit whose mother insisted they not mention their homeland, begins work on an archaeological dig in Jerusalem. All Rosner’s uprooted characters eventually come to Israel, seeking a path to the future while struggling with the losses of the past. (Booklist)
My Last Innocent Year, by Daisy Alpert Florin
It’s 1998 and Isabel Rosen, the only daughter of a Lower East Side appetizing store owner, has one semester left at Wilder College, a prestigious school in New Hampshire. Desperate to shed her working-class roots and still mourning the death of her mother four years earlier, Isabel has always felt like an outsider at Wilder but now, in her final semester, she believes she has found her place—until a nonconsensual sexual encounter with one of the only other Jewish students on campus leaves her reeling. A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal.
We Must Not Think of Ourselves, by Lauren Grodstein
In time for Yom Hashoah comes this heart-wrenching story of love and defiance set in the Warsaw Ghetto, based on the actual archives kept by those determined to have their stories survive World War II. Inspired by the testimony-gathering project with the code name Oneg Shabbat, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Grodstein draws readers into the lives of people living on the edge. Told with immediacy and heart, We Must Not Think of Ourselves is a piercing story of love, determination, and sacrifice.
Picture in the Sand, by Peter Blauner
When Alex Hassan gets accepted to an Ivy League university, his middle-class Egyptian-American family is filled with pride and excitement. But that joy turns to shock when they discover that he’s run off to the Middle East to join a holy war instead. When he refuses to communicate with everyone else, his loving grandfather Ali emails him one last plea. If Alex will stay in touch, his grandfather will share with Alex – and only Alex – a manuscript containing the secret story of his own life that he’s kept hidden from his family, until now.
The Night Travelers, by Armando Lucas Correa
Separated by time but united by sacrifice, four women experience love, loss, war, and hope from the rise of Nazism to the fall of the Berlin Wall as they embark on journeys of self-discovery and maternal love. Lilith, the child of a white mother and Black father, has no place in society under the laws of the Third Reich. So her mother, Ally, decides she must take drastic action to save Lilith by sending her to Cuba with their Jewish neighbors. This launches a multigenerational saga that explores the legacy of war and revolution. Once grown, Lilith must face her own terrible choice as revolution engulfs Cuba, and she must decide whether to deliver her daughter, Nadine, to safety in New York. Years later, Nadine returns to Germany to confront the past of her adopted mother and her biological family, as revelations rewrite what she thought she knew. A moving account of the tragic separation of families caught in the vise of history.
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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