Alfresco Literary Book Discussion Group

Alfresco Literary Book Discussion Group

Now that spring is here and summer is around the corner, time to take in some fresh air while having a great discussion about the monthly Literary Book Discussion Group selection.

This is the same group that has been meeting on the fourth Tuesday of each month. For the spring and summer months the day and time are changed to:

The fourth Wednesday in April, May, and June

The books chosen for discussion are shown below!

Details:

6:00 pm

Weather permitting, the discussion will held at the tables that are outside the restaurant.

LOCATION*  Hops ’44 

625 Middle Turnpike

Storrs, Connecticut 06268

*If the Midway reopens then the discussion will mostly likely be moved to there.


April 24 2024

GLORY – By Noviolet Bulawayo

Anation of animals is stirred to revolt in the face of decadeslong dictatorial rule.

Bulawayo’s second novel—following We Need New Names (2013)—opens with the decline of Old Horse, the longtime authoritarian leader of the African nation of Jidada who is, literally, an old horse. His regime is out of touch when it isn’t actively corrupt—a (pig) crony priest emptily sings his praises, his (canine) generals support his hard-line attitude, and his (donkey) wife turns a deaf ear to protesters. When Old Horse dies, the menagerie of citizens is cautiously hopeful for reform—cats, pigs, and other disgruntled creatures tweet out their fury, echoing contemporary themes of frustration with right-wing, egotistical leaders. (The unnamed U.S. president is a “Tweeting Baboon.”) Of course, the new horse is the same as the old horse: Tuvius, aka Tuvy, arrives with plenty of rhetoric about a “New Dispensation,” but he quickly proves himself greedy, egotistical, and belligerent toward all who cross him. A counterweight comes in the form of Destiny, a goat and writer raised on memories of the old regime’s violence. Bulawayo’s use of animals gives the story a bit of quirkiness, and she writes sinuous prose rich with repetition and intensifiers that conjure a mood of an epic folktale. But the characters are so fundamentally human in behavior and action—tweeting, jet-setting, slaughtering—that the setup scarcely qualifies as an allegory. And for a novel of such breadth, its arc is straightforward; Tuvy is so cartoonishly dim, Destiny so straightforwardly heroic, and Jidadans’ rhetoric so well-worn (“What do we have to do in order for our bodies, our lives, our dreams, our futures, to finally matter?”) that the conclusions feel overly familiar despite its offbeat conceit.

A lyrical if rote tale of dominance and resistance.


May 22 2024

THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Anew spin on the H.G. Wells classic from the genre-hopping Mexican Canadian novelist.

Young 19th-century woman Carlota Moreau has spent her whole life in Yaxaktun, a ranch in northern Yucatán, Mexico, and that’s just fine with her: “I feel as if Yaxaktun is a beautiful dream and I wish to dream it forever,” she tells a visitor to the isolated property. She lives there with her beloved father, Dr. Moreau, whom she considers “the sun in the sky, lighting her days.” They’re not the only ones on the ranch, however—it’s populated by Dr. Moreau’s “hybrids,” part human and part animal, the results of the doctor’s bizarre experiments. Looming over everything is Hernando Lizalde, Dr. Moreau’s patron, who bankrolls the doctor’s laboratory in hopes that he’ll eventually create hybrids that are fit to work on his haciendas, but he seldom visits the ranch. On one of those visits, he brings along Montgomery, a self-loathing, hard-drinking English hunter whom Dr. Moreau hopes to hire as a mayordomo, an overseer of the property and its hybrids. Montgomery takes the job, and six years later things begin to fall apart: Hernando loses patience with the doctor’s slow pace, and his son, Eduardo, visits the ranch and falls for Carlota; the results of their relationship threaten to destroy everything Dr. Moreau has worked for. Meanwhile, Carlota begins to question her adored father’s experiments; the doctor acknowledges the creatures suffer greatly but insists that “pain must be endured, for without it there’d be no sweetness.” Moreno-Garcia’s novel starts a little slowly, but there’s a reason for that—the setup is crucial to the book’s action-packed second half, and the payoff is worth it. Moreno-Garcia’s previous work has spanned genres—horror in Mexican Gothic (2020), noir in Velvet Was the Night (2021)—and in this volume, she deftly combines fantasy, adventure, and even romance; the result is hard to classify but definitely a lot of fun. This isn’t the first book to riff on H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), but it’s definitely one of the better ones.

A fun literary remix.


June 26 2024

THIS OTHER EDEN by Paul Harding

Harding’s third novel revisits an appalling moment in Maine history.

Early in the 20th century, the racially diverse residents of a small island community in Maine were evicted and displaced. The local authorities who carried out this task on Malaga Island cited science as one of their motivations—but what they called science is now obvious as eugenics, and these nominally lawful actions are now seen for what they truly were: a crime. Harding’s novel draws from this history, and its epigraph from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust gives the broad outline of what the reader can expect. But Harding is after something bigger here, using this fictionalized version of history both to comment on the interconnectedness of various coastal communities and to explore the ephemeral qualities that can be lost when regarding historical events from decades away. Harding focuses on different characters over the course of the novel, including a young man named Ethan Honey, the descendant of a former slave, whose artistic skills offer the promise of a better future; Esther Honey, Ethan’s mother, who grapples with her own haunted family history and possesses a stunning knowledge of all things Shakespearean; and the well-intentioned retired White schoolteacher Matthew Diamond, who begins the novel “oblivious to the greater, probably utter, catastrophe” his presence is going to spark but finds unexpected moral reserves. As these characters find themselves rethinking their places in the world, Harding summons up lyrical sheets of prose, including one of the most evocative descriptions of a lobster dinner you’re likely to encounter. He has an eye for a striking image, as when Ethan is painting: “Put the haystacks in the sky, bristling and sharp, rasping across the lowering blue.” It’s a brief book that carries the weight of history.

A moving account of community and displacement.

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Date

Apr 24 2024

Time

6:00 PM

Location

HOPS 44
Storrs, CT
Website
https://www.hops44.com/

LIBRARY HOURS AND CONTACT INFORMATION

Monday9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
ThursdayCLOSED
Friday9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday9:00 AM - 1 PM
SundayCLOSED
Phone: 860-487-4420
Address:25 Pompey Hollow Road Ashford, CT 06278
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