Category Archives: Fellowship of the Worms

Review and Fellowship of the Worms Discussion – A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being

Title: A Tale for the Time Being

Author: Ruth Ozeki

2013 – Fiction – Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism

Rating: 5/5

Source: Library

The Story: A Hello Kitty lunchbox inside a plastic freezer bag washes up on the shores of Canada. Ruth is drawn to the lunchbox, so she takes it home, where she and her husband Oliver open it up. Inside, they find an antique watch, packets of letters, and a diary. Through the contents of this lunchbox, Ruth and Oliver are drawn into the story of Nao, a Japanese schoolgirl with a suicidal dad and a Zen Buddhist great-grandmother.

The Opening Line: Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being.

Thoughts: Gonna keep this real brief, due to answering the Fellowship questions below. I loved this novel. It was quirky and fun, heartfelt, touching, sad, profound, and educational all at once. I learned about Japanese culture in bits and pieces, and realized I wanted things in my life that I never existed (go look up a kotatsu and tell me you don’t want one). I was drawn into every single story and invested in every single character. With footnotes and dashes of three different cultures (Japan, America, Canada), this novel made me work for it, but I loved every single minute. A phenomenal novel all around, and one that I would highly recommend.

Fellowship of the Worms Questions

One of the things that struck me about this novel was how quickly Ruth became attached to Nao through her writing. Have you ever found yourself becoming attached to someone you don’t actually know through their writing?

Definitely. I think that’s one of the reasons we read – to find a kinship with the author, someone we can relate to, who shares our experiences. Ultimately, I think we all want to be known and accepted for who we are. Just recently, I read Felicia Day’s new book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), and felt an instant shock of recognition as she described her upbringing and life experiences. It’s heartening to relate to someone, real or fictional.

How much did you love Old Jiko? Do any of you have an impossibly wise older relative who has shaped who you became?

I love Old Jiko so much and wish there could have been even more of her. Unfortunately, I don’t have that sort of relative, so I’ll continue to take my life advice from fictional characters.

Did any of y’all break down when reading about the bullying Nao went through at school?

Those parts were the worst. I know there are plenty of apathetic teachers, and I realize that school administrators aren’t usually great at curbing bullying, but to this degree? The teacher should have been let go, the administrators questioned, and an official investigation opened. What kind of creep just lets that sort of thing happen?

I feel like we can’t actually discuss this novel without addressing the elephant in the room, suicide. Despite Haruki #1’s kamikaze mission, Haruki #2’s failed suicide attempts, and Nao’s suicidal thoughts, the overall tone remains hopeful. How do you think Ozeki pulled that off?

I think the bleakness of each of those things was ultimately balanced by what Ozeki did write about hope. I have no idea how she pulled it off. I am glad that the “everything gets better” message did shine through, and that Ozeki wrote a story about hope and the kind of impact we can have on each other.

Nao’s narrative finding Ruth is pretty much the ultimate message-in-a-bottle scenario. Have you ever fantasized about leaving your story for an unknown reader to discover? What would you tell them?

I haven’t in a message in a bottle sort of way. But I do always think about how I journal – I try to be conscientious of the fact that someone could read that journal someday. If that happens, I want to be comprehensive, but not whiny. I want to be smart and intelligent and leave something worth reading. Not just daily, mundane things, but a record for the history books.

As always, this has been super fun and I can’t wait for our next book!

5 Comments

Filed under Fellowship of the Worms, Reviews

Review and Fellowship of the Worms Discussion – The Martian

The Martian

 Title: The Martian

 Author: Andy Weir

 2014 – Fiction – Science Fiction

 Rating: 4/5

The Story: Mark Watney is a crew member on a manned mission to Mars. When a ferocious storm necessitates the mission’s end just 6 days in, Mark is left behind after his crew sees him whipped away and struck by debris. However, Mark is alive and now must figure out how to survive on the harsh landscape of Mars until help arrives.

The Opening Line: I’m pretty much fucked.

Thoughts: This was one of the hit books of 2014, so I went in with a ton of hype and anticipation. Luckily, the book held up under pressure, and I ended up loving it. As an engineer and botanist, Mark used a lot of tech speak that I had trouble understanding and following, but I think that probably gives the book more authenticity and and accuracy. When I reached a passage like that, I would try my best, reach the end, and think “I didn’t understand that at all…but yay! He survived another day!” Overall, the book was a quick, engrossing read that I highly recommend.

Fellowship of the Worms Questions

1. Does anybody else have a bit of a crush on Mark Watney after reading this? 

Meh, not really. I mean, the guy is super smart and resourceful and has a sense of humor. He’s also really resilient. But I can’t say he made my heart race or anything. I think I would have to see him in a more normal, non-survival setting to get more of a feel for his actual personality.

2. Do you think the crew was right in leaving Watney behind?

Yeah, I do. All signs pointed to him being dead. They saw him get struck and disappear, then his vital signs indicated that he was dead. I think to stay and search would have endangered the rest of them. Unfortunate for Mark, obviously, but I definitely think they made the right choice. And they knew going into this career that it could be dangerous, they knew what they were signing up for. I did love how the commander struggled with her choice for the rest of the book though – I felt like that really showed her humanity.

3. Do you think it’s realistic that Mark could have kept his sense of humor throughout his ordeal?

Definitely. People tend to cope with trauma in a variety of ways (psych major coming out here!), and humor is a common method of coping. Isolated and facing almost certain death, Mark could just as easily given up and killed himself. Instead, he made life bearable by surviving and by laughing.

4. Matt Damon is going to be playing Mark Watney in the upcoming movie version of The Martian. How do you feel about the casting decision? 

I don’t watch a whole lot of movies, but I guess Matt Damon is okay. He’s that guy from the Bourne movies, right? Honestly, though, this question is way outta my league. I don’t even know if I’ll see the movie yet.

5. How many times did you think Mark was really, truly, going to bite it? 

Like, every page…he would have some successes, and then a disaster would come along and screw everything up. Honestly, even with his qualifications and crew member roles, I don’t know how he was so resourceful. It’s just a good thing it wasn’t me up there. My math is atrocious so I would probably calculate something wrong the first day. Seriously, though, it was kind of a stressful book.

Great questions, Katie! As always, it’s been so fun reading along and seeing what everyone else thought!

5 Comments

Filed under Fellowship of the Worms, Reviews

Review and Fellowship of the Worms Discussion – Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

 Title – Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

 Author – Cheryl Strayed

 2012 – Nonfiction

 Rating – 4/5

The Premise: Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of some of the best letters and replies from Cheryl Strayed’s online Dear Sugar advice column.

The Opening Line: What is this book? It’s a selection of Dear Sugar columns.

What I Loved: I frequently found myself reading a snippet out loud to one of my roomies because Strayed’s advice just seemed so relevant and wise. I loved that she shared bits of her own life as examples. I also loved that she didn’t offer advice for the easy way out, but that she offered tough love and real, practical solutions.

What I Didn’t Love: Sometimes the stories she chose to share from her own life didn’t seem the most relevant for that letter. And sometimes I think she came off as a little bit harsh, even with all the endearments.

Fellowship of the Worms Questions

1. Did you ever read the “Dear Sugar” column on The Rumpus or frequent any other advice columns?

Nope. In fact, I had never heard of either Dear Sugar or The Rumpus before reading this book. As for other advice columns, do those late-night radio shows count? Sometimes I listen to those if they happen to be on when I’m driving and I’m too lazy to flip through the stations.

2. Sugar uses a lot of terms of endearment in her responses. Do you like them? Does it bother you when you’re addressed with a term of endearment in real life? 

In the book, it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I sometimes thought it extremely helpful, as some of her advice could be taken as rather harsh without the endearments. In them, I saw compassion and love and a true desire to help the letter writers out of their sticky situations.

In real life, it depends on who the endearment is coming from. My roomies and I have fond nicknames for each other, which I love. Coming from friends and family, endearments are great and show me that I am loved and cherished. However, coming from anyone else, it sounds condescending and snarky and fake. So I have mixed feelings.

3. Did any of the advice/questions make you uncomfortable?

Not really. I mean, the beautiful thing about humanity is that we aren’t perfect. We are all messy and imperfect and awkward and tense and all of those things. And it’s those things that tend to get us into hard, screwed up places. If these stories had made me uncomfortable, I would have felt hypocritical, as I’ve been in quite a few messes myself. That being said, I felt incredibly sad reading through most of them. And blessed – at least for the moment, my life is pretty good.

4. Did any of Sugar’s advice resonate with you?

Heck yes! Funnily enough, it reminded me a lot of what I hear at my church. That you can be loved and messy and human, but you still have to want change enough to do the work to make it happen. Strayed’s common sense advice and practical solutions made me really happy!

5. Strayed infused the “Dear Sugar” column with a heaping helping of memoir. Did her personal anecdotes add or detract from the advice she was trying to give to her readers?

I loved her stories. I think when we reach out to other people for a listening ear and some good advice, we want to know that they’ve been through something similar, so they have expertise in our problems. Or even if the situation isn’t identical, we want to know we are talking to someone who has faced struggles of their own and overcome them. That they have learned and grown from their past and are now a better person because of it. Strayed’s personal stories infused a level of expertise and compassion and absolutely added to the advice she gave.

11 Comments

Filed under Fellowship of the Worms, Reviews