Tea and Murder Book Club
suspended until further notice

March

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

1. When we first see Tess, she’s posing as an Irish maid, and then on the Lusitania she’s an English country girl returning home. How does Tess pull off each persona? Do we see other characters assuming roles that aren’t entirely genuine?

2. Caroline’s husband Gilbert is embarrassed by her hint that she might like to make love: “You’re so refined. And when you act…like that, it makes me think that my coarser upbringing has somehow rubbed off on you like so much coal dust.” Caroline is infuriated. Were you? What does this scene tell us about their partnership?

3. Tess tells us her father’s golden rule: “When in doubt, run. It didn’t much matter where you were running to, just so long as you kept going. And going. Because while you were running, you couldn’t think of where you’d come from or where you might land.” Is this good advice? Has this rule served Tess well?

4. When she begins her research into the Langford family history, Sarah assures John Langford that he can trust her. Should he? What are her motives? What are his?

5. What do you make of Caroline and Robert’s love affair? Did you expect them to end up together after they survive the sinking of the Lusitania?

6. Sarah tells John Langford that her mother’s dementia gives her a great sense of urgency: “I need to know the truth, I need to know everything before it’s too late. You’re always better off knowing.” Do you believe that too? What consequences were there to uncovering the truth about the Lusitania, and the Langfords?

7. Caroline remembers “what her mother had taught her about being a woman: Appear to be weak and docile when it suites, but never forget that a soft and gentle outer appearance simply masks a spine of steel.” Did that make sense for women in 1915? What about today?

8. In the Epilogue, Sarah says “We’re all looking for something, aren’t we? Every last one of us looking in vain, looking with futile, unassailable hope for something we’ve lost.” Was this true for the characters in this novel? Which ones find what they’re looking for? Which were disappointed?

9. Were you satisfied with how things turned out for each of the heroines? Whose life took the most surprising twist? Would you have rewritten the ending for any of them?

April

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

1. The North Carolina marsh where Kya lives has long been a sanctuary for outsiders. How does this setting shape the novel? How does growing up in this isolation affect Kya? In what ways does her status as an “outsider” change how others see her?

2. Why does Kya choose not to go back to school? Do you think she makes the wrong decision? How does Kya’s lack of formal education shape her vision of the world? Would her character be different if she had gone to school?

3. After Jodie and Pa leave Kya alone, she becomes close to Jumpin’ and Mabel. Why are these two adults drawn to Kya? What do they teach her about the world? Do you agree with Jumpin’s decision to protect Kya from social services (p. 110) and to encourage her to live alone in the marsh? Why or why not?

4. Why do you think Kya’s mother leaves in the beginning? Do you agree with her decision?

5. Kya often watches the other young people from town — she even nicknames them “Tallskinnyblonde, Ponytailfreckleface, Shortblackhair, Alwayswearspearls, and Roundchubbycheeks” (p. 80). What does Kya learn from observing these girls? Why do you think she keeps her watching secret? Do you agree with Kya’s secrecy?

6. How is womanhood explored throughout the novel? What does being a woman mean to Kya? How does she relate to the other women in Barkley Cove?

7. Discuss Kya’s relationship with Tate. How does Tate’s understanding of Kya change over time? Is Tate a good partner for Kya? Why or why not?

8. Tate’s father tells him that poems are important because “they make ya feel something” (p. 48). What does poetry mean to Tate? What does it mean to Kya? How does poetry help Kya throughout the novel?

9. On page 142, Kya watches the fireflies near her shack, and notices that the females can change their flashes to signal different things. What does this realization mean to Kya? What does it teach her about relationships? How does this lesson influence Kya’s decisions in the second half of the novel?

10. Discuss how Kya’s observations of nature shape her vision of the world. Do you think these lessons adequately prepare her for life in Barkley Cove? Do you think human society follows the same rules as the natural world? Should it? Why or why not?

11. Is Chase a different kind of man than Tate? How are they different? Is one man better? Do you think that their differences are biological or learned? How does Kya see each man?

12. By the end of the novel, Kya thinks, “Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would. If consequences resulted from her behaving differently, then they too were functions of life’s fundamental core” (p. 363). What does she mean? Do you agree with her philosophy? What do you think it means to be a good person? Do you think Kya is a good person? Why or why not?

13. Were you surprised by the verdict in the Chase’s murder trial? What about by the ending of the novel? Do you agree with Tate’s final decision? Why or why not?

 

About Us

The Tea and Murder Book Club started at the Ivoryton Library in September 2008 with a founding group of 8 that has since grown to twenty. The club has hosted several authors, such as James Hayman, Christine Whitehead, Susan Strecker and David Fulmer, in person and via Skype.

Members also occasionally meet for potluck and mystery movie nights. New members are always welcome, and reading the book is encouraged but not enforced.

 

Following is a list of books read by the club:

Origin, by Diana Abu-Jaber
Caretaker, A.X. Ahmed
Blood Dimmed Tide, Rennie Airth
Winter Queen, Boris Akunin
Neruda Case, Roberto Ampuero
Case Histories, Kate Atkinson
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, M.C. Beaton
A Highland Christmas, M.C. Beaton
Billy Boyle, James Benn
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
Christine Falls, Benjamin Black
Murder in the Marais, Cara Black
Darkness Peering, Alice Blanchard
Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian
Orient, Christopher Bollen
Gardener Heist, Ulrich Boser
In Farliegh Field, by Rhys Bowen
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, by Rhys Bowen
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
The Body on the Beach, Simon Brett
Black Cherry Blues, James Lee Burke
The Alienist, Caleb Carr
Sworn to Silence, Linda Castillo
Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon
Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie
The Crow Trap, Ann Cleeves
The Last Kashmiri Rose, Barbara Cleverly
Hold Tight, Harlen Coben
Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly
Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill
Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Rebecca Daphne, DuMaurier
Safe House, Chris Ewan
Finding Nouf, Zoe Ferraris
Chasing the Devil’s Tail, David Fulmer
Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
Alone, Lisa Gardner
A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
The Killings at Badger’s Drift, Caroline Graham
Slipknot, Linda Greenlaw
Cocaine Blues, Kerry Greenwood
Crossing Places, Elly Griffiths
Man with a Load of Mischief, Martha Grimes
Not a Sound, Heather Gudenkauf
Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
Various Titles, Jane Haddam
Case of the Missing Servant, Tarquin Hall
The Dry, Jane Harper
What Angels Fear, CS Harris
Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
Celine, Peter Heller
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
A Clubbable Woman, Reginald Hill
Thief of Time, Tony Hillerman
Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Peter Hoeg
Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz
Innocence, David Hosp
I.Q., Joe Ide
Cover Her Face, PD James
Death Comes to Pemberley, PD James
Mistletoe Murders, PD James
Secret of Magic, Deborah Johnson
Boy in the Suitcase, Lene Kaaberboll
Various Titles, Nancy Drew, Carolyn Keene
A Killing in the Hills, Julia Keller
Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie King
Simple Murder, Eleanor Kuhns
Murder at the Gardner, Jane Langton
Mountain Story, Lori Lansens
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Sun Storm, by Ava Larsson
Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
Inside Man, Michael Lawson
The Last Detective , Peter Lovesey
Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz
Wicked Autumn, GM Malliet
Dark Winter, David Mark
A Man Lay Dead, Ngaio Marsh
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith
If Ever I Return, Peggy-O Sharyn McCrumb
The Child Garden, Catriona McPherson
City of Strangers, Louise Millar
Amagansett, Mark Mills
Secret Keeper, Kate Morton
Saint’s Gate, Carla Neggers
A Beautiful Place to Die, Malla Nunn
The Judas Child, Carol O’Connell
Mallory’s Oracle, Carol O’Connell
First Patient, Michael Palmer
Still Life, Louise Penny
Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
The Devil’s Rooming House, M. William Phelps
Scent of Rain and Lightning, Nancy Pickard
Wife of the Gods, Kwei Quartey
Dog On It, Spencer Quinn
Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn
Deja Dead, Kathy Reichs
Open and Shut, David Rosenfelt
The Other Woman, Hank Phillippi Ryan
The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers
Double Death on the Black Isle, A.D. Scott
Everywhere That Mary Went, Lisa Scottoline
A Killing at Cotton Hill, Terry Shames
Kill Artist, Daniel Silva
In the Bleak Midwinter, Julia Spencer-Fleming
A Cold Day for Murder, Dana Stabenow
Still Missing, Chevy Stevens
Girl Waits with Gun, Amy Stewart
Night Blindness, Susan Strecker
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew Sullivan
The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson
Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan
Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
A Test of Wills, Charles Todd
Sculptress, Minette Walters
Montana, 1948 Larry Watson
A Cold Christmas, Charlene Weir
The Winter Widow, Charlene Weir
Rage of Plum Blossoms, Christine Whitehead
Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear