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Kehilla Book Group 2023-2024 Book Selections

Kehilla Book Group 2023-2024 Book Selections

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Our book group met and chose the following books to read for the 2023-2024 year:

  • Mon.,  June 12: The Promise by Damon Galgut
    • A modern family saga written in gorgeous prose by three-time Booker Prize-shortlisted author Damon Galgut. Haunted by an unmet promise, the Swart family loses touch after the death of their matriarch. Adrift, the lives of the three siblings move separately through the uncharted waters of South Africa; Anton, the golden boy who bitterly resents his life’s unfulfilled potential; Astrid, whose beauty is her power; and the youngest, Amor, whose life is shaped by a nebulous feeling of guilt. Reunited by four funerals over three decades, the dwindling family reflects the atmosphere of its country–one of resentment, renewal, and, ultimately, hope. The Promise is an epic drama that unfurls against the unrelenting march of national history.
  •  Mon., July 10: More Than I love My Life by David Grossman
    • Grossman’s tender and disquieting latest (after A Horse Walks into a Bar) looks at three generations of women whose bonds are fissured by histories of restlessness and war. Gili, an aspiring filmmaker, has never forgiven her mother, Nina, for leaving her and her father when Gili was a toddler. Nina was raised in Yugoslavia and hasn’t recovered from her own sense of abandonment after her mother, Vera, an anti-Nazi partisan, was held in a prison camp for refusing to renounce communism… When Nina visits for Vera’s 90th birthday party, she asks filmmaker Rafael to make a documentary for the family…The four talk, film, and revisit the dilapidated island prison, and their relationships shift as they grapple with Vera’s and Nina’s past. Grossman shines a light on the victims of the violent split between Tito and Stalin, as well as on the stories people tell themselves to explain, survive, and forgive… 
  • Mon., Aug. 14: The 7 Good Years by Etgar Keret
    • A brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a “genius” (The New York Times) and master storyteller. The seven years between the birth of Etgar Keret’s son and the death of his father were good years, though still full of reasons to worry.
  • Mon., Sept. 11: The Thread Collectors by Alyson Richman & Shaunna Edwards
    • In New Orleans Stella, an ingenious young Black woman, embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician. In New York City Lily, a Jewish woman, stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. When months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him. Their paths converge in New Orleans, where they discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us.
  • Mon., Oct. 9: Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
    • Urgent and compassionate, Signal Fires is a magical story for our times, a literary tour de force by a masterful storyteller at the height of her powers. A luminous meditation on family, memory, and the healing power of interconnectedness.
  • Mon., Nov. 13: Something Beautiful Happened by Yvette Manessis Corporon
    • Seventy years after her grandmother helped hide a Jewish family on a Greek island during World War II, a woman sets out to track down their descendants-and discovers a new way to understand tragedy, forgiveness, and the power of kindness. Yvette Manessis Corporon grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories about how the people of the small Greek island Erikousa hid a Jewish family-a tailor named Savvas and his daughters-from the Nazis during World War II. Yvette decided to track down the man’s descendants-and eventually found them in Israel…. 
  • Mon., Dec. 11:  The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen
    • NYTimes: Joshua Cohen’s new novel, “The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family,” is a generational campus novel, an unyielding academic lecture, a rigorous meditation on Jewish identity, an exhaustive meditation on Jewish-American identity, a polemic on Zionism, a history lesson. It is an infuriating, frustrating, pretentious piece of work — and also absorbing, delightful, hilarious, breathtaking and the best and most relevant novel I’ve read in what feels like forever.

2024

  • Mon., Jan. 8: 1 book, 1 Bay pick up Nov. 20th – mid Dec.
    • This title has yet to be chosen by the Jewish Community Library. Details to come.
  • Mon., Feb. 12: Kantika by Elizabeth Graver
    • A kaleidoscopic portrait of one family’s displacement across four countries, Kantika―“song” in Ladino―follows the joys and losses of Rebecca Cohen, feisty daughter of the Sephardic elite of early 20th-century Istanbul. When the Cohens lose their wealth and are forced to move to Barcelona and start anew, Rebecca fashions a life and self from what comes her way―a failed marriage, the need to earn a living, but also passion, pleasure and motherhood. Moving from Spain to Cuba to New York for an arranged second marriage, she faces her greatest challenge―her disabled stepdaughter, Luna, whose feistiness equals her own and whose challenges pit new family against old.
  • Mon., Mar. 11: House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon
    • NYT: Yoel Blum’s mother, a Holocaust survivor, explicitly warned him never to go to Amsterdam, the city of her birth and his own, but he has no idea why. Nevertheless, Yoel, an Israeli writer, has obeyed her, even after her death — until his agent demands that he go to the Netherlands to promote the Dutch translation of his third novel… Elon powerfully evokes the obscurity of the past and its hold on the present, as we stumble through revelation after revelation with Yoel. As we accompany him on his journey to recreate his history, we share in his loss, surprise and grief, right up to the novel’s shocking conclusion.
  • Mon., Apr. 8: 100 Saturdays  (Stella Levi’s story) by Michael Frank
    • With nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. Then she met Michael Frank. He came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she had grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium. Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays over the course of six years that they would spend in each other’s company. During these meetings Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this luminous, legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians conquered in 1912, began governing as an official colonial possession in 1923, and continued to administer even after the Germans seized control in September 1943. …Probing and courageous, candid and sly, Stella is a magical modern-day Scheherazade whose stories reveal what it was like to grow up in an extraordinary place in an extraordinary time–and to construct a life after that place has vanished. One Hundred Saturdays is a portrait of one of the last survivors drawn at nearly the last possible moment, as well as an account of a tender and transformative friendship that develops between storyteller and listener as they explore the fundamental mystery of what it means to collect, share, and interpret the deepest truths of a life deeply lived.
  • May 13: And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer
    • “An invaluable piece of music poses ethical questions in this compelling blend of fact and fiction…Based on impressive research, this remarkable novel spans centuries and continents, touching finally on the Holocaust and serving as a paean to Bach’s music…Absorbing historical fiction.”—Booklist, starred review
      “A remarkably suspenseful story. A literary thriller in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession.”—Kirkus
  • June 10: Who By Fire, Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Matti  Friedman
    • Kirkus Reviews: A famous singer brings joy and hope to beleaguered Israeli troops. In October 1973, Syrian and Egyptian forces attacked Israel, starting the Yom Kippur War, and the “strange appearance” of a Leonard Cohen tour at the time has “lived on as underground history.” In this compelling book, award-winning journalist Friedman, a winner of the Sami Rohr Prize, among others, recounts in detail the desert war from the Israeli perspective and Cohen’s role in it. 

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