He rubbed one hand over the expensive waterproof frabric of the coat, liking the feel. An elegant item. He tried again to think of how he’d come by it and couldn’t. Had he killed someone else? MIGHT have, friends and neighbors, might have; anything was possible when you were on vacation.
-Rose Madder by Stephen King

Stephen King Book Club: Lisey’s Story

“Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King

What’s it about? You can read the full synopsis here. This is the story of Lisey Landon (obviously, right?). We start in the present day, where Lisey is cleaning out the work-space of her writer husband, Scott, and then travel through time to learn the tale of their love and how Lisey saved Scott (on more than one occasion.) It’s a beautiful and honest story about love and marriage. But even more so, it’s an exploration of the things we share with others and the secrets we keep within ourselves. Also, there may be a little bit of travel to an alternate dimension. I mean, nothing adds spice to marriage quite like inter-dimensional travel, wouldn’t yous say?

Why choose this book? King himself has called this one of his most well written books. And it really is. The play on language creates lovely texture to this woven tale. That sounds cliche. however, I say “woven” because this story truly feels like picking up a thread and following it to the end, wherever that may be. It’s a personal favorite of mine. But beyond that, the many layers and relationships in this book provide a solid discussion for a book club and this unique tale will be yet another side of King for the avid fan to discover.

What to discuss/questions: For a book that is so critically acclaimed, I had a terrible time finding any questions on any sites. It’s what made me want to post possible discussion questions on this blog for others to hopefully find helpful in their own book club discussion. As always, though, Hodder & Stoughton did not let me down. Here’s a few of mine:

  • In the very beginning of the book, King says “This is for your first good book… the one that got under you like a magic carpet and lifted you right off the ground.” What was the first book that did that for you?
  • What were your thoughts on Booya Moon?
  • This story is as much about marriage as it about other family relationships. What were your thoughts about the sibling relationships that existed between Lisey and her sisters and between Scott and his bother?
  • As is typical in King novels, Scott Landon is a famous writer. How does he compare to other author characters in other King books?
  • This story is also about language. In what ways does King talk about language? (Phrases, old sayings, the secret language within a marriage)
  • Music is also a powerful element in this book. What were your thoughts on Scott’s taste and Kings inclusion of the different songs? In what ways does music play a part in your own life?

Constant discussion questions:

  • Who was your favorite character and why?
  • What was your favorite part?
  • What were some of your favorite quotes?
  • On a scale from 1-5, how did you rate this book? (This is always the opening question)

Make it fun! I had an absolute blast with this discussion. Firstly, we had a Hank Williams station on Pandora playing in the background. I’m all about ambiance. And we also had a fairly small group for this meeting. Which allowed me to create a bool hunt for each participant. I know, awesome, right? (If you’re unsure what a bool hunt is, the book will explain it for ya.) I was nervous that people might find it cheesy, but it ended up being a ton of fun. The book club discussions are held in a local bookstore and so I was able to use clues that were tailored to each person (and I even created a few generic ones just in case someone new decided to show up.) They were small bools with just 3 stations. I bought old timey glass Coca-Cola soda bottles for the prizes. There’s no RC cola anymore, so instead, I had Moxie in addition to the Coca-Cola. If you’ve never been to Maine and never had Moxie, I suggest you treat yourself. It tastes a little bit like NyQuil mixed with battery acid at first, but you’ll grow to love it as I have.

Our discussion:

We had 4 individuals in the discussion (including myself) with an overall book rating of 4.5 out of 5. Yeah, people loved this book. Due to the group being small, we really delved into our favorite scenes and our favorite moments. I shared my favorite quote (of any King book) which is “Darkness loves him. He dances with it like a lover and the moon comes up over the purple hills and what was sweet, smells sour. Smells like poison.” We all loved the imagery of Booya Moon and talked at length about how it must look. I hadn’t discussed this book with many people prior to this and I was excited that the others loved Booya Moon as much as I did. Even the scary parts. I almost gave away a Dark Tower spoiler to one of the members that’s currently following the path of the beam, but caught myself just in time. Thank goodness, too! I wouldn’t forgive myself for spoiling the road to the tower for anyone! This book can be intimidating in size (few King books aren’t) but I do highly recommend it as a read for you and for your group. Until next time!

Stephen King Book Club: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” by Stephen King

What’s it about? You can read the full synopsis here. Basically it’s about a 9 year old girl’s struggle to survive in the wilderness after becoming lost in the woods along the Maine-New Hampshire border. Her only tie to the world is her discman and ability to listen to Boston Red Sox games. She’s is a huge Red Sox fan and is wearing the jersey of her favorite player, Tom Gordon.

Why choose this book? This is a relatively short novel for King, so it provides a nice relief from some of his more mammoth novels. It’s also a great tale for readers that have never read Stephen King and are hesitant to do so because of his horror reputation. While The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon still has paranormal elements, they are malleable to interpretation and therefor this isn’t a typical “horror” novel that non-King readers expect from him. There’s also a pop-up version of the book can be great for younger readers. Adding diversity to the group (avid King fans versus non-King readers, multiple age groups) can make for a lively discussion.

What to discuss/questions: So much to consider in this book! I was able to find a few discussion questions here that we used in the group.

  • How does this novel compare to earlier King novels? (This question can work especially well if you go from an older work, such as ‘Salem’s Lot, to this one) What changes in writing style did you notice? What do you think of these changes?
  • What part does God/spirituality play in this novel?
  • What symbolism exists in this novel? What is the importance of the number 3?
  • How would this novel of a child lost in the woods compare to an adult lost in the woods? How would the story differ/remain the same?
  • Is this story believable? (This can relate directly to Trisha’s actions as a 9 year old or other elements of the story)
  • Pop culture is found in many of King’s novels. How was it used in this novel and did it have any significance?
  • Why Tom Gordon? (There were quite a few stellar players that season. I printed out the roster and we looked over the list. While it’s beneficial to have at least a few baseball fans in the discussion, simply acknowledging that Tom Gordon isn’t exactly Nomar Garciaparra is enough to get the point across.)
  • In this novel, Trish uses her love of baseball and her hero, Tom Gordon, to motivate herself to live. Why are sports important to people? (We also discussed if anyone in the group was a big sports fan and what it means to them.)
  • What did you think about the repetition of the commercial?
  • “I point because it’s God’s nature to come on in the bottom of the 9th.” What did Tom Gordon mean by this? What are your thoughts on this being God’s nature?
  • Have you ever been lost? How did your experience compare to Trish’s?

Constant discussion questions:

  • What was your favorite part?
  • What were some of your favorite quotes?
  • On a scale from 1-5, how did you rate this book? (This is always the opening question)

Make it fun! I always try to have a fun element that ties into the book at our discussion, whether it be food, imagery, or something totally outlandish. For this discussion we encouraged Red Sox fans to wear their paraphernalia. I had my sweatshirt and hat on. For food, we had Twinkies, as Trisha has this in her bagged lunch in the novel. I did not squish the Twinkies though. Little details like this add to the general feel of the event and makes each meeting a unique experience. And it’s just plain fun to see what you can bring out of the story and into real life. We also brought the pop up book for display.

Our discussion:

We had 10 individuals in the discussion (including myself) with an overall book rating of 4 out of 5. We had a nice mix of diehard King fans and those that had never read more than 1 King novel previously. People seemed to enjoy the story and were appreciative of it’s length. Most felt that this book would be appropriate for a younger audience, especially the pop-up version.