Between the Lines Book Club: The Unlikely Journey of Harold Fry

between the lines book club logoOur April book club selection is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. You can leave comments about the book here. or attend our meeting at Arden Dimick Library on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Coffee and light snacks provided.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage is Joyce’s first novel, and was a finalist for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. It tells of Harold, an ordinary 65-year-old man, who hears that an old friend is in hospice care. He begins walking to her hospice, almost by accident and then as more of a puposeful pilgramage. During the 87 day walk, he reflects on his relationships with family, friends, and the people he meets on the walk.

Here are some reviews:

New York Times

The New Yorker


Between the Lines Book Club: Orphan Train

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. We will be meeting to discuss this book in person on March 25, 2017 at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, California.

The paperback edition of Orphan Train (2013 edition) contains many resources including an interview with the author and an Acknowledgements section that includes several references about the historical orphan trains. Here’s something completely different, just for fun: the Disney made-for-TV movie Orphan Train, from 1979!



I recall seeing this movie, or at least the end of it, when I just little and I always remembered the heartwarming and utterly ridiculous ending.  This movie is so impressively historically inaccurate and cheesy that it could ONLY have been made by Disney in 1979! If you can bear to sit through it, watch for a short role by a young Glenn Close.

A Few Thoughts About Family

IMG_7154.JPGLast weekend my Uncle Jeff died after many years of illness. We have a large extended family that is both financially comfortable and only slightly dysfunctional. Most members of the family live within a two-hour driving radius of the nursing home where Jeff spent his last year and his final days. Jeff was a member of society for whom family played a traditional role – someone in the family always made sure he was safe, as happy as possible, and well-cared for. Family visited Jeff several times a week and kept vigil as he died.

During that same week, the GOP proposed a budget that would cut funding for free school meals, and funding for Meals on Wheels, a program in which volunteers deliver meals to seniors who live at home. The cuts to school lunches were justified by saying that feeding children is not proven to raise their grades. Cuts to Meals on Wheels were justified by claims that the program does not show results. Merely feeding the hungry is not result enough in Trump’s America.

In my experience, Republicans like the idea that family takes care of family. The Republicans of my acquaintance are far from stingy. They have been very generous and kind with their family members, friends, schools, and churches (institutions that serve as a kind of ‘found family’ for many). However, Republicans do not like giving to those they consider to be outsiders – people from other countries, or people of other religious faiths, or people of different sexual orientations, or people they simply don’t know.In the Republican mindset, families should be empowered to take care of their own members.

Jeff’s caregivers told us that they were pleased to see how often his family members visited him. They told us that many of their patients don’t have this kind of family support. The idea that family (of blood or of choice) is responsible for caring for society’s most vulnerable members ignores the existence of vast numbers of people in our towns, our states, our countries, and our planet who do not have family at all or who do not have family with the resources needed to take care of them.

If our nation is to survive, it will have to expand its idea of what family means. Are not all of our residents family? Are we really willing to let seniors and children go hungry because they aren’t related to us, or they don’t go to our church, or their grades aren’t high? Are we really going to say that because we are healthy the illnesses of others are not our problem?

Families are a social construct by which we support each other on a small scale. Governments are (or ought to be) a social construct in which we pool our resources to care for each other on a large scale. If you drive on a public road, or drink clean water, or use a flush toilet, and you live in America, then you have participated in this system. If a nation is not a family, then what is it for? And if a government does not assist the most fragile members of its family, then why support it? In the words of the famous song by Katherine Lee Bates:

“America, America, God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with Brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!”


Between The Lines Book Club: Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

between the lines book club logoWe are back with a new book for March – Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. I found this book to be a delightful read, but also a very quick and easy one – something of a vacation after a run of nonfiction. We will be meeting to discuss this book in person on March 25, 2017 at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, California.

Orphan Train tells the stories of two teenage girls in different times. Molly is a modern-day teen in foster care who is sentenced to community service for stealing a copy of Jane Eyre. She works off her service by helping an elderly woman, Vivian, clean out her attic. In the process, Vivian relates the story of her own pre-teen and teenage years, when she travelled from New york City to Minnesota on one of the Orphan Trains that transported city orphans to midwest towns in hopes of finding adoptive homes.

For more about the real Orphan Trains, try these links:

Orphan Train Rider Stories

This is lovely collection of people’s recollections of the experience and how it worked out for them. The webpage also has more general information about the program.

One of the “American Experience” films put together by PBS was about The Orphan Trains. At this site, you can find a full transcript of the program, with pictures.





And We’re Back

IMG_0142I haven’t blogged (not even for Between the Lines Book Club, sorry!) for a few weeks because I just had a medication switch that has turned me into a zombie. I am starting to feel more like a very tired person and less like a person who is very heavily sedated. I would like to thank The Great British Bake Off for playing an instrumental role in my recovery and I’d like to ask if the movie Interstellar makes sense to viewers who aren’t extremely medicated, because I did not understand a single thing about that movie but then again I also had trouble remembering my own name.


Bear with me as the synapses do their thing, and in the meantime, love and support to others who have chronic mental and/or physical health problems! I hope that, like me, you have people who encourage you to press on for solutions and who remind you to eat, drink, and shower. I’m in your corner! Check in on Friday for a Between the Lines Book Club post!