Friday, May 6, 2011

The Blue Orchard - Discussion #1

Welcome to the first discussion of Jackson Taylor's The Blue Orchard! The Blue Orchard is our May Group Read and any and all are welcome to participate.  Every Friday and May we talk about a different section.  This first discussion covers the Prologue through page 96 or the end of chapter 24.

First off, I am loving it so far! I really wish I could focus more, not be distracted by the Internet because in theory I should already be done with this book, but I keep just grabbing bits of time to read, but every time I read I get sucked in!

Brief recap/ My Random Thoughts: Verna is forced to leave school at 14 to take care of her family, even though she has an older brother who is a big waste of space.  (LAME!) She works for a family on a farm, where the man of the farm is scum and treats her badly.. Again, LAME.  Then she works for a roadside restaurant out of town, moves and works in Reading, works in Harrisburg and then Philadelphia before she is sent home again.  This is all before she is in her mid-twenties! That is crazy.  And that is just talking about her working life. 

She definitely has been unlucky in the male department with not being 19 and having had an abortion because of a married man and a child with a married man.  I feel bad for her, but you'd think with as smart as she is, she'd be a little smarter with men.  But she is very very young and it is a different time.

Quotes that resonated...

"Her dress is spotted with milk and porridge and I know she feels ashamed at not looking washed in front of a schoolteacher." pg. 11 

-Huh. How far our level of respect towards teachers has fallen, no?? I mean have you seen how parents show up for parent teacher conferences or to pick their kids up from school? Or how they TALK to teachers? LAME.

"I could barely believe it when your ma told me that you were in trouble.  You always seemed like a leader in your family.  I guess you discovered the hard way that a girl who's sneaky finds consequences.  One sin leads to another." - Aunt Varnie pgs. 45&46

- WTF dude? I really find it hard to believe that even women (especially in her FAMILY) were naive enough to think that SHE asked for the trouble or was OKAY with her trouble.  Riiiight.  Yeah, let's send a 14 year old girl to work on a farm with a perverted man and see how it turns out. 

Taken from conversations with Jackson Taylor (also from the Simon & Shuster site..)

The Blue Orchard is based on your grandmother's life. Why was it important for you to share Verna's story?
The lives of people we come from are filled with exquisite, concrete clues that can be examined to understand childhood, the world, and ourselves, and to recognize how many ways we resemble the rest of our species. The study of the real record adds perspective to the ways anyone might look at the youth of their parents or grandparents.

During the years of research, the historian's voice in me kept questioning: How? Why? My grandmother wasn't easily impressed by people, so I wanted to know the nature of this man who'd earned so much respect.

How did you make certain to present an honest portrait of Verna, both her good qualities and her flaws? Was there ever a tendency to gloss over certain aspects or incidents?
Verna could be deeply reflective about herself. I tried to weigh out and imagine those personal ruminations. It is also important for any writer to recognize that it is never going to be possible to tell "the" truth. The best we can aspire to is "a" truth, or a version of the truth as we might happen to see it.

How would you describe The Blue Orchard—and Verna—to people who have not yet read it?
It's a novel about a woman who wrestles with adversity amid a particular time and history that is difficult for our country to come to terms with.

Questions (some taken and adapted from Simon&Shuster's Reading Group Guide)

1. In the Prologue, Verna candidly describes herself and the circumstances of her arrest, even admitting some of her flaws. What was your impression of her after reading the Prologue? In what ways did this initial introduction of Verna influence how you viewed her through this first section?

2. Do you think John and Delia will come back into the picture? How do you suppose Verna is going to get into nursing?

3. What do you think is going to happen to Verna now that she has left Philadelphia?

Thanks for participating! Next Friday we will discuss from Chapter 25 (pg.96) through Book Two's Chapter 18 (pg. 192). 

Can't wait to hear from you!

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