Hi, it's Kelly again from She Wears a Red Sox Cap. This time I am leading the discussion of pages 193-290 of The Blue Orchard. I planned to summarize the important events in this section but I'm having trouble keeping everyone and everything straight in this book so it's probably best if I focus mainly on the discussion so as not to confuse anyone! This section got a little political because of the situation with Crampton, and I think it was probably lack of effort/caring that made it hard for me to pay attention here. On a personal level though, Verna decides to stop going out for drinks with Dewey. She also learns from Dora's boyfriend Chet that Dewey has been cheating on her. Dewey also decides to move and become a farmer so they are no longer really living together. Also, Verna's son Sam joins the military after a fight with her and Dewey. On the job front, Verna loses her first patient and is very affected by this. Crampton begins to lose his influence and Verna discovers he has raised his price without telling her or raising what she receives for it. He is also investigated by the IRS for not paying taxes. Finally, at the end of this section Sam sends Verna a long letter about his time in Korea and signs it "Love, Sam." At the end of this section, Verna is arrested.
I feel like I should say that I don't love this book. I love the idea of it, meaning that the author did interviews with his grandmother to tell a true story about her life. I like the historic aspect of it and learning more about that time period and the people who struggled through it. On the other hand I am just not loving Verna as a character. One of the parts of this section that I liked was the overwhelming theme of forgiveness. For example, Sally (Dewey's daughter) actually forgives her father for leaving her at an orphanage after her mother passed away! It seems as though Sam may forgive Verna for leaving him as a child as well, based on his kind letters to his mom. Verna also mentions at one point believing that Crampton forgives white people, even though he still has to eat in his hotel room or stay in different hotels because black and white people are not allowed at the same places.
Verna, on the other hand, doesn't seem like she forgives much at all, or that she's really learned at all from her hardships and experiences. Some quotes that really stuck out to me:
"How dare she be angry? Doesn't she know she's lucky to have me as a customer?" (page 267)
"I'm forty-two years old and suddenly aware that despite my life's hardships, I've enjoyed certain privileges not open to all, not the least of which is the opportunity to feel better than someone whose skin is darker than mine. The shame burns, because I now must recognize how much I resent having my advantage over a Negro questioned."
In the second quote it does seem she is at least recognizing how unfair her thoughts are. However, she still holds a lot of anger towards people in her life. I guess even though I feel a lot of sympathy for people who have had many hardships in their lives. In the end, I want a good success story and I want them to overcome these obstacles. Sure, Verna has become "successful" in that she makes a lot of money, but she is really not a very nice person in the end. Well, by the end... I mean the end of this section! I haven't read past it yet :)
Here are some questions for you guys:
Do you feel that Verna has learned from her negative experiences or have they just made her bitter and/or feel like she deserves more? Does she forgive those responsible for her hardships?
Do you feel Verna is successful because she has accomplished more than her mom?
Do you think Mr. Wertzes tears were the result of regret? Was he asking her forgiveness? Do you imagine his change of attitude was because of his change of position in life?
Do you, as a reader, forgive Verna for her questionable choices? Do you forgive Dewey for his choices? Would you forgive either of them if you were one of their children?
Thanks Kelly! Next, Friday we will be over Book Three Chapter 15 - the end. Can't wait to hear all of you!