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What Exactly IS a Persian Pickle?

Book Review:  The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

When my book club first suggested we read a book called The Persian Pickle Club, I was skeptic.  It sounded hokey.  It’s a book about women who eat pickles?  No, that would be boring.

To start, I had to look up what a Persian Pickle was.  If I had to read about it, it better be interesting!  A Persian pickle is actually another name for a paisley design, often used by quilters.  And Sandra Dallas’ book is about a group of women who get together once a week to quilt in Depression era Kansas.

A Persian Pickle Design

What I didn’t expect from a book with this title about a group of women quilters is how Desperate Housewives it was!  Just goes to show me, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared about my book club, so allow me to divulge a little club member love to my fellow readers.  I joined this book club four or five months ago after a coworker invited me fully divulging I’d be the youngest one there by 20-30 years.  I was a bit nervous walking into the houses of these women (we take turns hosting the book of the month).  Their houses were in the suburbs, beautiful large rooms, fancy dishes, hand painted wall murals or oversize family portraits.  I live with two boys and I can’t have nice things.  What was I going to have in common with any of these women?

Well, just goes to show me DON’T JUDGE A BOOK CLUB BY ITS COVER EITHER!  I LOVE going to book club.  The women in this group (there are 11 of us) have lived all over the country (some worked outside the country for a stint), have raised children, survived divorce, remarried, worked as teachers, counselors, nurses, and managers for many years, and know more about the power of laughter than any group I’ve met.  It doesn’t matter the book, the wealth of knowledge about the times, what was happening in the news, in the medical industry, in the education system, gender inequalities, family dynamics, they bring so much to the discussion.  And, oddly enough, they LOVE having me, now known as our “token young person” they make other book clubs jealous that they have me.  I bring new perspectives to the discussion, and being a writing major and gender/sexuality studies minor I have some “back in my head, I once learned…” valuable information to discuss as well.  🙂

Back to the book, Queenie Bean is a Kansas farm wife, confident, content and happy with her life and the world around her.  She is a member of the Persian Pickle Club, a quilting group where the women get together to expand their minds and poke fun at one another as long friendships allow.  Rita Ritter, is the new girl in town, just married and moved from the city, and unable to fit in very well at Persian Pickle, as hard they help her to learn to sew.  If you’re a fan of Desperate Housewives like myself, you should start to see the trend:  new girl moves in to town, doesn’t fit in…where’s the body?

Turns out, this dusty town in Kansas has some secrets, and Rita is determined to find them out!  If you’re thinking of picking up The Persian Pickle Club to read for yourself or a book club, be advised that there are a lot of characters, and they make their appearances rather early in the book.  If you’re planning on having a discussion about them, you may want to jot notes as to who’s who till you get going.  The majority of the characters have some distinct personalities, and everyone in our group adored the narrator, Queenie, because as her husband teased, “it took her less than five minutes to start talking like whoever she was with.”  There are cute comments from Queenie when she learns new lingo from Rita’s city speak, but she has a humble way of speaking the same language with the drifter family that camps out on their farmland.

The book has several interesting themes for discussion regarding gender roles of the times, and religion.  The three most religious people in the book are the three most disliked, Dallas’ turns religion on its head in several instances in the book.  The best discussion of the whole night kept circling back to sisterhood.  Is there a need for a women’s group that provides the safety and support to say whatever and do whatever in life?  I can’t tell you who did it, that wouldn’t make reading the book any fun, but I can tell you the Persian Pickles will remind you of the women in your own life, the ones who helped raise your kids, gave you rides when you needed them, purposely embarrassed themselves to make you feel better, and also made fun of you all the time, but if someone else did it would ream them out royally!

I could share some of our great discussions, but I don’t want to give any of the Pickles’ secrets away.  I hope you pick up a copy and enjoy it.  Dallas writes from experience with the setting, and has created fun loving, memorable characters who will feel like your own best friends.

What do you think?  Is it important to have a supportive group of women friends?  To what lengths would you go for each other? 

Did you know what a Persian Pickle was?  Good, me neither.  But now we do.

 

Something Good and Strong and Beautiful

Dad wipes his eyes and I do too because mine are blurry and somehow I think it’s really important to see right now.  What I see is that his body is shaking which means he’s crying and soon his voice comes out in strange-sounding gasps that sound like he is laughing weirdly or throwing up except nothing is coming out of his mouth.  Finally he covers his face with his hands and stops the noise and his body stops shaking and after he sniffs twice he takes his hands away from his face and turns his head to me.

How did you get to be so smart?

I shrug.  I’m really working hard on finesse.

Then he takes my hands in his and I don’t even pull them away because he is looking at my cuts closely and I would want to do that too if I saw cuts on somebody’s hands so I let him look.

Do you still really want to do this?

I don’t know if he means to keep cutting the oak tree or work on the chest but I say, Yes, just in case he means the chest.

You think this will bring us Closure?

I shake my head.  No.  I know it will.

He blows a little air out of his nose and nods.  He lets go of my hands and does one more big sigh.  Maybe we can make something good and strong and beautiful come out of this.

Good and strong and beautiful.  I like those words.  They sound like Devon.  I want to build something good and strong and beautiful.

Okay, Dad says.  Let’s do it.

**********

Just a hooking excerpt from Kathryn Erskine’s young adult novel, Mockingbird.  Caitlin is a 10 year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder that makes identifying and expressing emotions difficult.  Preparing for middle school is tough enough, but Caitlin’s disorder and the death of her brother, Devon, make life even more difficult to understand.  Erskine gives us a truly humane voice, writing in the style of Caitlin with words appearing capitalized for importance.  Words like Heart, Closure, Work At It, and Look At The Person.  Caitlin’s best friend is her dictionary, and when her brother is killed in a school shooting, she must come to understand what Closure is.  So, she asks everyone she meets, “How do I get to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event?”  You can see where both heartache and laughter make their appearance in this quick, and beautiful read.

The idea for Mockingbird came  to Erskine after the violent shooting at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007.  The shooting was the deadliest one by a lone gunman in United States history.  Deeply impacted by this event happening in her own backyard, Erskine sought to develop how a community finds closure, especially for the families with special needs.  Her own daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s in the second grade.  The first-person narration of this story I feel gives it the power it does.  You empathize with Caitlin, in her plight to understand empathy!

Do you remember hearing about the shooting at Virginia Tech?  I do, I was still in college and the news was on all the time.  The campus did lots to allow students a chance to speak what they were feeling and provide resources for anyone who was feeling depressed or angry or felt they had no one to talk to.  I highly encourage you to read this book.  The chapters are short and quick moving with lots of dialogue, so it is a very fast read.  And for those of you raising children, what a wonderful novel to spark up conversation with your kiddos before they grow up and live out their own lives away from home.  My local library is partnering with two area high schools to lead a book discussion and I’m hoping to go the night the author will be town!

What books made an impact on you when you were young?  What about now?  Happy reading from The Happiness Project!

Enjoy this book review?  Like wacky family memoirs?  Like newcomer writers struggling to figure things out?  Subscribe here!


Page 56, Sentence 5

It’s National Book Week!  Time to celebrate, like this woman!

See, she knows how to party!  Grab the closest book to you, go to page 56, sentence 5, and copy it into my comments.  Paste these instructions in your own blog and see how many book lines you can read.  Don’t give away the book unless someone asks though!  It’s more fun to see all the different quotes and guess where they came from.  Here’s my book quote:

“Let’s waddle home, kids,” Dad would say.

Happy reading and writing during National Book Week!  Quick it’s almost over, participate now!

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