Willow Community Book Group
The Willow Community Book Group was started in January 2019. It is open to all residents of 1400 Willow Condominiums and meets monthly. Members include both men and women, with monthly attendance averaging 10 to 15 people. Books are selected a few months in advance of the discussion and are chosen by consensus among the group, with a policy of alternating between fiction and nonfiction in order to have a wide appeal.
The group recently discussed Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. Member Linda Bessler shared insights from the conversation.
What have you learned from this book?
Beneath a Scarlet Sky is set in Milan, Italy, during World War II. We learned a lot about the atmosphere in Italy during the war. We were surprised by the ongoing civil war in the midst of the occupation by the Nazis. The novel showed us that both sides of the war were capable of unspeakable cruelties. It is based on the true story of Pino Lella, a teenager who became a spy for the Allies while being a driver for General Hans Leyers, a high ranking Nazi, in Italy. Pino quickly loses his innocence as he witnesses atrocities such as slavery and concentration camps. He maintained strength and happiness through a growing love for his beautiful girlfriend, Anna.
Some of our favorite quotes are:
“To be young and in love. Isn’t it remarkable that something like that can happen in the middle of a war? It says something about the inherent goodness of life, despite all the evil we’ve seen.”
“Nothing in life worth doing is easy.”
“The best thing is to grieve for the people you loved and lost, and then welcome and love the new people life puts in front of you.”
If you could hang out with one character in the book, who would it be?
We were impressed with Father Re, a Catholic priest who managed a remote retreat where boys were sent to be safe. He organized efforts to help the Jews escape to Switzerland. With the help of young boys, including Pino, Jews were led through dangerous mountain paths to safety. Father Re risked his own life for this mission, since Nazis executed clerics in front of their parishioners when they were caught helping Jews.
Why did you choose this book? Are you glad you did?
This was one of the first books we read. We thought it was good to begin with historical fiction, in order to attract both the readers who preferred fiction and the ones who normally read only nonfiction. The book did appeal to almost all those present, and it ended up being a good discussion. Since it is fiction but based on a true story, it was difficult to know which events actually happened. Some felt parts of the story were too unbelievable to be true.
What is the best book the group read?
It is difficult to choose a favorite book, but one member loved All Over But The Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg. It is a beautiful memoir by the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, written as a loving tribute to his mother.
What types of genre or specific titles would you recommend to people who enjoyed this book?
We believe others would enjoy the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
BY: PATTI HARTOG