To see the full schedule of our discussions or for more information about the Reading With Hippos Book Club, click here.

It's Saturday—time for book club!

Today we're discussing the next three stories in the book Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman. The stories are: “Expression Theory,” “Saving Butterfly McQueen,” and “Who Killed Dolly Wilde?”

Here are some initial impressions to get us started. Feel free to bring up your own questions and opinions in the comments. Any and all tangents welcome!

Expression Theory” This is another super-short story, similar to “Hazel Eaton,” which we discussed last week. I don't think it would have been a bad idea for Bergman to flesh these out a bit more, but I do think it's interesting how she chooses to highlight just one small moment in the characters' lives. In this case, I finished the story and thought, “Wow, Lucia is a total wackadoo,” but then I flipped back and read the author's note and learned that Bergman was trying to capture the moment when Lucia's family realized she was “deeply troubled,” and I had to admit she accomplished her goal. I could see how throwing the chair, along with all the other odd/destructive behaviors, could have been a turning point in their understanding of her. Why does it seem like those who are the most gifted also suffer the most from mental instability?

Saving Butterfly McQueen” I loved this story. I loved the narrator, looking back on her naïve youth-group years, her desire to please the studly young youth minister, and the earnest and awkward way she spoke to Butterfly. I also loved how Butterfly responded to her: impatient, yes, but kind, so that she actually ended up making the narrator rethink her beliefs instead of the other way around. I think we're too often unwilling to scrutinize our own beliefs. And finally, I liked how the story was framed by the cadaver dissection. A little grisly, perhaps, for those of us not in the medical profession, but it led naturally to all the big questions the narrator was pondering. Favorite line: “What I hope, I guess, is that the right kind of callus will form around my heart.” I'm no doctor, but I understood just what she meant and appreciated the sentiment.

Oh, and one more thing about this one: I've been uncomfortable with Gone With the Wind since I read it a while ago for my in-person book club. I really appreciated that Bergman exposed how problematic it is, and I don't blame Butterfly a bit for not wanting to watch a white woman abuse her onscreen.

Who Killed Dolly Wilde?” I thought this story aptly demonstrated what it's like to love an addict. I'm fortunate not to have been in that position personally, but the constant back-and-forth of wanting to take care of the person and wanting to shake her out of her destructive habits felt realistic. The ending of the story reminded me of “Romaine Remains,” but the mood seemed different, less creepy, more hardened and sad. And that line at the end: “We have always been this way, killers inside. It is the human condition.” Wow! What a statement. I believe we all have the innate potential for both good and evil acts, but we're all killers? I'd have to think about that one. Of course, in the context of the World Wars, which this story was, that kind of blanket statement makes a little more sense.

Now I want to hear from you! If you're joining us in reading the book, please feel invited to join us in the discussion as well. And don't worry if you haven't read the stories yet—comments will stay open all month long, so you can come back to this post and share your thoughts whenever you're finished reading.

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So...what did you think?

Posted
AuthorTaryn Pierson
CategoriesBook Club