Baby Got Book discussion

September 2015

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message 1: by Jenniffer (new)

Jenniffer Kliewer | 22 comments What about "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent?

message 2: by Whitney (new)

Whitney Vaughan | 23 comments Sounds good to me!! I will get to the August questions shortly--it's been a rough month and I haven't read the books yet, but they look like quick reads :-)

message 3: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Taylor | 30 comments Mod
Gosh Whitney, it's not like you took the bar and started a new job or anything. You clearly don't have anything going on. ;-) Tee hee.

Jen Jen, I'm totally on board. Looks good!

message 4: by Jenniffer (new)

Jenniffer Kliewer | 22 comments 1. What do you think of the tone of the novel? Did you find yourself immersed in 19th Century Iceland?

2. The novel is based on a true story. Did this effect your reading of it?

3. Did you think Agnes’s position in society affected her ultimate fate?

4. Why do you think the relationship between Agnes and the family changes?

5. What did you think of the historical documents that appeared throughout the novel?

6. How do you think Reverend Tóti changed in response to his interactions with Agnes?

7. Did you feel there was a turning point in the relationship between Margret and Agnes?

8. Would you have considered Agnes guilty or innocent of her crime?

9. What are your thoughts on the execution scene? What do you think the novel says about Capital punishment?

10. What does the novel ultimately say about life and death?

message 5: by Jenniffer (new)

Jenniffer Kliewer | 22 comments 1. I think that what when Hannah Kent calls her book a "dark love letter to Iceland" it is a very accurate description of the tone of the book. The subject is of murder and execution, but she writes of the beauty of the landscape and the way it makes them feel. I was definitely immersed into 19th century Iceland. The way she describes the landscape, the houses, chores you get a feel for how it must have been for them.

2. It was "advertised" as a fictional book based on a true story. So I think I read it as a fiction book. But after having read it I have a different outlook, in that people actually lived and died this story. Perhaps it gives it more meaning to me.

3. Yes, I think that Agnes's position affected her fate. I think Agnes was right in saying that if she had been "simple" and didn't have a good head on her shoulders she wouldn't have been treated so cruelly and hated so. Her position was at the bottom; she worked hard and wanted a "better" life. She took any opportunity to move up, even if it wasn't a wise choice. Even some of those choices along the way weren't actually choices on her part because of her position she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

4. I think the relationship between Agnes and the family changed because when you think of "evil" as an abstract, it's easy to hate and fear. But when you work, live and learn with and actually person who doesn't breath fire and "cause harm", you can't help but see the girl and not the monster they had imagined.

5. I think the use of historical documents that appeared throughout the novel was a clever idea. It allowed Kent to introduce facts and opinions without having to create a large sub plot. I also tied the fiction to reality in a way that moved the story along.

6. I think Reverend Tóti changed in many ways in response to his interactions with Agnes. At the start of the book he was a timid "boy" still trying to find his way. A tasks is presented by the district commission and I feel he accepts mainly to prove himself to his elders. He kept telling himself that he was chosen. I think by the end he understands what it means to live out your faith. The importance of keeping your word, teaching love and compassion through actions, even if it means standing up to his elders and putting his own life on the line.

7. I am not sure there was a specific turning point in the relationship between Margret and Agnes. I do think their first meeting changed Margret's heart for the better. Meeting a scared, filthy, abused/beaten girl vs. an evil monster allowed Margaret room to eventually get to know the person.

8. I think I would have considered Agnes guilty of aiding in Natan's death, and of arson to cover up the deaths. But not pre-conceived murder, I feel what she did was a blessing to stop his suffering. I know there is a fine line, but in this telling I don't think she deserved the death penalty.

9. I think Kent handled the execution scene quite well. Everyone was wearing black and was somber. There was no triumphant sneering or torture. They were beheaded with one clean cut and then buried. Everyone stayed until there duty was done but then went home. The was no celebration, which I would have found tactful and disturbing. I think the that book displays the complexity of the process and of emotions that are involved in capital punishment, it isn't very black and white.

10. What does the novel ultimately say about life and death?
That even if life is hard and thought to be unfulfilling, there is still beauty and wonder and it is worth living. That death is apart of life, everyone and everything eventually dies. But it's how we treat the people/ animals/ plants that can make all the difference. Toti's compassion and being there for Agnes allowed her to continue on to the very end.

message 6: by Whitney (new)

Whitney Vaughan | 23 comments So, I just finished this last night! I have to give full disclosure though--I listened to the book. When Jen suggested it, I looked it up on Goodreads and quickly read some reviews, several of which suggested listening to the audiobook version. I think I would have loved this book either way, but the reader did an AMAZING job reading this one. Anyway, just wanted to put that out there, because I do think you get different things out of a book depending on whether you read or listen.

1. I loved the tone. I thought Kent did a fantastic job switching perspectives. I really enjoyed Agnes' monologues, but I was glad Kent chose not to tell the entire story that way. I definitely felt as though I were in 19th Century Iceland while reading the book. I really felt a strong connection to the characters and enjoyed the portions on the book describing what it was like to live in Iceland at this time.

2. Honestly, I forgot that this novel was based on a true story until the end when I heard the author's note. I can't really say it affected my view while I was listening to the novel itself, but it definitely kept me up thinking about it last night. I think it is interesting that these were the last two executions in Iceland--I wonder if there is something related to their stories that caused Iceland to stop executing criminals.

3. I do think her role was a factor in her fate and how she was treated along the way. However, I think the role that Sigridur held in society helped her far more than Agnes' role hurt her. People like Agnes, who come from nothing and make something of themselves should be applauded, but instead, the Icelandic government decided to carry out the ultimate punishment on her, while reducing it for the more "simple minded" Sigridur.

4. Like Jen said, I think the family was likely very upset to learn that the had to house an accused murderess. I also think the family had an idea of Agnes in their heads as being completely evil. Once Agnes arrived and was a normal looking woman who worked and lived alongside them, I think it was harder for the family to ignore that Agnes was human.

5. I completely agree with Jen--this allowed Kent to throw in the facts and show the story's real nature without going into too much of the history behind everything. I am such a sucker for historical documents anyway, and I thought these were a great addition. I thought Blondal was such an interesting character--I couldn't figure out if Blondal was actually an important member of the Icelandic government, or if he just thought he was, which gave him really good depth as a character.

6. I think when Toti was told of his assignment, he was scared and confused. I think by the end of his counseling with Agnes, she taught him much more about the ways or the world and about himself than he ever could have taught her. I thought it was fascinating that Agnes chose Toti as her "spiritual counselor" when really she treated Toti more like a friend and confidant rather than a counselor. Toti certainly gained perspective on Agnes' situation and really learned to appreciate her as a friend, rather than a job. I appreciated that Toti let Agnes guide their conversations, and really let Agnes express herself, even if it wasn't always centered on religion. I think Toti brought religion into their conversations when Agnes needed it most--at the very end.

7. I thought Margret was actually pretty decent to Agnes from the beginning--considering the circumstances. She could have just left Agnes filthy and in the clothes she came in, but instead helped her get (relatively) clean. Margret wasn't falling over herself to help Agnes, but I think she could have been a lot worse. I think Margret was a middle ground between Steina, who had a sort of weird obsession with Agnes, and Luega (sp?) who was nothing but cruel to Agnes until the very very end. I also think the night that Margret and Agnes stayed up late while Agnes was telling Margret the story of her and Natan and everything that went on was a huge turning point for them. I think Margret thought that Agnes acted more out of necessity than anger/cruelty.

8. This is a tough one for all depends on how you think of murder I suppose...she certainly didn't have any "malice aforethought" before killing Natan--but she certainly did give him his fatal blow. Based on the way Natan had treated her, I don't think she wanted him to die, but I'm not sure her kill shot at him was completely to end his suffering. That's a tough one...I would be a terrible juror!

9. I agree with Jen here, too. I think Kent did an amazing job on the execution scene. I think she perfectly portrayed the fear in Agnes and I think the scene was relatively tactful. It was gruesome, but I appreciated that we did not have to hear the details of Agnes' execution. I had kind of begun rooting for Agnes, and I really didn't want to know the details of her death in detail.

10. I listened to the author's note after the novel finished and learned that several years after the executions, Agnes and Freidrich (sp?) were moved to a churchyard. I also find it interesting that Iceland never had another execution after Agnes'. To me, it suggests that the Icelandic government thought life was too important for the government to decide to take it away from a person. Judging by Agnes, I think the book says that while you know you have life left, use it--tell your stories, come clean, and enjoy the beauty around you. Agnes never seemed that afraid of dying until she learned the date she was to die.

Guys, this one was good! The author is so young! She was mentored by Geraldine Brooks--I recently read a book of Brooks' (People of the Book), which was excellent.

Who is picking next month's book?

message 7: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Taylor | 30 comments Mod
I'm not going to read your responses yet so I don't spoil it, but just so you know I'll probably be late on this one! I'm number two on the hold list still. Hopefully it'll get to me quick!

And Whitney, you're picking next month's! :)

message 8: by Whitney (new)

Whitney Vaughan | 23 comments I tried to create a new discussion board for this, but it kept telling me to verify my email...weird. Anyways...I can't decide so I'm giving y'all three options! Let me know your picks!

1. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

2. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Let me know :)

message 9: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Taylor | 30 comments Mod
These all look so good! I think my vote is for Year of Wonders, but I'm adding all of them to my list! :)

message 10: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Taylor | 30 comments Mod
You guys, I FINALLY finished this book. I only finally got it a couple of weeks ago, and for some reason it took me a while to get into it, but by about half way through I couldn't put it down and ended up loving it.

1. I found the tone of this book...cold. The situation, the environment, the landscape and cold Winter, the people. Always cold, but in the moments that Agnes was shown a small bit of kindness, it warmed me inside. It put hope in a hopeless situation and love in a loveless life, and because of that I know that I was immersed in this book, in 19th Century Iceland, sitting there around the hearth with the family and listening to Agnes' story along with them.

2. I had absolutely no idea this was based on a true story until I read the Authors' notes. I didn't even know what this book was about as I intentionally didn't read any of our thread, so it was a pleasant/not pleasant surprise that many of these people were real people in a real situation.

3. Yes. The position in society that a person is born into almost always effects the outcome of their life. The poor have to work harder and take any opportunity they can get, because opportunities aren't often handed to them, if at all. For Agnes, she was born a bastard, abandoned, put in foster homes, and ended up a pauper. She took the opportunities she had, but no one ever saw her as anything other than what she was born into.

4. I agree with everyone on this. The relationship between Agnes and the family changes because they spent time together. They worked side by side together, talked together, and listened to her story. She became human to them.

5. I had no idea these were real historical documents until this question, so I'm super impressed. I thought they seemed rather official, and sometimes skimmed them if they seemed lengthy, but I appreciate them all the more now.

6. Reverent Toti definitely "grew up" through his interactions with Agnes and became a better priest. He took on the responsibility despite his fear and inexperience, and he learned that a priest does more than preach at a person. He learned to be compassionate and to be the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus. I think his most important role was to LISTEN to Agnes, and it is through that very act that the rest of the family came to love her as well. Had he not allowed her to speak, nothing good would have ever happened for her in the end.

7. I'm not sure when the turning point was for Agnes and Margaret. I think it started with Margaret listening in to her conversations with Rev. Toti, then progressed the more helpful she became around the house. When she saw her help the pregnant woman, I think that changed things as well, because she was helping of her own volition and essentially saved her life. She brought life into the world, instead of taking it out as she had always imagined her doing.

8. I honestly don't know on this one. She clearly didn't conspire and it appeared to be more of a mercy killing in the end, but that doesn't change the fact that she made the final blow. Should she have done time in prison? Yes. Should she have been executed? No.

9. I thought the execution scene was tastefully done and gave us the closure of her being mourned as she deserved to be. I'm glad they spared us the gory details, because I grew to care about her too much. I think the book says exactly what I already think about the death penalty...that only God can give us justice and take a human life from us. Our human trials, no matter how just, will always have human error in their verdict, and because of that there is always the possibility of an innocent person being put to death.

10. I think the novel teaches us not to fear death, but also not to fear life either. When the family stops fearing Agnes and instead sees her as human, that is when we see how our lives are to be lived...with love and compassion...and that is how we should go to our graves in the end: having given as much love and compassion in this life as we possibly could.

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