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Take Off Your Shoes Discussion > Take Off Your Shoes First Half of Book

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message 1: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Hi all:

My apologies to anyone who has been waiting for me to post discussion prompts. Usually a few people comment that they plan to participate, and I typically even get a few more by message. But no one weighed in on this book, so I figured everyone is away on vacation and I was the only one reading it in August, which of course meant I started pacing myself oh-so-leisurely.

But I'm currently halfway through now (through chapter 10) so here are some questions to get the discussion going about the first half of the book. (No spoilers in your answers, please.) As always, ignored questions that don't speak to you, or pitch them all and just riff--this is done for fun.

1) Do you think Ben explained clearly enough why he needed to step out of the rat race and take this life-changing break? Have you yourself ever done anything like this or fantasized about doing it?

2) What do you think of the fact that after checking out Argentina and finding it wasn't what they had hoped, they took a big chance and went to Bali sight-unseen. Did you think that was wise or fool-hearty? Have you ever been to Bali? If so, share a bit about it.

3) After a jaunt to Africa the family arrives in Bali. One of the first thing Ben's young daughter Nava notices is that many there are dirt poor. The family also finds that modern conveniences like flush toilets are absent. Did you think Ben painted the scenes of the differences between his former world in New York and his new life in Bali well? Could you picture yourself being there? Would you ever want to live in a place like that yourself?

4) Ben doesn't come to Bali with any spiritual grounding, but he starts to discover yoga and meditation thanks to his kids' school director, his former colleague Michael in Singapore, and his wife's interests. Did you feel it was natural that he would undertake these practices while in Bali?

5) Initially, Ben can't do many of the hatha poses, and he falls asleep during the singing bowl meditation. Can you relate? :)

6) Because Ben is a fairly religious Jew, he tries to keep kosher (in a Hindu/Muslim country), even going so far as learning how to kill chickens in a kosher way before he left New York. Do you feel that his religious practices make his sabbatical even tougher? Do you have your own dietary practices and, if so, how do you deal with them when you are away?

7) What do you think of the book so far? What are you looking forward to learning more about in the second half? (Again, no spoilers if you already read that far.)

I'll post prompts on the rest of the book by the end of next week, if not sooner.


message 2: by Jill (new)

Jill (zinful71) | 16 comments 1 - I actually felt Victoria explained it a little better, but I definitely understood where he was coming from. I enjoyed the details of his professional life and where I could and couldn't relate. Could/would I do it? That's a tough life change to make. I'd love to visit Bali, but I feel more in line with what Liz Gilbert did in Eat Pray Love.

2 - Yes, they took a chance, BUT I also felt they had a good amount of guidance to help them, so I don't see it as being fool-hardy. Victoria seemed to be very detail-oriented.

3 - All I will say to this is, 'it seems a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there'. That answer, though, is still a pretty tough one - Bali does seem to change people, and that lifestyle may be a happier one to what many of us live in, in the States.

4 - I don't know that, that would come natural to anyone. If it's not part of your life initially, and you're not drawn to it in your everyday life, you probably would need that nudge from your loved ones/close friends.

5 - I can't imagine knowing someone who doesn't fall asleep here and there during a meditation!! I've done those sound meditations with singing bowls and/or other instruments and it's a bit of an out of body feeling, a yoga nidra, and yes, sometimes, just sleep.

6 - I know I didn't relate to the killing chickens part, not just because I'm not a religious Jew. It didn't seem he actually needed that for his sabbatical. I do imagine, though, that when following any limited/specific dietary practice, it would be difficult while traveling, especially for this long period of time.

7 - I am diving head first into this book. I'm hoping to have it finished by Sunday night, I love all the stories of the various activities as well as about Bali itself, and it's customs.

Looking forward to reading others' answers!!

message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill (jills7987) | 16 comments In answer to question 7. ""What do you think about the book so far?"

Mr Feder is a better than average writer. This memoir, if I can call it that, is very interesting. I enjoy reading about his family and their interactions with one another. The contrast of the Bali culture with New York City's was so vivid. It becomes evident that the sabbatical to Bali was a sabbatical not only for Mr. Feder but also for his wife and each of their children. It was a life changing experience for them all.

message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (strangeproblem) | 18 comments So, I finished this last night.

I liked Ben's voice, generally, throughout the book. I think he explained his desire for a sabbatical very well, but I think the fact that he made a point to express Victoria's reasons for wanting to go was probably even more compelling. He showed a real desire to understand how their lifestyle was effecting the entire family.

Moving out of the country sounds complicated and scary, but when chosing a country, Bali seemed sensible and adventurous all at once. Bali gets lots of press, for spirituality, yoga, body/mind/spirit goodness and seemed to me like a pretty safe bet - I mean, Eat Pray Love finished up there, and painted a pretty picture - all things considered, it just seemed like the best destination for a change in lifestyle that would be off the charts when compared to NYC, yet a pretty safe gamble for change and perspective. Argentina, while I'm sure it's a lovely country, seems like a pretty rough place and I can't imagine what they were thinking even if they went to the Provence of Argentina - Argentina (and most of South America) has a recent history that is pretty sketchy - or am I jumping to biased conclusions?

I liked that he seemed to consider each of his children at different points, and what their challenges are in their everyday life in NYC and how they could benefit and have a broader experience of life through some time abroad.

I'm sorry, I'm not answering your questions very well but I will say that this read more as a loose diary to me, rather than seriously thought out memoir, it's charming, and a little scattered but cohesive in tone and enlightening. I enjoyed this one, and it was quick. Nice choice.

message 5: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
I really enjoyed reading everyone's answers so far. I'm glad to see some of you jumped in after all. I'm going to answer my own questions too:

1) I thought Ben did a good job setting the scene for his stressed-out, overly workaholic life and the way it was affecting both himself and his family. I'm all for taking a step back from life occasionally--I've never done a sabbatical like that, but I try to take a lot of vacations. You return to your prior life with a whole different outlook, which is what I'm assuming is going to happen to Ben.

2) Like Lisa, I thought the original choice of Argentina seemed nuts; Bali has so many more English speaking expats that it made a lot more sense. I too was intrigued by Bali after reading Eat, Pray, Love. Maybe I'll get there myself one day.

3) I would have liked to see even more of the differences with how they lived there and what they saw vs their New York life. He gave a few details, but sometimes as I was reading I forgot he was in such a primitive place. Dropping a detail or two throughout would have helped me remember. No flush toilets? I'm not sure I could get used to that for more than a weekend camping trip!

4) I loved how he took up yoga and meditation, and kept with it even though he wasn't very "good" (of course, there's no such thing as not being good at them, since it's all about your own inner experience).

5) I try very hard not to fall asleep during deep relaxation or any lying-down meditations I have been to, but I can relate to Ben. It is challenging.

6) I think having strict dietary practices makes travel very difficult. I commend him for keeping kosher in a foreign land. I used to be a vegetarian, and while traveling, that sometimes meant eating plain pasta--which I think was worse for me than eating meat would have been. I'm glad he hasn't had to use his skills killing chickens; reading the scene where he learned was pretty disturbing.

7) I'm really enjoying it. Eager to see how he takes all this back to his regular life in New York.

message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (strangeproblem) | 18 comments I wish he'd flushed out their existing dietary habits a little earlier, all the Kosher talk was kind of a surprise. I guess it was assumed that once Victoria's career was was established it wouldn't need any more clarification? I don't know, there were lots of little omissions that were easy to over look while in the book but when I think back, it would have made a better book to have gone more into that.

But, having said that about detail, his business talk worked my nerves but that might have more to do with me than him.

I've never tried gong meditation or really anything outside of home practice - but I know that really, every time I do guided meditation I fall sound asleep. I just figure that if it's a savasanah for too long, nitey-nite! :)

message 7: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Lisa, I agree that a lot of things could have been fleshed out more; the book could easily gone another 50 pages and given us more insight into Victoria and the kids and their daily life, and still have been a quick read. Still, that wasn’t deficient enough so I still think the book is a good one.

message 8: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (strangeproblem) | 18 comments I enjoyed it, so I'm not really complaining. It was easy to get involved in, and it was fast moving enough to keep momentum. I'm glad I read it.

message 9: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Lisa, since you’ve read the whole book, feel free to move to the other thread if you have anything more you want to discuss (which I love).


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