Book Clubs and Support Materials
Book Club Discussion Guide
1. Did you like the book? Why, why not?
2. What did you learn from the novel?
3. Which character do you identify with most? Least? Why?
4. Who did you like the most? Least? Why?
5. Erica, in many ways, is the turning point for the novel. In what ways do you agree with this statement?
6. We don’t get to meet Run and Adam, what do you know and feel about them?
7. What do you think of the themes of honesty, truth, fact, fiction and lying throughout the book?
8. Jessica has kept a huge secret, in fact, she lies. How does this make you feel about her?
9. Sonia never lies. What does this make you think about her?
10. Sonia says that she believes that in large measure we can write our own stories, change the ending. What evidence do you see of this in the book or in your own life?
11. What role do individual’s perceptions play in the storyline? Does it make sense? How do you know the truth of an event?
12. Jessica seems to get stories and information from the other characters that they don’t share with each other. Why do you think this is?
13. Jessica tries to define what love, falling in love, and being in love means. Is she in love? Do those things mean different things at different points in life?
14. Is Jessica religious? Are the others? What role does religion play in the story?
15. What do you think of the lessons Jessica chooses to catalogue?
16. Jessica states on several occasions that she felt she didn’t deserve something. How does that play out for her?
17. If you were to sum up the message of each character, what would it be?
18. How does the theme of regret play out in the book?
19. There is no interview with Elizabeth. What do we really know about her? We don’t get to hear the conversation about ‘reach.’ What is the ‘reach’ of each character?
20. Why do Jessica and Elizabeth have the bond they do?
21. Why does Erica feel so connected to Jessica?
22. Do the characters have a moral compass?
23. Does Jessica decide her future, or does she let others shape her future?
24. Do we know Jessica, or do we have other’s impressions of her?
25. How important is Jesper?
26. What do you think will happen between Jesper and the rest of his ‘family?’
27. The last few chapters of the book are unexpected. How does this position the characters for the future? What is the lesson of those chapters?
28. Do you have a favorite line or scene from the book?
29. What do you think happens in the coming years for the characters?
30. The novel follows a musical path—overture, theme, and coda. Does this work for you? Why, why not?
31. The core of the book is the bond between mothers and their children, “other mothers,” and the life lessons we share or miss. Discuss this.
Support Materials for The Eves
Music that inspired The Eves
For decades, I’ve been impressed by the song "Hello In There" written by the late and very great John Prine. I came to know the song through Bette Midler’s rendition. It spoke to me of the disregard we sometimes place on old people, forgetting, indeed, that they were babies and sons and daughters and lovers and friends. The lines “so if you're walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes, please don't just pass 'em by and stare, as if you didn't care, say, Hello in there, hello," have been words I’ve tried to live by. In many ways, it is to honor this concept that I had Jessica find her way through conversations with The Eves. In a like manner, that’s why I gave the women and Tobias such strong voices.
If you have Spotify, or subscribe for free, you can listen to all of Jessica’s playlist here.
In setting the stage for The Eves there were two pieces of music that kept buzzing in my head. They roused in me the exact feel I wanted for the book. Each speaks so strongly to a key theme of The Eves – the relationship between parents, particularly mothers, to their children. I was exposed to both songs performed by the Washington, DC-based group Sweet Honey in the Rock through my daughter. She sang "Wanting Memories" at the side of my Mother’s casket and it transformed me.
The words of the Overture are by Kahlil Gibran the Lebanese-American writer and poet, perhaps best known for his book The Prophet. The Coda was written by Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, African-American, singer, songwriter, producer, educator, actor, and writer. The links below are for performances by Sweet Honey in the Rock.
There are many, many pieces of music referenced in The Eves and music is very important to Jessica. In the writing, I found that funny, because I am decidedly not musical, don’t listen to music often, frequently don’t remember lyrics, and rarely songwriters and performers. In creating Jessica, I had to learn and appreciate the role music played. In one of the closing chapters Jessica gives Elizabeth her playlist. On it is "Gabriel’s Oboe," the haunting and stirring piece of music was the theme for the 1986 film The Mission. It was written by Italian composer Ennio Morricone. The oboe, sometimes called the ill-wind of the orchestra, was perfect for that moment in the book. The link here is to Yo-Yo Ma’s playing.
I am not monetizing the site visitations. Each piece of music, in my opinion, is inspirational and the links are provided for your enrichment. Enjoy!
Jessica's Life Lessons
Click here to download a printable copy of Jessica's Life Lessons.
Places that inspired The Eves
One of the magical experiences about reading is being transported to a physical place and time. In The Eves, I wanted to create strong images that carry the reader into the scene. In writing, I hope I accomplished the feel of being atop Calvert Cliffs in wonderful Calvert County Maryland or give the sense of leaves underfoot on the sidewalks of Hobart Street in Washington, DC and the coziness of sitting on Jessica’s roof top listening for lions.
Google “images for rowhouses on Hobart Street in NW Washington DC.” When you do, you will get many images for homes that are for sale. Out of respect for homeowners, I am not posting a link, however; you will see the styles of homes as well as some interior renovations. In Africa, there are so many images, the majesty of the Ngorongoro Crater and the intrigue of Mary Leakey’s discovery of “Lucy’s” footprints.
Perhaps my favorite imagery, however, is of a place I have never visited. The magnificence of Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. My daughter was there decades ago and brought home photos of these wonderful old women with saggy-down breasts. I was haunted and enraptured. These women served as my first models for the individual old women in the book. Make sure you visit this link long enough to see "Angry Boy" and the wonderful old women surrounding the monolith.
Fascinating Fun Factoids from The Eves
Anacostia, a part of Washington, DC is one of the most historically interesting parts of the nation’s capital. Here, Fredrick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and the black elite of the 1890s made their homes.
The National Grange Project came into existence, after the American Civil War in an effort to unite citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation’s farm population. Oliver Kelly, and his niece Caroline Hall were central to this project. The National Grange building still sits across the street from the White House and is the only privately held building on the block.
Washington, DC was not established until 1791. The area of Mt. Pleasant, where Jessica lives, just three miles from the White House would not see significant development until the 1900s.
The plant buckwheat, planted in “Joan’s Acre” is used because it pours nutrients into the soil, keeps the weeds down, and serves as critical summer food source for the bees.
Part of each woman’s DNA, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), is passed from a mother to her offspring equally, male and female, sons, and daughters. However, only the daughters carry that same DNA successfully into reproduction and the next generation. Her son’s mitochondrial DNA does not make it through fertilization. Thus, her genetic footprint does not carry to her son’s offspring. Meanwhile, her daughter carries her mtDNA to her daughters, and granddaughters carry it to their daughters in an unbroken chain. Most surprisingly, regardless of the size of our world, or our diverse cultures, experiences and preferences, scientists have determined that there are only nine differences in mtDNA across all of humankind.
George Calvert was the first “Lord Baltimore.” Escaping England’s persecution for his Catholic faith he came here to a settlement he called St. Mary’s. He claimed the land for Christ’s mother, Mary and called it Mary’s Land. Maryland. It was 1631. Fast forward 250 years. Make friends with the Indians, displace the Indians, establish a colony, grow tobacco, fight a revolutionary war, establish slavery, fight a civil war, abolish slavery, give Tobias and Delores Thatcher land. Fast forward 140 some-odd years and four generations. And we arrive where we are today, at The Eves.
The quotes “to thine own self be true” and “neither a borrower nor a lender be” are both from Hamlet: Act one, Scene Three.
According to a “USA Today” article, older people’s regrets are not in the present time like losing hair, health, body image, etc. Older Americans mourn events that are decades old. They regret a road not taken, a talent not followed, a missed chance, a relationship that wasn’t fixed.
The Native American sculpture called a “storyteller” originated with the Cochiti clay artist Helen Cordero. She was actually a bad potter, she could not quite get the coiling right for pots, so she made these figures, commissioned by Anglo’s, instead. They are often remembrances of her grandfather, braids going down his back, children climbing all over him, his mouth opened, mid-story.
Llamas, like their camel cousins, spit. The spit is a green, odorous slime. Llamas are also used as guards in herds of sheep.
The sustainable living features at The Eves include a straw-bale house, all recycled materials for the kitchen cabinets and countertops, a gray water system for filtering of all water, a whole-house, solar-driven battery operation electrical system, and a human manure toilet - with the brand name “Loveable Loo.”
In the early 1800s, prior to refrigeration, there was a trade called “the frozen water trade.” It had to do with the making of ice. Although some of the ice came from the St. Mary’s river, near The Eves, most of the ice came from ponds and waterways between New England and the Hudson River in New York.
Frederick Douglass’ second wife, Helen Pitts, established the Douglass Museum in Anacostia. She graduated from Mount Holyoke, was a suffragette, and as a white woman was the subject of much scorn in both the Black and white communities. Her marriage caused her estrangement from her parents.
There are 1400 varieties of orchids growing in Costa Rica. The small yellow ones can be dried and fermented and become vanilla. They can also be used for some types of chemotherapy. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world. The first is saffron, which comes from crocus flowers.
The injection of the polio virus into an individual is a type of treatment for brain cancer.
Quilts may (or may not) not have been used as messages along the Underground Railroad.
Orion, the hunter constellation, is the largest constellation in the winter sky.
If the wind is blowing in just the right direction, you really can hear lions roar at night from the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
On safari, the “big five” are lion, elephant, Cape Buffalo, leopard, and rhinos white and black.
At least as late at 2011 a Bantu man needed 10 cows as a bride price to marry.
The Ngorongoro Crater, part of the Great Rift Valley, extends from Africa to Israel and Mesopotamia. It is the world’s largest, inactive, intact, and unfilled basin. It is the world’s most unchanged wildlife sanctuary. There you will see rafters of hippo, creches of ostrich, kaleidoscopes of giraffe, parliaments of vultures, and sounders of wart hogs. There you will see dazzles of zebra and many implausibility of wildebeest.
In 1935 hospital rooms were not normal places for childbirth. Hospitals promoted new labor and delivery services as safe and “away from potential tenement fires.” Hospitals provided a flat-rate services that would include a seven day stay, the use of the labor and delivery room, all normal supplies, nursing care and laundry for the baby. The fee was $75.00 for a private room and $40.00 for a ward accommodation.
Even in modern convents, thru the 1950’s, the nun’s rooms were called “cells."
The story of Juneteenth is filled with murder, intrigue and injustice. Picture it – it’s 1865, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Executive Order freeing the slaves. For 2 ½ years after Lincoln’s order, in Texas, slaves remained slaves. It wasn’t until a general arrived in Galveston and announced the war had ended and the slaves were free. No one knows why it took two years to get the news. That’s where the murder and intrigue fits in. In any event there was a large celebration. The general arrived and read his proclamation on-or-about June 19 and that’s how we got Juneteenth; the oldest nationally celebrated remembrance of the ending of slavery in America and an official state holiday in Texas.
A satellite takes about an hour and half to circle the earth.
Mother’s Day is celebrated, almost universally, in May. In Norway it is celebrated in early February.
Llamas are easily sheered, they take it in stride, get tethered to a post and with a simple set of sheers their fleece comes off in blanket-like sections. The sheep, however, go kicking and bleating. Each sheep is placed on a blanket and made to sit squarely on its bottom, feet off the ground. In this position, held in place by one hand of the shepherd, the sheep are immobile and look quite indignant. The sheep wool can be removed in almost one piece.
The Paul Simon song “Mother and Child Reunion” was inspired by a menu item in a Chinese restaurant that contained both egg and chicken. The name of the item was “Mother and Child Reunion.”
The bonus of the summer sky is Sirius. The brightest star in our galaxy. Part of the constellation Canis Major, actually consists of two stars, but the Greeks didn’t know that. Canis, is the dog constellation. It’s where we get the expression the dog days of summer. Myth has it that Sirius was Orion’s hunting dog.
Food & Recipes from The Eves
The first thing I have to say about recipes is that I grew up the daughter of an Italian mother. This immediately translates into "there really isn’t a recipe for anything."
There are essential ingredients, there is a process; but as to exact amounts that’s pretty iffy. Things like “enough salt that fits in the small little dent in the palm of your hand when you cup it” or “you dip the octopus in boiling water, in and out as you say "'n the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost'" don’t directly translate into good recipes to follow. They do however, make for the basis of good food and good stories to be shared and passed down. That, after all, is one of the messages of The Eves.
The picture below is my stovetop with wooden spoons in the Hopi bowl that appears in the “Jan” chapter. I have a penchant for wooden spoons and collect them. My newest one has a llama burned into the bowl. This would make Deidre happy.
What follows are references to the food from The Eves and the basics to get you started. Make sure you check on allergies, dietary needs and preferences to ensure the health, well-being, and happiness of everyone. Play with these, embellish, enjoy!