Book Club Pick: Rin Tin Tin

About a week ago, I offhandedly mentioned to my mother that I had just started reading the new paperback Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and, despite the fact that I’d never heard of the dog before, I was really enjoying it. I have never known my mother to be at a loss for words, but for once, she was suddenly and surprisingly silent. When I asked if everything was ok, she simply responded “I loved watching Rin Tin Tin. Your grandfather, my dad, did too. It was something special that we shared.”

Since finishing the book, I have heard dozens of similar stories about Rin Tin Tin and the unique ways that he touched so many different people’s lives. Susan Orlean’s book vividly explores this connection that generations of people have shared, not only with Rin Tin Tin, but with all of the animals that we choose to share our lives with. This is a book that literally bursts with discussion topics, making it the obvious choice for this week’s book club recommendation.

In Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend, Susan Orlean masterfully traces the journey of Rin Tin Tin from a puppy on a French battlefield to an international brand, a set of ideals, and a legacy that has passed down from generation to generation. The narrative delves into the history of dogs in the military, obedience training and animal domestication, shifting social mores, film and television history, all while keeping a steady hold on the personal stories of Rinty and the people who loved and trained him.

Lee Duncan, a young American soldier, first stumbled across the newborn Rin Tin Tin in a bombed out animal shelter in the fields of France. Lee took Rinty back to America, and, through a twisting path of luck and devotion, Rin Tin Tin became a Hollywood icon. The idea of Rin Tin Tin grew from the values embodied by a single dog in silent films into something much bigger than Lee had perhaps imagined—into an idea, an emotion, a character residing in national and international consciousness.

Simon & Schuster has prepared a fantastic Reading Group Guide to help focus book club discussion, and here are some of the questions that I now can’t help think about every time I see someone walking their dog or discussing their pets:

  • What do you think of the notion that it is fundamentally strange for human beings to have pets in the first place? What do you think it is that draws us to the animals that we love so much?
  • Since reading the book, has it changed the way you think about: the power of movies? the roles that animals have played in human warfare? your own personal relationship to animals?
  • Do you think that anything or anyone can ever last forever?

Visit Susan Orlean’s website.

Follow Susan on Twitter. (Named one of the top Twitter feeds by Time magazine!)

Explore the Rin Tin Tin feed on YouTube.

Win up to ten copies of Rin Tin Tin for your book club!

Book Club Pick: Lone Wolf

“The night after I went into the wolf enclosure for the first time I woke up to find my father sitting on the edge of my bed, watching me. His face was outlined with moonlight. ‘When I was in the wild, I was chased by a bear. I was sure I was going to die. I didn’t think there could be anything more terrifying,’ he said. ‘I was wrong.’ He reached out one hand and tucked my hair behind my ear. ‘The scariest thing in the world is thinking that someone you love is going to die.'” – Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf

I completely understand why so many of Jodi Picoult’s fans–myself included–refer to themselves as members of the “Jodi Pi-cult.” Lone Wolf, Picoult’s latest best-selling work now available as a beautiful paperback, is an unassumingly brilliant exploration of a family-in-crisis suddenly faced with an impossible question: if someone you love has been gravely injured with essentially no chance of recovery, do you artificially prolong their life or artificially induce their death? It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Picoult’s impressive body of work that she handles such a complex issue with grace, humour and compassion, but what did surprise me was how exactly she did so. In Lone Wolf, Picoult explores a new family dymanic: that of wolf packs, and (pardon the pun) it makes for a howling good read.

Luke Warren has spent his life researching wolves. He has written about them, studied their habits intensively, and even lived with them for extended periods of time. In many ways, Luke understands wolf dynamics better than those of his own family. His wife, Georgie, has left him, finally giving up on their lonely marriage. His son, Edward, twenty-four, fled six years ago, leaving behind a shattered relationship with his father. Edward understands that some things cannot be fixed, though memories of his domineering father still inflict pain. Then comes a frantic phone call: Luke has been gravely injured in a car accident with Edward’s younger sister, Cara.

Suddenly everything changes: Edward must return home to face the father he walked out on at age eighteen. He and Cara have to decide their father’s fate together. Though there’s no easy answer, questions abound: What secrets have Edward and his sister kept from each other? What hidden motives inform their need to let their father die . . . or to try to keep him alive? What would Luke himself want? How can any family member make such a decision in the face of guilt, pain, or both? And most importantly, to what extent have they all forgotten what a wolf never forgets: that each member of a pack needs the others, and that sometimes survival means sacrifice?

What I admire and respect the most about Picoult’s writing is her ability to take challenging moral issues and frame them within an addictive, page-turning story. I personally don’t think she’s ever done this better than she has with Lone Wolf: each chapter is narrated by a different character, making the story as rich and dynamic as the wolves that remain at its heart. There’s so much to talk about in Lone Wolf, and as such Simon & Schuster has prepared a handy Reader’s Group Guide to help get discussion rolling. I have some questions of my own as well, please feel free to use them within your own book club or to leave an answer in the comment section below!

  • What did you think of Picoult’s use of different narrators? Are there any chapters that you think would be interested in reading from a different point of view? How well do you think the font choices reflected the characters’ voices?
  • What would you do in Edward’s situation? Cara’s?
  • Do you feel any different about wolves having read this book?
  • What do you think lay at the heart of the Warren family’s problems? Is there any relation to the roles found in wolf packs?

Happy reading everyone!

Read an excerpt.
Explore Jodi’s website.
Read about the fascinating research Jodi did on wolves and the real life Luke Warren.
Last but not least: win up to ten copies of Lone Wolf for your book club!

Book Club Pick: The Colour of Tea

“Tea and books: mmmmmm, two of life’s exquisite pleasures that together bring near-bliss.” – Christine Hanrahan

I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book as much as Hannah Tunnicliffe’s The Colour of Tea. It is as lovely, sweet, and comforting as an afternoon spent in a small cafe, drinking tea or coffee and eating perfect macarons; the restorative power of such experiences lie at the heart of Tunnicliffe’s novel, and for this reason I am thrilled to announce it as Simon & Schuster Canada’s first recommendation for our followers’ Book Clubs.

The Colour of Tea describes the journey of Grace, a young woman who moves with her Australian husband Pete to Macau, China, in order to begin a new life. Grace has recently been devastated by the news that she will never bear children, and she feels helpless to stop her marriage from slowly unravelling. Yet in this new, exotic location, at the heralding of a new year, she resolves to do something bold. Something her impetuous Mama might do. In this pocket of China, filled with casinos and yum cha restaurants, she opens her own small French cafe. This sanctuary of macarons and tea become a place where the women of Macau come together, bridge cultural divides, and share in each other’s triumphs and pain. Infused with the heady aromas of Macau and pepper with what I can only describe as delectable characters, The Colour of Tea is a literally mouth-watering journey of senses as Grace rediscovers what it is to love, to live with hope, and embrace real happiness.
One of the most unique and delicious aspects of this novel is that each chapter is titled after a different macaron, chosen to match that specific part of Grace’s story. Some of my favourites include L’Arrivee — Arrival (sweet and smoky caramel with salted buttery cream filling), Cirque — Circus (lime with chocolate ganache, dusted with blood-orange sugar), Brise d’Ete — Summer Breeze (yuzu with dark cherry filling), and Prenez Ce Baiser — Take This Kiss (honeycomb with milk chocolate ganache). It literally makes your mouth water (or at least it did mine), to the point that I felt inspired to make my own French macarons — Hannah Tunnicliffe even provided us with her favourite recipe! Perhaps you and your fellow book club members could bring your favourite chapter’s macaron to your meeting? What a yummy way to get discussion rolling!

Again: yum.

This book is meant to be shared with others, and as such Simon & Schuster has prepared a handy Reading Group Guide for book club members who might like a few extra questions to talk about, or some neat ideas to “enhance” your regular meeting. I know that I can’t wait to ask my friends about their experiences with men like Leon, or how badly I’d love to go travelling again, or how Grace and Pete’s relationship seems so startlingly familiar, or how much I want to start cooking again (…we’ll see how that one goes). There’s something for everyone in this gem of a read, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Below is a great video of Hannah Tunnicliffe talking about her amazing novel!

Browse inside The Colour of Tea.
Visit Hannah’s website.
Win up to 10 copies of The Colour of Tea for your book club.