Book Club Pick: A Stolen Life

“I feel that whatever I choose to do with my life, I know one thing, and that is I must not be afraid to live.” – Jaycee Dugard, A Stolen Life

I had heard of Jaycee Dugard before I picked up a copy of her powerful memoir and, in all honesty, I didn’t know if I could handle reading her firsthand account of my own worst nightmare. I asked a friend to read it with me, and it made a world of difference. Dugard’s voice is true, dignified, and an inspiration; her story may have broken my heart, but it also made me honestly believe–without any trace of irony–in the strength and resilience of the human spirit. I was glad to have a friend that I could share my experience of reading A Stolen Life with, as Dugard’s story is one that requires processing and, if you’re like me, a hug or two after you reach the last page. This is a story that needs to be talked about, and as such it’s our Book Club pick for this week.

When Jaycee Dugard was eleven years old, she was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. She was missing for more than eighteen years, held captive by Philip Craig and Nancy Garrido, and gave birth to two daughters during her imprisonment. On August 26, 2009, Garrido showed up for a meeting with his parole officer, he brought Jaycee, her daughters, and his wife Nancy with him. Their unusual behaviour raised suspicions and an investigation revealed the tent behind the Garrido’s home where Jaycee had been living for nearly two decades.

A Stolen Life is Jaycee’s firsthand account of her experiences, beginning with the time of her abduction in 1991 up until the present. She alone wrote her story, and the result is a raw, intimate narrative that rocked me to my core while also inspiring me spread Jaycee’s ultimately hopeful and inspiring message: care for each other. Her voice sounds out from every word on the page, especially in the journal entries she includes from her early years of captivity; be warned, they are heartbreaking. I am in awe of this woman, who has taken control of her life and lives with love and hope, rather than with rage and hatred for the people who stole her from the street and the system that repeatedly failed her. You and your book club may want to discuss Jaycee’s attitude in regards to forgiving the Garridos, as I know this was a difficult topic for me.

Jaycee is an amazing human being, and her story deserves to be read. The best way I can think of to end this post is by referring to the motto of the JAYC Foundation, Jaycee’s charitable organization that helps facilitate support and services for families recovering from traumatic experiences and in need of healing: Just Ask Yourself to Care.

Watch a clip from Diane Sawyer’s interview with Jaycee Dugard. See more clips here.

Check out the Reading Group Guide for book clubs.

Browse through A Stolen Life.

Win up to 10 copies of A Stolen Life for your book club.

Learn more about The JAYC Foundation; you can even buy a pinecone to support Jaycee’s foundation.

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.