Random House Readers Circle
Right Curve
Sidebar topper
Divider
Divider
Book Club
Divider
Divider
Divider
Divider

Reader’s Guide: The Dress Shop of Dreams

December 16th, 2014
RHRC: What do you love most about writing?
MVP: While I fall absolutely in love with my characters, losing myself in their stories (these are often as much a surprise to me as to anyone), most of all I love the words: the way a beautiful sentence feels on your tongue, the delightful surprise of a startling and lovely simile or metaphor. I simply love words.
RHRC: What are some of your favorite books and authors?
MVP: Magical realism has always been my favourite genre. I like to think there’s more to reality than our five senses show us. My favorite author, above all others, is probably Alice Hoffman. I love the magic in her tales, along with the acute realism of the worlds she creates. Other favorite magical-­realism authors include: Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Sarah Addison Allen and Barbara O’Neal. Other favorite authors, who don’t write specifically in that genre, include: Erica Bauermeister, Maggie O’Farrell, Ann Patchett, Tracy Chevalier, Carey Wallace, Anita Shreve, Kate Morton, Anne Lamott, Anne Tyler, Neil Gaiman and Sue Monk Kidd. I’ve just finished The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, which I found to be a beautiful book. I’m always on the look out for new authors, so if we share similar tastes and you have any recommendations, please get in touch!

9780804178983Meena Van Praag’s new novel The Dress Shop of Derams is a captivating story of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry,, and Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

Read Random House Readers Circle’s exclusive conversation with Meena below!

Random House Reader’s Circle: What do you love most about writing?

Meena Van Praag: While I fall absolutely in love with my characters, losing myself in their stories (these are often as much a surprise to me as to anyone), most of all I love the words: the way a beautiful sentence feels on your tongue, the delightful surprise of a startling and lovely simile or metaphor. I simply love words.

RHRC: What are some of your favorite books and authors?

MVP: Magical realism has always been my favourite genre. I like to think there’s more to reality than our five senses show us. My favorite author, above all others, is probably Alice Hoffman. I love the magic in her tales, along with the acute realism of the worlds she creates. Other favorite magical-­realism authors include: Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Sarah Addison Allen and Barbara O’Neal. Other favorite authors, who don’t write specifically in that genre, include: Erica Bauermeister, Maggie O’Farrell, Ann Patchett, Tracy Chevalier, Carey Wallace, Anita Shreve, Kate Morton, Anne Lamott, Anne Tyler, Neil Gaiman and Sue Monk Kidd. I’ve just finished The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, which I found to be a beautiful book. I’m always on the look out for new authors, so if we share similar tastes and you have any recommendations, please get in touch!

[Click to read more]

Reader’s Guide: Discussion Questions for The Dress Shop of Dreams

December 12th, 2014
1. Etta’s dresses give their wearers a magic push to go after their dreams. Have you ever had an item of clothing that especially inspired you to take action that you might not have otherwise? Or perhaps someone or something gave you a push to do something that you might not have initiated on your own?
2. Why do you think Etta’s magic doesn’t work on her?
3. Cora’s father tells her the chemical formula for love is “One proton of faith, three electrons of humility, a neutron of compassion and a bond of honesty.” Do you agree? Would you add anything to this equation?
4. Dylan’s letters bring comfort to many lonely fans of the Night Reader. Do you think that justifies his duplicity?
5. Another possible title for this book was The Night Reader, after Walt and his special secret. Does it change the story for you if you think of Walt as the main character? Which of the characters do you most identify with?
6. On page 142, Cora tells her grandmother that “all the great leaps are made when a scientist thinks of something she can’t yet prove, then dedicates her life to trying.” All of the characters in this book have to make leaps of faith to get something they want. What are some examples?
7. Do you think Etta made a mistake when she decided not to tell Sebastian about their daughter? Would you have made the same decision? Are secrets inherently wrong or sometimes justifiable?
8. Should Henry have fought for Francesca even when she told him she didn’t love him anymore? Do you think she was right to send him away?
9. At the start of the novel, Cora protects herself from pain by focusing on numbers and lab work. But all of the novel’s characters have ways of hiding from their feelings. What do you think these characters are afraid of? Do you ever notice yourself or others around you strategically avoiding difficult truths?
10. As he reads, Walt notices similarities between himself and the characters in his books: he identifies with Emma in Madame Bovary, Marianne from Sense and Sensibility, and Cyrano de Bergerac. Are there other great literary figures you would compare him to? What about Etta? Cora?
11. On page 37, Etta thinks: “It’s a great shame . . . that the heart cannot feel joy without also feeling pain, that it cannot know love without also knowing loss.” Do you agree that it’s true that we cannot love without also suffering?

9780804178983


Meena Van Praag’s The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry,, and Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

Discuss this “bighearted, beautiful” novel with your book club this holiday season! (Susan Wiggs)

1. Etta’s dresses give their wearers a magic push to go after their dreams. Have you ever had an item of clothing that especially inspired you to take action that you might not have otherwise? Or perhaps someone or something gave you a push to do something that you might not have initiated on your own?

2. Why do you think Etta’s magic doesn’t work on her?

3. Cora’s father tells her the chemical formula for love is “One proton of faith, three electrons of humility, a neutron of compassion and a bond of honesty.” Do you agree? Would you add anything to this equation?

4. Dylan’s letters bring comfort to many lonely fans of the Night Reader. Do you think that justifies his duplicity?

5. Another possible title for this book was The Night Reader, after Walt and his special secret. Does it change the story for you if you think of Walt as the main character? Which of the characters do you most identify with?

6. On page 142, Cora tells her grandmother that “all the great leaps are made when a scientist thinks of something she can’t yet prove, then dedicates her life to trying.” All of the characters in this book have to make leaps of faith to get something they want. What are some examples?

7. Do you think Etta made a mistake when she decided not to tell Sebastian about their daughter? Would you have made the same decision? Are secrets inherently wrong or sometimes justifiable?

8. Should Henry have fought for Francesca even when she told him she didn’t love him anymore? Do you think she was right to send him away?

9. At the start of the novel, Cora protects herself from pain by focusing on numbers and lab work. But all of the novel’s characters have ways of hiding from their feelings. What do you think these characters are afraid of? Do you ever notice yourself or others around you strategically avoiding difficult truths?

10. As he reads, Walt notices similarities between himself and the characters in his books: he identifies with Emma in Madame Bovary, Marianne from Sense and Sensibility, and Cyrano de Bergerac. Are there other great literary figures you would compare him to? What about Etta? Cora?

11. On page 37, Etta thinks: “It’s a great shame . . . that the heart cannot feel joy without also feeling pain, that it cannot know love without also knowing loss.” Do you agree that it’s true that we cannot love without also suffering?

Reader’s Guide: The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy

December 11th, 2014

9780385343527

The publication ofThe Great Santini, a powerful, painful novel based on the often cruel and violent behavior of Pat Conroy’s father, Marine Corps fighter pilot Donald Patrick Conroy, brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused brought even more attention, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. The Death of Santiniis a heart-wrenching act of reckoning whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to the oft-quoted line from Pat’s novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.”

The moving eulogy that Pat wrote for his father is immortalized in the paperback edition of the book.

My dear friends and fellow lovers of Santini,

You have written so many letters of condolence since my father died that I’ve been overwhelmed at the task of answering them. But know this: All of them meant something, all of them moved me deeply, all were appreciated, and all were read. Don Conroy was larger than life and there was never a room he entered that he left without making his mark. At some point in his life, he passed from being merely memorable to being legendary.

[Click here to read the rest!]

Thanksgiving Recipes: Frozen Chocolate Velvet Pie from Carla Buckley

November 22nd, 2014

9780553393736This week, we’ve invited a few of our authors to share their favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you. Whether they’re family tradition or the product of a frantic internet search, we’re excited to hear and share with you what these writers have on their tables on this holiday season. Today, Carla Buckley, author of The Deepest Secret, shares a special recipe for a tasty dessert.

Every year of my childhood, my mother took on preparing Thanksgiving dinner for our family, friends, and a few lucky neighbors, a massive undertaking that spanned a full week. She was a fabulous cook and our house swam in delicious aromas. Each morning, I would wake and run into the kitchen to see what she had prepared during the night while I slept. The one thing we all waited for was her Chocolate Velvet Pie, cooling in the freezer. This is an old-time recipe, from the days when people didn’t count calories or worry about fat grams. To me, it summons back my mother, now long gone, and reminds me what Thanksgiving is all about: family, those we’re born into, and those we make.

Jacquie’s Frozen Chocolate Velvet Pie (8” pie, serves 10-12)

2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup white corn syrup
1 T water
1 T vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2/3 cup chilled sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream

Crust:5292388069_9659658356_m

While oven heats to 400 degrees, beat egg whites to soft peaks with salt. Gradually beat in sugar until stiff. Add nuts. Spread over bottom and up the sides of a greased pie plate. Bake twelve minutes and cool.

Filling:

Bring corn syrup and water to a boil, stirring. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and semi-sweet chocolate pieces until melted. Let cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons, and pour the rest into a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk and heavy cream, and beat at low speed until mixture forms soft peaks. Pour into cooled shell and place in freezer until frozen. Remove and decorate with reserved chocolate to form a lattice pattern. Cover with plastic wrap and return to freezer. Keeps up to a month. Allow to soften on counter 25 minutes before serving.

Thanksgiving Recipe: Cranberry Salad from Darcie Chan

November 21st, 2014

9780345538239This week, we’ve invited a few of our authors to share Thanksgiving staples, family recipes, or dishes that somehow always make it onto their holiday tables! Today’s recipe is from Darcie Chan, author of The Mill River Recluse and The Mill River Redemption.

The beauty of this cranberry salad isn’t just in how fabulous it looks and tastes, but also in the fact that it is best prepared a day ahead of time, before the real crush of cooking gets underway.

Growing up, my mom and two sisters and I would sit around the dining room table the evening before Thanksgiving. We didn’t have an electric chopper back then, so each of us would get a knife and cutting board and start chopping up one of the main ingredients — cranberries, walnuts, celery, or apples. Inevitably, we’d get bored with the work and start telling stories and jokes, which would then degenerate into making faces across the table and otherwise acting like idiots. Once we finally had everything chopped and ready to combine, our faces and sides ached from laughing. My mom usually ended up pulping the oranges (since we hated doing that and she was best at it, anyhow) and getting everything into the pan and then the fridge. Finally, the four of us would totter off to bed, often still giggling, and always happily anticipating snitching some of the finished cranberry salad for breakfast!

Ingredients:

1 can whole berry jellied cranberry sauce
2 large boxes sugar-free cherry Jell-O
2 cups walnuts, chopped
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 bags whole fresh cranberries, finely chopped
2 cups celery, finely chopped
Pulp of 2 large oranges

Preparation:Cranberries

Combine all ingredients except for the jellied cranberry sauce and the Jell-O in a large bowl and stir until well-mixed. Set aside.

Boil water for Jell-O. In a glass 9″ x 13″ pan, stir Jell-O powder into boiling water per instructions on the box until Jell-O is completely dissolved. Add the canned cranberry sauce to the Jell-O liquid and stir until it, too, is dissolved.

Add the combined ingredients in the bowl to the liquid in the 9″ x 13″ pan, as well as the remaining water called for in the instructions on the Jell-O box (or as much of the water as will fit in the pan) and stir gently until evenly mixed.

Place pan in refrigerator for several hours until Jell-O mixture is firm and set.

Also Recommended

Featured book: 9780385527156Featured book: 
9780812980554Featured book: 
9780385523226Featured book: 
9780385340861Featured book: 
9780812981322Featured book: 
9780553385595Featured book: 
9780812975635Featured book: 
9780812977615Featured book: 
9780812980790Featured book:
 
Shoe two
Shoe
Bertelsmann Media Worldwide