Category Archives: Book Club Meetings

Book Club Meetings

Foe by Iain Reid at Josee’s

This was our third pandemic era book club meeting – wonderful to have this technology but wouldn’t it be nice to see each other in person (although you can see Jane and Laura’s feet in this picture 😷)

From Erin:

Yes … thanks Josee for a well researched base for our discussion, which was as always enjoyable and informative.  I am one of the ones who didn’t catch on entirely until the end… and now it’s occurring to me… when I saw FOE in caps that the title could stand for Friend Or Enemy… which could be an interesting way to discuss the appearance of the stranger… and perhaps friend or enemy to whom? 

From Bev:

An interesting choice and not my preferred genre but I like that the book club stretches us to read and discuss out of our comfort zone. 

Good thinking on the meaning of FOE, Erin. Could he be asking us as we did, to delve into the rapid advances in technology to consider if AI in particular is Friend or Foe. Maybe it is a mixed bag and we have to decide. Is Huwai’s G5 ability to spy on us and perhaps compromise our privacy outweigh it’s other vast benefits. Can we curb misuse?
Corporate greed? I am so naive. I hope Henn found happiness. Questions and more questions.

From Jill:

Thanks Josee, I found the book fascinating and couldn’t put it down, even though I wasn’t sure who was meant to be who in what role, and the ‘visitor’ annoyed me in that he seemed to think it was his right to impose on the couple when they clearly didn’t want him there, especially Junior. At first Henrietta was against him, then she welcomed him.
It was good to hear everyone’s comments and thoughts on the story and it helped me to understand it. 
Maybe I was reading the story too literally? I also liked that the theme  focussed on their relationship as the story unfolded, and wondered how it would affect our own lifestyles and our reactions under the same circumstances. 

From Moira:


Great discussion as always, thank you Josee for the research and for exposing us to the novel. I was wondering afterwards if the AI version of Junior aged over the 2 years he spent with Hen or does he stay the same as when he was calibrated? 

Interesting question about the title Foe- friend or enemy? maybe it’s a play on the word FAUX?  haha, who knows.

From Karen:


I really enjoyed our philosophical, futuristic, sci-fi, discussion yesterday.  My take on it is that we all seem leery about the future.   Perhaps FOE and the pandemic are influencing our thinking?  Great discussion as always.  I do appreciate the chance to use ZOOM to meet though to be honest, it will be a treat to see everyone IN PERSON at Jane’s next month –  even if we can’t hug each other.
 
Thanks Josee for bringing Ian Reid’s novel to our attention.  It will be interesting to see the film adaption.  I wonder which themes the scriptwriter and director will focus on.

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Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman at Jill’s

Our second pandemic book club meeting was with Jill and started with most of us participating in a fun online cooking class with Melissa Clark

And then …..we discussed the very sad Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman. Many of us were surprised by how much we learned about this dark time in Canadian history.

From Karen:

Reading Home for Unwanted Girls made me aware of a sad period in Canadian history and one that I knew little about. It is horrific to realize that the Quebec provincial government and the Catholic church systematically certified orphans as mentally ill for financial gain. Horrible and unforgiveable. I agree with Moira that those involved should have been criminally charged. A financial settlement can never make up for the years of abuse suffered by those innocent children.

From Moira:

Thank you Jill for adding your research to highlight the author’s background. As Josee said, it certainly was a dark time in Quebec’s history, but I am truly thankful that it has been exposed and hope this means an honest commitment by the government to make sure it can never occur again.

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Living in Remarkable Times – Black Lives Matter

When Laura did her book club on Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates, she gave us a presentation on the history of the African American experience in the US.

This was an excellent summary of the history and the experience of Black Americans that was eye-opening at the time.

It is well worth another visit given the current world situation. We have truly been witnessing revolutionary change that hopefully will be substantive and sustained.

 

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Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson hosted by Ann

This was our first Covid-19 Pandemic Zoom meeting.

Most of us were able to gather virtually and all went pretty well using our new technology. Much needed time together to discuss the book and education and reconciliation and also were able to show off our bread making and get caught up on how all are doing during this ‘interesting’ time. Erin we missed having your insights about this book.

Look at all those attentive faces 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧👩‍👩‍👧‍👧

From Karen:

Thanks Ann for all the effort you put into last night’s meeting. I enjoyed the video links especially although as Jane said, I also found the story very sad and disturbing. Another compelling read, a memoir, written by Terese Marie Mailhot, is Heart Berries https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/04/heart-berries-by-terese-marie-mailhot-review. Equally sad, and perhaps even more disturbing.

It was featured in the NYT monthly book club and was recommended by Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild)

I did miss everyone’s physicality but was surprised at how intimate our Zoom meeting turned out to be.  It was good to see everyone smiling, healthy and engaged (as always!) in the conversation.  Sorry you were not able to be with us Erin.  And of course I missed the food…  Too bad the technology hasn’t advanced to the point where as in Star Trek, they had a food replicator.

Jill perhaps you could get Dave to build something in time for our next get together?

From Moira:

Thanks to Ann for preparing so much background information for our bookclub meeting and thanks to Jeanne for setting it up. I was surprised at how smoothly everything went and it was certainly nice to see and hear you all. I will endeavour to find out what novels are on the grade 10-12 reading list, although most English teachers allow independent novel study, so students typically choose their own and have it approved. I found that I was swept up in Jared’s life and found his story compelling and really enjoyed the mystical elements. All we can really do is open our minds and hearts to the indigenous stories and learn to listen.

From Jill:

I was lying awake last night mulling over our meeting, I usually do after book club, and thinking about Jared and the daunting pressures he had to deal with. Deep down he was really a decent and kind person, fighting against all odds. My heart went out to him when he was helping the elderly couple as best he could, and the wife in particular seemed to understand him. He needed that little bit of confidence and reassurance. He had little else. The love between him and his mother was there deep down, but she was fighting her own internal demons, and so was Jared. Talk about survival of the fittest.

I felt the parallel of the lives/lifestyle between the first link that Ann gave us, and that of Jared’s. I loved how the drumming of music entered their senses and became their solace.
I wonder, if each of us would be asked, what it is that calms, nurtures and settles our senses.
I know for my own mother it was music, and birdsong. I feel that in me as well….and illustrated books of Flower Fairies…don’t laugh, it’s true.

From Bev:

A great book. There are times when books written for young adults are so much more real. I found that I could really connect with Jared and was cheering him on even when his life seemed so messed up. The trickster is such a challenging concept. Usually we encounter the wise one in western literature. The trickster is just the opposite. Those crows caused mayhem and out of the mayhem came learning and wisdom. I will search back to the Trickster stories I used many years ago with my Grade 6 classes.

From Laura:

In the event that any of you wish to do some further non-fiction reading about historical relations between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada, the following is a list of books that were recommended to me not long ago. I know that you will find the descriptions to be daunting, but they do truly represent the many examples of how Canada betrayed and lost the trust of indigenous peoples – beyond the residential school policy, and how that trust may never return until they have more of say in their own destinies:
Lost Harvests; by Sarah Carter
Agriculture on Plains Indian reserves is generally thought to have failed because the Indigenous people lacked either an interest in farming or an aptitude for it. In Lost Harvests Sarah Carter reveals that reserve residents were anxious to farm and expended considerable effort on cultivation; government policies, more than anything else, acted to undermine their success. Despite repeated requests for assistance from Plains Indians, the Canadian government provided very little help between 1874 and 1885, and what little they did give proved useless. 

An Error in Judgement; by Dara Culhane (Speck)On January 22, 1979, an eleven-year-old Native girl died of a ruptured appendix in an Alert Bay, B.C. hospital. The events that followed are chronicled here by Dara Culhane Speck, a member by marriage of the Nimpkish Indian Band in Alert Bay. She has relied mainly on interviews, anecdotes and public records to describe how this small, isolated Native community took on the local hospital, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, provincial and federal ministries of health and national media, because their private tragedy held implications that reached far beyond one child, one physician, one town and even one century.

The Pleasure of the Crown; by Dara CulhaneA comprehensive look at how Canadian, particularly British Columbian, society “reveals itself” through its courtroom performances in Aboriginal title litigation. Focusing in particular on the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en case, the book traces the trial of Delgamuukw. v. Regina from 1987 and 1991 to its successful appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which issued a landmark ruling in 1997. (fyi. the  Delgamuukw decision was probably the most important case to be settled in Canada in terms of Indigenous relations.)

A Poison Stronger than Love; by Anastasia M. ShkilnykThis book documents the human costs of massive and extraordinarily rapid change in a people’s way of life. When well-intentioned bureaucrats relocated the Grassy Narrows band to a new reserve in 1963, the results were the unraveling of the tribe’s social fabric and a sharp deterioration in their personal morale – dramatically reflected in Shkilnyk’s statistics on violent death, illness, and family breakdown. The book explores the origins and causes of the suffering in the community life and describes the devastating impacts of mercury contamination on the health and livelihood of the Indian people.

Strangers Devoured the Land; by Boyce RichardsonThe long struggle of the Crees of James Bay in northern Quebec—a hunting and trapping people—to defend the territories they have occupied since time immemorial, came to international attention in 1972 when they tried by legal action to stop the immense hydro-electric project the provincial government was proposing to build around them.

As Long as the Rivers Run; by James Waldram
In past treaties, the Aboriginal people of Canada surrendered title to their lands in return for guarantees that their traditional ways of life would be protected. Since the 1950s, governments have reneged on these commitments in order to acquire more land and water for hydroelectric development. James B. Waldram examines this controversial topic through an analysis of the politics of hydroelectric dam construction in the Canadian Northwest, focusing on three Aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Unjust Relations: Aboriginal Rights in Canadian Courts; by Peter KulchyskiA little dry, but this book provides a collection of eight Supreme Court decisions concerning aboriginal rights. The cases, which span from 1888 to 1990, demonstrate the development of the legal value of aboriginal rights in Canada and help readers understand how recent court decisions were influenced by those in thepast.
Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens; by J.R. MillerThis one is more of a history book. A comprehensive account of Native-newcomer relations throughout Canada’s history. Author J.R. Miller charts the deterioration of the relationship from the initial, mutually beneficial contact in the fur trade to the current displacement and marginalization of the Indigenous population. 

Custer Died for Your Sins; by Vine DeloriaThis book dates back to 1969 and was noteworthy for its relevance to the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement and other activist organizations, such as the American Indian Movement, which was beginning to expand. Deloria’s book encouraged better use of federal funds aimed at helping Native Americans. Vine Deloria, Jr. presents Native Americans in a humorous light, devoting an entire chapter to Native American humor. Custer Died for Your Sins was significant in its presentation of Native Americans as a people who were able to retain their tribal society and morality, while existing in the modern world.

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Washington Black by Esi Edugyan at Moira’s

From Erin:

Thanks for a very impressive meal and evening … It was such a fun experience for me to arrive a titch (pun intended) late to our group already in action… the excited energy and liveliness of everyone in the room felt exhilarating after a full day… and continued on with a sense of lightheartedness, during the discussion of very real and serious issues… unfortunately Jane, we need to be on the lookout for pedophiles and others who sexually assault… as we all agreed, it has not gone away. What I do feel though, is that perhaps disclosures of sexual assault are less likely to be discounted today, than a generation ago, even though the legal system lags in its ability to prosecute the small percentage of cases that make it into the courts. As for Wash… he was a beautiful expression of how limiting lack of real freedom can be to both individuals and the world, experiencing the benefits of full expression of each individuals talents and gifts.. even with all the opportunities afforded by Titch. I pray for the day when every spirit… regardless of the physical form within which it resides in this realm … has the opportunity to fully express its unique qualities without reservation and the limits of fear. That’s the world I hope we will all live in one day…

From Karen:

Our novel and subsequent discussion led me to think about how through time immemorial, oppression of peoples is based on deciding who is human and who is not. The mistreatment of those that are deemed not to be human can therefore be “justified”. Those that hold the power (be it economic, political, etc.) do the deciding and thereby grant themselves permission to treat “others” as property. Sadly this seems to be an all too human characteristic and is practised today in the form of human trafficking and child slavery.

Aside from the weighty topic of our conversation, the evening was delightful. So good to see everyone and enjoy a delicious meal. Looking forward to those recipes Moira!

From Jill:

Once again, an entertaining and feast of an evening of food, wine, friendship, and book discussion.

It’s always interesting to hear everyone’s individual take and opinion on our books.

Rehashing my thoughts this morning, I realise how lucky I was to be born into a safe and protected environment.

Being born into slavery must have been horrific.

For Washington Black his life seemed to be full of contrast and mixed emotions. The cruelty of enslavement, the freedom after escaping, and the people who showed him compassion when he needed it most.

Fantastic meal – not a scrap left 🍴

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Naive.Super by Erlend Loe at Jane’s

Definitely a quirky little book that was enjoyed by everyone. As you will see, the book sparked interesting discussions during the meeting and amazing contemplations afterward. Interesting note: This book was chosen because of the antidote that Pete Buttigieg enjoyed this book so much that he taught himself Norwegian to read the other Loe books that had not been translated from Norwegian. Thank you also to Jeanne for bringing us all some of her fantastic pears.

From Karen:

To borrow a quote from “what makes a successful book club”… 

Good books and good friends are two of the yummiest things in my life. I treasure them both. My book club of 30+ years combines these two loves–a gathering of friends who share a love of reading…  Through the highs and lows of life, a constant for all of us has been our book club meetings. Month after month, year after year, these book-loving friends have fueled my tank and rekindled my spirit over and over again. “

These words sum up how I feel about our time together.  We are very lucky to have this club which provides an opportunity to read interesting books and discuss them amongst friends.  Last night’s meeting was delicious, fun and informative.  I would never have found Naïve.Super on my own.  Thanks Jane for introducing us to a deceptively simple story about figuring out how best to live.  The Norwegian meal, music and author’s video rounded out the evening PERFECTLY.

From Jill:

I found it hard to sleep last night, rethinking the evening, the interesting conversations, the delicious Norwegian style delicious lobster bisque and smorgasbord. Above all, our friendship. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and I so value and appreciate being part of this inspiring gathering of women, as we share our thoughts and feelings. Naive.Super gave me a perspective into my own life, what is meaningful to me, how I have dealt and continue to, deal with every day life. 

From Jeanne:

I am grateful for our bookclub, it is special and we are blessed to all be part of it. All “good” friends, this is a list that your names will all be on the top:-)It might be fun to do our lists like the ones in Naiive Super. Jeanne has some amazing suggestions for lists and I have written them down in my journal to start compiling.

1. a list of what we have and what we don’t have 2.. a list of qualities for an object that will make us think about nice things, or preferably just smile. 3. a list of what used to excite us when we were younger

4. A list of who we look up to.5. A list of what we know a lot about. 6. A list of animals we’ve seen lol with or without insects this could take a long time!7. A list of what we would paint if we were a painter 8. A list of qualities for something that would redress the damage done by a “bad” friend 9. A list of things we have in our room/house of things we are not using 10. A list of things that should never be animated in a commercial context 11. A list of things we appreciate 12. A list of things that make us happy 13. A list of things that are big and long and tall in a city/ place we visit 14. A list of things we remember from the day 15. A list of companies and products we love

From Erin:

For some reason all these emails reflecting on last night and our many blessings reminded me of Sam, my counselling internship supervisor’s advice to me as I started my new position as therapist at CATC in 2000.  We had become friends following my graduation, and his daughter Alice and wife ‘Ruthie’ became extended family support.  
It was Sam who gave me a reference that landed me the job after staying at home for 13 years with my young children.  One day over lunch, as I described my overwhelmed state with work demands,  Sam suggested I journal using these 3 questions from Rachel Naomi Remen’s ‘Growing New Eyes’ in reflection each day:

  1. WHAT SURPRISED ME TODAY? It surprised me that I found myself thinking about a group of women in book club as supporting and nourishing me in a similar way to the support I received from Sam and his family.
  2. WHAT TOUCHED MY HEART TODAY?  It really touched me to realize how each one of you has crept into my heart
  3. WHAT INSPIRED ME TODAY? As a result I am inspired to begin journalling again.

Here is a link: http://www.rachelremen.com/growing-new-eyes/
“Sam” is Dr. Sarge Horwood, MD … who preferred to be called ‘Sam’ … as he thought it suited him more.  He is an unassuming man although a Harvard educated paediatrician who grew up in Cambridge with the background that implies. Later, his daughter told me, Dr. Benjamin Spock invited him to collaborate on a new edition of his book… which Sam declined… not sure why?  Later, Sam chose to work in the far north of Newfoundland near Gros Morne National Park as lone paediatrician to mostly fly-in communities.  Sam was/is an avid environmentalist…. I would visit him at his house in Westdale, often finding him in overalls mixing his compost piles which he had in big bins in his back garden.  When I first met “Sarge” (still Sarge at that time) he was still doing grand rounds at McMaster Hospital as he had been head of the NICU there prior to branching into counselling… all of which I found out much later after completing my internship. Anyway, needless to say we really connected… and I have countless stories of our families together… and looking back am so appreciative of the special interest he, then Ruthie and daughter Alice (mother’s helper living up the street when we lived in Hamilton)  took in our young family.

Like the Horwood family… our book club has become a place that fosters reflection, appreciation, and provides support and reflection… all of which help me deal with what life brings… the heartaches, the worries, and the gratitude and joy.

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‘A Wife’s Tale’ by Aida Edemariam at Erin’s

Wonderful evening at Erin’s – the consensus was that it was a challenging read and the evening was highlighted by a delicious (and time consuming) authentic Ethiopian meal prepared by Erin.

We also agreed, that as so often happens, we enjoyed the book more after the discussion.

From Karen:

Thanks Erin for putting a great deal of effort in recreating the unique and delicious Ethiopian cuisine mentioned in A Wife’s Tale.  It was well worth the trouble and was a hit with the group as evidenced by all the second helpings.  By the way, should anyone be curious, it seems we have a good Ethiopian restaurant in Hamilton (https://www.wassethiopianrestaurant.com/).  After trying last night’s meal, I am keen to give the restaurant a visit.  Please provide the links to your recipes on our blog.

I found “A Wife’s Tale” a difficult read and would have preferred to have the glossary expanded and moved (along with the timeline) to the front of the book.  That said, Yetemegnu’s life was inspiring.  Imagine a little girl, married at 8, unable to read, living a cloistered life with a husband who was 22 years older and forced to cope mostly alone, with Ethiopia’s turbulent political upheavals.  And yet she lived to see her grandchildren become educated professionals residing in different countries throughout the world!

From Bev: Karen raised some good points but may I add that reading a woman’s story set in another time and culture makes me thankful for the rights and freedoms I have in Canada. It also reminds me that women are always vulnerable and in times of adversity need to draw on their inner strengths to survive and in this case provide a better life for their children.

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“I Feel Bad about my Neck” by Nora Ephron at Laura’s

Reading Nora Ephron’s “I feel Bad about my Neck” was the perfect summer read – I read it sitting on my porch on a lovely summer afternoon – laughing out loud, shaking my head and thinking about how lucky I was to be in that exact spot at that exact time.

Like Nora, Laura was a thoughtful host and prepared a wonderful meal using Nora’s recipes and we were all encouraged to wear a scarf and come prepared to play one of Nora’s “parlour” games:

“We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was [in my twenties], I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy.”

From Karen:

A wonderful evening Laura – a definite highlight of my summer.  The meal was DELICIOUS and offering us a glass of good French champagne was such a treat.  Champagne is synonymous with celebration. And anytime we get together is cause for celebration!  (I wish my retirement budget allowed me to bring a bottle to every one of our gatherings).  Thanks also for giving us a well-researched and interesting lecture on Nora’s life.  I think the only thing missing from last night was Nora herself.  She would have enjoyed our conversation and would have fit right in.

From Jill:

Many thanks Laura, a truly enjoyable evening of great conversation, game fun, and a delicious meal! Recipes please! I love champagne!
As I lay awake last night, ( it seems to occur more as one ages..I hesitate to say in our old age:), and mulling over our conversations of how our lives unfolded and how we dealt with our circumstances, the word inspired came to me. When I think back over the years, I realize how many people have inspired me, helped me to think, to become and be a better person.
The other word is motherhood. As a woman, it was the greatest miracle and brought me such joy to bring a little human being into the world.
Thank you again Laura for choosing this book, and to Nora Ephron for writing it, and to give us much food for thought that enables us to give voice to our own vulnerability, awareness and destiny.

From Moira:

wonderful evening spent in the company of wonderful women- who could ask for more?! Many thanks Laura, for choosing the book and giving us such insight into Nora the person, wife, mother, screenwriter …. extraordinaire. Loved BOTH  the meals, and the scrumpdilyicious key lime pie. Please put up the recipes- I might actually attempt one of them, haha. 

PS I love the picture of Josee – reading her list 🙂

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‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah at Jeanne’s

A foggy night up on the escarpment – A very evocative  setting at Jeanne’s discussing Trevor Noah’s funny and tragic story of his life growing up in South Africa.  Everyone enjoyed the book and seeing his remarkable mother and grandmother interviews.

Thank you Jeanne for the authentic and delicious South African food including bobotie and the extra bonus of going home with heirloom tomato plants.

From Jill: Jeanne, many thanks. A true authentic African Bobotie  dish…and all the other delicious dishes! 
I so admire how Trevor Noah overcame all odds with his background, to become the interesting, caring  and humorous person he is today. 
A great utube showing of his ‘chat’ with his grandmother, what a strong and self possessed woman. She, and those of her generation are to be admired. I enjoyed our interesting discussion. 
Thank you also for the tomato plant. I’m looking forward to sweet tomatoes!

From Bev: A wonderful evening Jeanne. Great food, thoughtful preparation for discussing the book, and as always good conversation. 

From Erin: Agreed!  A delicious evening all round! I loved the opportunity to meet Trevor Noah’s mother and grandmother… true forces to be reckoned with!  And… I look forward to the tomatoes from your seedlings Jeanne.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles at Moira’s May 2019

Thank you Moira! I so enjoyed the absorbing information you shared about the background of Russian history and how it coincided with A Gentleman In Moscow. A truly fascinating story. 
Just out of interest, I was just googling the website and found the Book Food Club, and the recipe for the delicious Latvian stew. 
Wouldn’t it be cool if the Book Club Cookbook would offer recipes for all our chosen books:)
I also read that Kenneth Branagh is set to star and produce a tv adaption of A Gentleman in Moscow. That should be well worth watching. 
I’m so glad you had extra borscht over as I’m going to really enjoy it for my lunch! 
It’s always so special to get together with you all. Jill

Thanks Moira for taking the time to present us with a sample meal from the Hotel Metropol. It was a delicious dinner that will be a highlight on our book club blog.  I will definitely try to make both the soup and the stew next fall.  Yummy comfort food.A Gentleman in Moscow was a charming story and one I wouldn’t have expected given it takes place in a very turbulent time in Russia’s history.   It is quite the contrast to The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes which we read last year at Bev’s. By the way, I found this video tour of the Hotel Metropol on YouTube.  You might be interested to see the grand hotel now that it has been restored.  Karen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFHVzUoBMH4

The author talks about his choice for the Latvian Stew
https://www.bookclubcookbook.com/gentleman-moscow-latvian-stew-recipe-author-amor-towles/

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