The Lost Hours - Karen White

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This is a book I probably never would have read on my own and, unlike The Rosie Project or Roses, I can't say I'm better for having read it or even that it was worth my time. It seemed like progress was slow through this book, even though I dedicated a little more time than normal due to summer vacation. In the beginning I was confused by the characters that were name-dropped once and then not mentioned again for several pages. (Like that new lady at the office that talks about her family members by name as if you are supposed to know them know.) On page 45 we see our second glimpse of a second main family (three total). I had to go back and re-read to find out who Helen was. On page 47 I understood that she was Tucker's sister, or maybe a cousin.

The narrator switches between first person (Earlene) and third person limited omniscient (Helen-blind). Sometimes the switch even occurs within a chapter at a line break.

There are subtle hints that there is a racial story underneath the main story but it took me a while to catch on. Page 27 refers to a "negro male infant" so that was obvious. But when I read on page 66 that "Josie had to wait outside while Lily and I went inside" I didn't understand that Josie was black and wasn't allowed in the store. I thought it was because she was younger or her mother wouldn't want her to go in a store or something. On page 149 there is a reference to meetings. It is also stated that Annabelle's father, a doctor, serviced patients no matter the color of their skin. We also read that Lillian lied more to protect Freddie (Josie & Justine) than Anabelle - so we begin to see who the sympathizers are but not immediately why.

Piper says, "This has got to end. I can't stand the not knowing any longer." (p. 290) I felt that way since about page 250. I was ready for the book to be over long before it was. The ending was rather prolonged.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 0

Religion: 0

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 3

Morality: 5

Sex - none that I remember. Just a kiss or two.

Religion - none that I remember. The characters all seem like nice enough people but there seems to be a complete absence of religion, other than the idea that one character couldn't be buried in the family cemetery because she committed suicide. It is unclear whether the banishment is founded on religious beliefs or some other personal conviction.

Gruesome - two deaths (one suicide, one suffocation) happen off canvass but are recounted in the story

Suspense - there is a mystery being uncovered which makes it suspenseful. Unfortunately I can't give the suspense more points because it was so over-done that it actually detracted from the quality of the suspense.

Morality - The big secret is a highly moral dilemma that occurred in an earlier time period when racial tensions were high. A mixed race couple were married secretly and had a baby. The mother and baby were in hiding and almost discovered. In order to protect their location the girls had to do something unthinkable. To complicate the morality issue one girl misled the other girl about the act that had occurred and never cleared up the misunderstanding in their entire life. The one who thought she'd done something asked for forgiveness but the one that knew the truth never gave it and never apologized for what she'd actually done or for having misled the first girl.

Discussion Questions

The book opens with a memory of a "non-event". What non-events in your life have later turned out to be significant?

Have you ever thought God saved you for something important? (p. 2)

Discuss Mr. Morton's advice to Piper on page 6, "It's not always the distance of a trip that determines its value. Sometimes the best trips are only as far as the circumference of your heart." What does it mean? How can you apply this thought to your life?

Piper wonders, "if dying in the quest for glory wasn't far better than surviving with the livid scars of failure for all to see." What do you think? (p. 7) Which is better: visible scars or, "the hidden kind where nobody knew how to avoid the parts that still hurt." (p. 32)

Discuss the difference between grief and regret. (p. 31)

In Lillian's mind she was young but the mirror showed her a different story.

What surprises do you see in the mirror? (p. 85)

Lillian realized that growing old meant giving up things you love. (p. 85)

What have you given up as you grow older?

Do you believe in regret? (p. 128) Joel Osteen says we are not to dwell on it. The author express her opinion through her characters: " ...disappointments didn't have a limit, but the number of lives we had did." (p. 316)

Discuss Lillian's views on society today, that the problem is nobody caring about details anymore. (p. 163)

Other than being Josie's brother, how did you think Freddie was connected to the story?

Did you think he was involved with Lillian or Annabelle?

Earlene reflected that "something inside [her] wanted to be something other than ordinary" (p. 209) and a few pages later she did something extraordinary. (p. 213). How do you feel about this convenient wording?

Is it plausible that Susan was so upset after learning Lillian's secret that she killed herself?

Imagine your Grandma had a secret child - how much would it affect you?

What do you think Annabelle's father confessed to her when he was ill? (p. 244-245)

Did you know the confession then or figure it out later?

Piper "walked blindly". (Ch. 23, 3rd paragraph) Does this phrase have extra significance since she'd just left Helen in the hallway? Is it insensitive to the blind character in the book?

Annabelle and Josie come to greet Lillian in death - not Freddie or Charles. Who will greet you? (p. 331)

Discuss the level of grief Piper felt when she discovered her grandma had been misled all her life.

Didn't Annabelle still have a good life?

Did the explanation for Susan's plight (p. 336) make sense - "she took it to heart as only a person as she was could. I think that's why she chose the river. Because of Samuel."

Tucker says he understands what Malily meant "by not believing in regret. I think that to her life was about finding the extraordinary in every day. It was how she could sit in her garden on a rainy day and see the beauty in it. It's what got her out of bed every morning. That was her courage." (p. 337 top) Do you agree? What is your courage?

(from the book - question 6) Annabelle tells Piper that history books are filled with men's stories of battles won and lost, but that women tell the stories of people's hearts. Do you agree?

Theme Ideas

Serve "Co-Cola" from cans over ice like Piper served Mr. Morton.

Give your guests, "a gold charm of an angel holding an opened book". (p. 5)

Serve comfort food: fried okra and fried green tomatoes like Piper got at the grocery store to make. (p. 14) Or tomato-okra casserole like George brought. (p. 15)

Serve sherry and iced tea. (p. 31)

Playlist: It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere (p. 31)

As a group, knit baby blankets for a charity.

Invite guests to bring their own charm collections and share their stories.

Serve fruitcake like the dieter analogy. (p. 91)

Decorate with flowers. Give moon flower seeds.