Book Club – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

The Club

I’m sure most of you out there would say the same, but I love my book club!

We’ve been meeting for about 14 months now, so I’d say we’re in a pretty serious relationship.

Our book club started at the beginning of 2016 when my now-friend, Lianna, came up with the idea and ask a slew of her girlfriends join and invite anyone who they thought may be interested. I was finally coming home from living abroad, and my friend Melissa invited me!

After the first two months of reading best sellers, we quickly took a leap. One member, Brianna, suggested the book Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives. We all read the book separately and headed over to Brianna’s for a boozy-bookish-brunch to discuss.

I’m saying this without hyperbole– the conversation blew me away. Everyone in the group had so much [life experience, personal values, intelligent insights] to share and everyone in the group was so open minded. Between all the girls there, we had a range of religions and spiritualities represented and everyone was given a fair chance to contribute without judgement. I left that day slightly under the influence of mimosas and so happy that I had been invited to join this small group in the big city.

Since then we’ve met as-monthly-as-possible. I’ve loved the topics we’ve gotten in to –from addiction, to solitary confinement prison sentences, to cults (Yes, we read The Girls), to being young in your twenties in New York City.  Here’s a link to my goodreads bookshelf for our picks.

I love the books we pick and the discussions we have, and I certainly think we’re unique in the way we look at books. I hope you enjoy reading some of the recaps!

The Book – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Do you ever have a book that just grows and grows until you can’t believe what fortune you’ve had to sit down with this masterpiece? This was how I experienced All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

Quick Synopsis (From Goodreads):

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer

I read most of this book in one sitting and have been raving about this book ever since. At the end of our last book club, I suggested it to the group. Below are some of our Questions and Answers.


1. Who was the dad? Was he based on someone real?

First and foremost, we were wondering how personal  the book was. Luckily, I had recently read this answer from Bryn Greenwoods BOTM interview. It turns out Wavy’s dad is a combination of a bunch of people Bryn Greenwood has known in her life.

Liam isn’t my father; he’s an ex-boyfriend, an old drug dealer of mine, a homeless guy who used to mow my lawn, and a professor I hated.

2. Did we see Kellen through rose colored glasses? It was crazy how an outside saw him vs. how wavy saw him. Should we have trusted Wavy’s view of Kellen? Did the meeting with the judge chage your mind? Can you imagine being Wavy’s roommate and going to meet him?

The members of my book club picked up on the contrast between Wavy’s section of the book –  that lets be real, had all of us under her spell – and anyone outside of the relationships. You have to consider that of course Wavy saw what she was doing as right, while all the external people – particularly the Judge who we’re supposed to understand is an impartial outsider- do not. It makes you consider if you’re getting biased information or if you the reader are really the most imformed-impartial-well reasoned participant.

3. Kellen killed people but was he a killer? Did he lack the mental capacity to understand what killing meant?

Continuing in the above discussion of “Was Kellen a good guy?” we touched on the fact that Kellen had previously killed people. None of us thought that made him a crazy killer, but it is something that a normal person wouldn’t do. Then we had to consider ‘OK.. if he doesn’t fully comprehend what he’s doing (our own conclusion), is he lacking some mental capacity? … Does that mean that he and Wavy were similar in maturity/intelligence?’ Would that  make their relationship more acceptable? Interesting questions

I know that I’m answering questions with more questions, but I thought the best part of the discussion were the questions that came up in discussion. I don’t want to post answers because WHO KNOWS? Maybe Bryn Greenwood. All we kept saying was we need Part 2!!

4. Was it pedophillia? Was it wrong? How did you feel about it? How did you feel telling other people about the book you were reading?

This book has gotten a whole bunch of 5 stars on the internet… and whole lot of 1 stars. People are divided on the topic of their relationship. As you read the book, I felt like you started to understand their relationship (see discussions above as to if this is right). By the end of the book , I didn’t feel like it was pedophilia… or wrong, but I know I’m in the minority of the internet.

The other interesting question was how did you feel telling other people about it. REALLY FREAKING WEIRD.

So does that make it a construct of societal expectations that age matters? I think if both participants can understand what they are consenting to, then it makes sense. We pointed out that someone in Wavy’s situation would have grown up so fast, being left to fend for herself so young. So maybe she was mature enough for the relationship? It’s so hard to make that decision though.

5. I had another friend who read the book and she thought the whole thing was sad. My reaction was that yes it is sad that Wavy was in this situation to begin with, but Wavy needed this person. She didn’t have anyone else. So I saw it as a positive.

Book club’s reaction was Wavy would have gotten out anyway. Then the question becomes what does “getting out mean”.  What do we think happened to Wavy? Does she graduate? I brought up the connection to Hillbilly Elegy – Hillbilly Elegy seems like the real life version of this book. The people in the Hill Country are striving for the American Dream – meaning that a generation should always be better off than the one before it. Do you agree? Do  you think Wavy would have broken the cycle with or without Kellen? (We need Part 2!)

6. Pickles!

I hosted this meeting of book club and we always try to have themed food, so this time, I tried to have a Kansas spread.I heard the big foods in Kansas were fried chicken and barbecue ribs….. So i bought chicken nuggets, barbecue chips, spicy pickles, and some standard cheese and crackers. Not to mention wine 🙂 . The spicy pickles were hands down the biggest hit. I posted my spread to instagram (follow me at feel.learn.wonder!) and while we were all talking about how delicious pickles were, I checked my instagram and saw that Bryn Greenwood herself had commented “mmm pickles”. !!!!

Bryn, if you’re reading this, we have so many questions and will have spicy pickles at our next book club so you’re 100% invited if you wanna come. We’re reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and meeting on March 27th, 2017! Hope to see you then 🙂


I hope you enjoyed our discussions and feel free to chime in!

Overall I thought All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was a great choice for book club and I had so much fun with my book club!

8 thoughts on “Book Club – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s