East Bay Book Club Message Board › Meeting Recap: December 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (God's Grace by Be
Union City, CA
The East Bay Book Club's final meeting for 2012 this week to discuss Bernard Malamud's novel God's Grace ended up being smaller than expected, with only 10 people out of about 19 RSVPs. But that's OK. The attendees still made the discussion a lot of fun. This book did generate plenty of interesting comments. Below is a sample of discussion questions and responses.
Symbolic roles of Cohn
- Cohn is the name of a priest class in the mythology of the Torah
- The name goes with the character teaching primates to be more civilized
- Strangly, Cohn's first name, Calvin, is a Protestant name
Leadership and dominance
- Even after all other humans have been wiped out, Cohn still tries to be a leader, not to mention impose English on the primates.
- Then again, aren't all the primates trying to play leader?
- By introducing human ways of life, Cohn was disrupting the social construct already in place among the primates
- The mating with Mary Madelyn was perhaps the key scene that illustrated Cohn as someone who feels superior and dominates another race.
- Cohn did think that his DNA was better than the primates'.
- And what about Cohn cutting off Buz's speech ability? Was that Cohn acting like God?
Cohn as a sympathetic character?
- There was one person in the discussion group who felt that Cohn was a sympathetic character, whose actions are driven by a belief in God, whom Cohn said was responsible for wiping out all humans, except him.
The big question from the novel
- How different are human beings from other primates, or other animals for that matter?
Finally, what is God's grace in this story?
- Maybe Cohn's eventual death, given the damage he's done, so it's grace for the primates
- Or with Cohn's death, he's put out of misery
Overall, 4 people liked the book, 4 people disliked it, and 2 people were in between. Some comments about the book: it's a quick read, it's a strange book, annoyed by main character, felt unfinished and incohesive, is full of references to Judaism. But let's not forget that the goal of the East Bay Book Club is to enjoy the book. It's to enjoy the discussion, and certainly this group did.
Lastly, the meeting venue owner surprised us by offering champagne and cake that her sister made. I will now admit that I was in on the surprise, and I just had to play dumb until the moment came. To the attendees, I'm glad you enjoyed the cake (and champagne if you drank), and I thought it was a great way to wrap another year of great book reading and discussion.
With that, we move onto 2013, another exciting year of books. Until next time, happy holidays. :-)