June title


  Remarkably Bright Creatures

 by Shelby Van Pelt

 Wednesday June 28th at 1pm

Available editions:

Hoopla audiobook 

Hoopla ebook

Libby audiobook

Libby ebook

Print copies (available soon!)


 After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova. Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Zoom link for May 24th meeting

 Here is the zoom link for today's meeting at 1pm.


Karen Dixon is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: May book group
Time: May 24, 2023 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 819 4634 7694
Passcode: 478579


Grey Bees background, links and discussion questions


Grey Bees


Andrey Vuryevich Kurkov (born 23 April 1961 in Leningrad, USSR) is a Ukrainian author and public intellectual who writes in Russian. He is the author of 19 novels, including the bestselling Death and the Penguin, nine books for children, and about 20 documentary, fiction and TV movie scripts. His work is currently translated into 37 languages. Kurkov's most recently translated novel, Grey Bees, which has "elements of both the fable and the epic", dramatizes the conflict in his country through the adventures of a beekeeper. The novel was translated into French by Paul Lequesne as Les abeilles grises, which won the 2022 Prix Medicis etranger.

Kurkov lives in Kyiv with his English wife, Elizabeth, and their three children. After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, he became an internally displaced person and continued to write and broadcast about the war. A bilingual, native Russian speaker, in a 2022 interview Kurkov speculated that Russia's war on Ukraine, rather than suppress Ukrainian culture and identity, would potentially have the opposite effect, encouraging Ukrainian writers, especially those whose native language is Russian, to publish increasingly, or even exclusively, in Ukrainian. (Wikipedia)


Useful reviews and interviews


Frenemies in a War Zone: On Andrey Kurkov's "Grey Bees - LA Times –


  A Humorous Ukrainian Writer, With Nothing to Laugh About- NYT -


A Ukrainian Novel Looks Between the Lines of War - New Yorker -


A Beekeeper and his bees go on a road-trip across war-torn Eastern Ukraine - 



Some major themes of Russian Literature:


1.     Westernizers vs. Slavophiles - constant awareness of Russia's relation to the cultures of the West


2.    The superfluous man - men whose ambition is made irrelevant by the great power of the state

3.    The "enchanted wanderer"

4.    Hagiography - Saints' lives

        5.   Skaz - telling tales in an almost folkloric voice


Discussion Questions for Grey Bees by Andrei Kurkov

1.    What is Sergeich's relationship to the color grey? How does it change throughout the novel?


2.    Why was the name of Sergeich and Vitalina's daughter such a breaking point for their relationship?


3.    What is the significance or the vodka/lard (pig fat, not usually rendered)/onion ceremony in the book?


4.    Why does Sergeich feel so empowered by changing the street signs around?


5.    Who is the "great man" who comes to sleep on the bee bed, and why is Sergeich so moved by his coming?


6.    Why do  Pahka and Sergeich remain "friends/frenemies" despite their enormous differences?


7.    Why are bees, in particular, at the center of the story? Are they inside culture or outside of it?


    8.    From the point of view of art, why does Sergeich go to Crimea instead of further west in Ukraine? What does Kurka need him to find there?


    9.    What is the role of the comic scenes at the border?


10.  Are you surprised by Sergeich's ignorance of Tatar culture?


        11.  How does Sergeich's time in Crimea affect him?

        12.  Do you really have to know the history of this region to understand this book?

13.  What is the relationship between the three regions where Sergeich spends time in this book - the grey zone, "free Ukraine" and Crimea?


14. Towards the end of the novel, Sergeich could have chosen any one of three ultimate destinations: back to his wife, back to Galya, or back to Starohorodivka. Why does he make the choice he does?


15. How has Sergeich changed by the end of the novel?


Map of grey zone in 2015