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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Woodrow on the Bench" by Jenna Blum

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Woodrow on the Bench" by Jenna Blum

  1. The Relationship Between Woodrow and Charles: Discuss the bond between Woodrow, the aging Golden Retriever, and Charles, the protagonist of the story. How does their relationship evolve over time, and what role does each play in the other's life?

  2. Themes of Loneliness and Connection: Both Woodrow and Charles are depicted as experiencing loneliness in different ways. How does their companionship alleviate their sense of isolation? What does the story suggest about the power of connection, even between species?

  3. Symbolism of the Bench: The bench in the park serves as a central setting for the story. What symbolic significance does the bench hold, particularly in relation to Charles and Woodrow's interactions? How does the bench represent a space of solace and connection?

  4. Character Development: Reflect on the characterization of Charles throughout the story. How does his relationship with Woodrow contribute to his personal growth and emotional healing? In what ways does Woodrow serve as a catalyst for change in Charles' life?

  5. Exploration of Grief and Loss: Both Charles and Woodrow have experienced significant losses in their lives. How do they each cope with their grief, and how does their companionship aid in the process of healing? What insights does the story offer about the nature of grief and resilience?

  6. The Theme of Aging: Aging is a prominent theme in the story, particularly as it relates to Woodrow's declining health and Charles' own reflections on mortality. How does the story depict the passage of time and the inevitability of aging? What wisdom does Woodrow impart to Charles about embracing life's changes?

  7. Narrative Structure and Style: Consider the structure and style of the story, including its use of flashback and introspection. How do these narrative techniques enhance the reader's understanding of the characters and their emotional journeys?

  8. Animal-Human Relationships: Reflect on the portrayal of the bond between humans and animals in "Woodrow on the Bench." What insights does the story offer about the unique connections that can form between species? How do animals, like Woodrow, enrich and deepen the lives of those around them?

  9. The Power of Presence: Woodrow's presence in Charles' life is a source of comfort and companionship. Discuss the significance of presence in the story, and how simply being with someone—human or animal—can provide solace and support in times of need.

  10. Reader Reflection: How does "Woodrow on the Bench" resonate with readers on a personal level? What themes, moments, or characters evoke strong emotions or memories, and why? How does the story inspire readers to reflect on their own relationships and connections in life?

Early Life and Education: Jenna Blum was born and raised in Massachusetts, United States. She developed a passion for storytelling at a young age, which led her to pursue a career in writing. Blum attended Kenyon College in Ohio, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing. She later obtained a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University.

Literary Career: Jenna Blum gained widespread recognition with the publication of her debut novel, "Those Who Save Us," in 2004. The novel, which explores the lives of a German mother and daughter during World War II and their aftermath, became a bestseller and was translated into multiple languages. It received critical acclaim for its compelling narrative and meticulous historical research.

Blum followed up her debut success with the novel "The Stormchasers" in 2010, which tells the story of two estranged siblings on a storm-chasing road trip. The novel delves into themes of family dynamics, mental illness, and the pursuit of redemption.

In addition to her novels, Jenna Blum has written numerous short stories, essays, and articles that have been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and The Improper Bostonian.

Writing Instruction and Advocacy: Alongside her writing career, Jenna Blum is actively involved in teaching and mentoring aspiring writers. She has served as a writing instructor at GrubStreet, a nonprofit creative writing center in Boston, where she leads workshops and seminars on various aspects of the writing craft.

Blum is also a passionate advocate for survivors of trauma and genocide, a cause she champions through her writing and public speaking engagements. She has worked closely with organizations dedicated to Holocaust education and remembrance, using literature as a tool for fostering empathy and understanding.

Legacy and Impact: Jenna Blum's work as a novelist, short story writer, and writing instructor has left a lasting impact on readers and aspiring writers alike. Her compelling storytelling, richly drawn characters, and meticulous research have earned her a loyal readership and critical acclaim.

Through her writing and advocacy, Blum continues to explore themes of identity, trauma, resilience, and the enduring power of human connection. Her work serves as a testament to the importance of literature in confronting difficult truths and fostering empathy in an increasingly complex world.


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Westwood, MA 02090
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