It has been exactly one week since we met to discuss ‘Round Midnight by local author Laura McBride. We read her first book, We Are Called to Rise, in December of 2015. Her newest book was more critically received by our group and our discussion jumped around between characters and ideas, including Las Vegas as a character in the novel.
Our first responders had not liked the book. One had stopped by the library before the meeting to let me know that she couldn’t finish it and another had skimmed through the end but just didn’t like it! Many of us didn’t like going back and forth between characters. We had trouble keeping people and lineages straight. Doesn’t the author teach writing? The characters were vivid, contrived, passive.
As with her first book, the strongest part of our discussion came as we discussed the history and locations in Las Vegas. We decided that the El Capitan casino in the novel was based on the El Cortez casino downtown. One of us had worked at the El Cortez and told us how admirable and generous were the owners. We talked about the Moulin Rouge and its history as the first desegregated hotel in Las Vegas. I and several others had been unaware that Las Vegas was considered the Mississippi of the West. We wondered why the paperback and e-book titles were changed to In the Midnight Room, especially since the stories revolved around the Midnight Room more than they were inside.
In the end, I still wasn’t sure whether the majority liked or disliked the novel. I asked this outright and believe that the majority of us enjoyed the book and were glad we read it. But did it make an impression? Will we recommend it or would we re-read it? After just a week, my memory is already a bit fuzzy. What I do remember is a group of pleasant people, gathered together, eating trail mix, baklava and cupcakes, talking about books, movies, art and life. One of us even referenced McBride’s character Honorata quoting Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”[i]
Happy Holidays everyone! Forward to the new year!
- OTHER WORKS DISCUSSED:
- The Double Bind (2007) by Chris Bohjalian
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1998) by Oliver Sacks