Blueberry Cake and a Kitten {Book Club}

Welcome to the second installment of our discussion of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Today we are talking about chapters 8-15. It’s not too late to join for only $6.99 on kindle or a free PDF.

This month our book club reminds me of the Reeses’ commercials from the 80s. If you’re reading this in an email, you can enjoy seeing old Walkman’s and poofy-ish hair here. 

Instead of “Hey you’ve got your peanut butter in my chocolate,” I think it’s more like “You’ve got your Blackbird Pond in my Secret Garden! Mmmmm delicious.”

As you know, this is my first time reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, but as a child I was obsessed with The Secret Garden and reread it every spring. Last week I couldn’t help but notice all of the similarities between Kit and Mary. This week I could’t help but notice more:

  • Kit found the meadow and in it, a place to go and sort out her feelings. Mary had the garden and she’d spend hours alone before she discovered the secret garden.
  • Hannah Tupper reminded me of Dicken’s mother. Not only did they both like to talk using the word “thee”—”Thee has been homesick.”—they both were wise women. And in both cases they were more of the social outcasts. In Hannah’s case because of religion and though much less for Dicken’s mom, because of her being a so-called simple and uneducated woman.
  • Both books mention the healing power of animals with Hannah and her kittens and Dicken’s ability to be an animal charmer.
  • As a sign of the times, both books talk about magic and charms.
  • Mary and Kit are both more than willing to have frank discussions with people in power.

You can see why I thought of the Reese’s commercial! I’m thoroughly enjoying reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, in case you couldn’t tell. It is its own story and though it reminds me of The Secret Garden, there are plenty of ways it is different. In brief, the characters are old so love interests are involved, the political environments are unique, and the religious take on Mrs. Tupper being a witch.

As a side note, and really, isn’t the part of the point of book club, to read something and it be the avenue for us to share a story or a thought? I haven’t finished the book, so I’m not sure where the Hannah Tupper/witch plot line is going, but a recent event in my own life (not my personal life, someone I know) is a bit too much like an “Evangelical Modern Salem Witch Trial.” I didn’t realize we have our own tidy-on-the-surface version of these kind of events. Are women, in western societies still demonized under the name of “church discipline” in ways that really seem counter to what God would have them treated? Obviously, this is a button for me right now. And an area of sadness, so I’ve been watching how the community is reacting to Hannah with this situation in the back of my mind.

On to Kit! Our TCK/TCP. Wow, it was in this section I could see why Elizabeth suggested we read this book together. Thank you Elizabeth!

The meadow near Blackbird Pond being a special place of solitude and reflection for Kit. We understand the need at times to retreat—be it into a bedroom, a walk outside of the village we live in, the smell of a candle or drink that reminds us of somewhere else. What currently is your “meadow”?

Why, ’tis coral!” Kit exclaimed. “How did it get here?”

That unexpected feeling of finding something from another place and so quickly it floods you with memories and longings. I found Hannah Tupper to be so kind and insightful with her “Thee has been homesick.” Tears sprang into Kit’s eyes. No one, since she had come to America, had really wanted to hear about her grandfather . . . She scarily knew where to begin, but all at once she was finding eager, incoherent words for the happy days on the island.”

Hannah gave Kit the gift of listening and then took her out back to show her the flower that had grown from a transplanted bulb. Oh the images!

In chapter 12 I marked when Kit said, “This is the way I used to feel in Barbados.” I so appreciated the honest conversation Kit was able to have with Nat when he asked if she regretted coming and she said sometimes yes and sometimes no. Again, I think we can understand the rich depths to Kit’s feelings. Nat’s metaphor of Kit being like the bird he saw in Jamaica was spot on. “I can still see the green feathers if I look hard enough. But they’ve done their best to make you into a sparrow, haven’t they?”

Hannah ministered to people with “blueberry cake and a kitten.” When has food or an animal or small child been used to comfort you as you adjust to a new place or stage of life?

I haven’t even touched on the match-making that is going on (or how I think it is all going to shift!) or the political backdrop. Comments? Thoughts? Guesses?

If you want, eat some chocolate, peanut butter, or a Reese’s as you read and comment 🙂

Amy

Next week we’ll finish the book with chapters 16-21.

The last week of February we’ve got a treat with a children’s book and author! She and I were communicating today about the plan! Lots to look forward to in our current book and future ones to come :). 

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

21 Comments

  1. Beth Everett February 8, 2016

    This week I thought I would share a picture of an old plantation house from Barbados. This one – Sunbury Plantation House – is now a popular tourist attraction, with a history that dates back to around 1660! I thought it would be fun to share the contrast of what her lifestyle in Barbados might have looked like and her new life in America.

    Amy, I love the similarities between Secret Garden and this book! Thanks for pointing those out again!

    My main take-away from this week’s chapter … Sometimes we just need someone to open the door of conversation about the place(s) we used to call home, like Hannah did for Kit. Sometimes we just are longing for that conversation to begin. What a gift Hannah is! I love her prompts – they are simple, yet draw Kit right in:

    “Thee has been homesick”

    “That is the hardest”

    And with those few words she has let Kit know that she is a willing, listening friend, who wants to hear her heart.

    I want to be more of a friend like this. I know how special it has been when someone genuinely expresses interest, and sticks around to listen, even if the words I share are (like Kit), “eager, incoherent words”.

    1. Amy Young February 9, 2016

      I love picturing Kit and Grandpa in this house. Thanks Beth! 1660!! Wow, that really puts the change that Kit would have made moving from one social class in Barbados to a very different one in Connecticut in perspective :).

      I love what you say about Hannah and being the kind of friend who draws another out — such simple, yet profound examples from the book!

    2. T February 9, 2016

      Thanks for sharing another pic!!!  I felt really sorry for Kit on her arrival …seeing the unpainted shacks in her new town that didn’t even look like a town to her.

    3. Michele Womble February 9, 2016

      The pictures are great!  Will there be one next week, too? (No pressure or anything). 🙂

      I like how you put this :  “Sometimes we just need someone to open the door of conversation about the place(s) we used to call home”

      I hadn’t thought about the fact that Hannah didn’t just listen (which she did listen and listened well) but she also drew her in, said the “right” things to get her started.  Sometimes people aren’t interested and/or just don’t have any clue that there’s a whole different world inside the next person, but sometimes folks are INTERESTED, but don’t know what to say or how to ask questions that help someone begin to talk about themselves.  It’s an art – a gift – for some (my sister-in-law, for example) – but it CAN be learned…I’m trying to teach my kids to ask people questions that show they are interested and care….

    4. Elizabeth February 12, 2016

      I love the pictures too. I feel like you’re injecting muscle and sinew into the story with them.

  2. Emily Smith February 9, 2016

    I think I’ve read this book 3-4 times. Something always drew me back to it. I never was able to put my finger on it. The first time I read it I was 13 and we were in final stages of moving overseas for the first time. Reading it this time, the TCK experience I’m sure is what made it one of my favorites.

    Yes, the open door to talk. The permission to feel homesick. And it was the woman who was outcast and understood hurt who was able to give her that gift. So often, that has been the case in my life, too. It was the people who understood pain of some kind that were most likely to sit with me and listen. I feel like there is more than one lesson to be learned in that.

     

    1. Amy Young February 9, 2016

      Emily, I love picturing you as a 13 year old girl reading this as it unconsciously helped you make sense of what was going on. And now, as an adult to revisit it. Love this.

    2. Elizabeth February 12, 2016

      “It was the people who understood pain of some kind who were mostly likely to sit with me and listen.” TRUTH.

      Love that this book kept drawing you back even though you didn’t know why!

  3. Rachel February 9, 2016

    I am so uncomfortable so many times while reading this. I can see the cultural blunders Kit is making, and there are hints that others know it’s coming, too, but they don’t say anything! Before she left the boat (this was last week’s chapters, obviously, but I didn’t comment last week), it seemed that both Nat and John were on the verge of telling her what Puritan culture would be like, and then they just left her to find out for herself. Surely her aunt also knew what about the culture would be unfamiliar to her because she didn’t grow up there, and yet she never sat down to say, “Here are the dos and don’ts of Puritan culture.” Ok, the don’ts might have been too many to list, but seriously, how much smoother would Kit’s transition have been if someone gave her some local culture training?

    Christian culture here in coastal Kenya resembles Puritans to an extent. Men and women don’t sit on the same side of the church, you shouldn’t go to a restaurant that has a bar, you shouldn’t go to the beach, maybe you shouldn’t sleep in a hotel because a prostitute may have been in that bed… We do a lot of discipleship and try to impart some sense Christian liberty because people are beginning to ask about all these rules. “Why did Jesus turn water to wine if alcohol is sinful?” “Why do the overseas trip groups stay in hotels? I don’t think we’re supposed to do that?” There seems to be little attention paid to actually following Jesus because they are so busy keeping up with all the rules. And on this note, I love Aunt Rachel’s giving spirit. There is more to her religion than following rules, though she does submit willingly to Puritan ways, which takes a special kind of grace, I think.

    I love Kit’s spirit, boldness, and humility. When she goes to the onion field with Judith, she muses over “Judith, so proud and uppity…kneeling in the dirt doing work that a high-class slave in Barbados would rebel at.” And then she willingly joins the work. She may have shed some tears of self-pity, but she never refused to work, even though she hadn’t worked a day in her life before coming to Connecticut. Even when I had a housekeeper here, I still had chores that I never would have had in the US. I can relate to that self-pity. Even poor people in the US have running water in their houses every minute of every day, and here I’m relatively affluent, and I have to haul water in buckets! I may not handle it as gracefully as Kit…but at least I’m building upper body strength.

    In addition to the gifts of the meadow, where she felt more at home, and a friend who understands being a misfit, teaching in the dame school is so good for Kit. How disheartening it is when we have to spend our days doing everything we don’t know how to do. Maybe Kit isn’t as great with kids as Mercy is, but reading is a big part of who she is, and what a gift to be able to use that. Having a chance to do something we know well is valuable in finding our place in a new culture. In every other circumstance, she’s been a misfit who can’t do anything right, but here, Kit can thrive (big cultural mistake of “play acting” aside).

    1. Amy Young February 9, 2016

      Rachel, what a lovely comment thread! I agree, why didn’t some who say cultural blunders point them out? I don’t understand that … for the most part I have so appreciated when someone helped me understand what was going on so I could be less likely to make mistakes.

      So interesting to hear about Christian culture in Kenya. Thank you! Any other thoughts/insights welcome!

      Yes! to Kit being willing to work hard even though it was work she’d never done or never had to do. I do appreciate her tenacious spirit 🙂

    2. Michele Womble February 9, 2016

      I agree that someone should have told her, Rachel.  Those who had been on/ at least seen the outside would have known she was in for a surprise.  But especially her aunt, who came from a similar background as hers and knew what the adjustment would be like.  I love her aunt.  But she still should have told her.  Maybe she is still trying too hard to fit in herself – maybe she’s too afraid of jeopardizing her own hard-earned belongingness in this culture that she didn’t belong in to begin with, either. Or maybe she’s just too tired.   Do we ever fail to fill in or help out the new guy because we’re afraid of jeopardizing our current position in the culture…or because we’re just too tired and think “well, I worked through it, she/he will, too”  ?

      (I also loved hearing about Kenya and getting a peek into your life.)

      1. Phyllis February 12, 2016

        Maybe her aunt had already forgotten what the differences are? I know that I have a terrible time thinking of what to tell people, even if they ask what they should do or not do to fit in. I ending up shrugging my shoulders… and then a few minutes later saying, “Um, yeah. You shouldn’t do that.” Really, would someone have thought to say, “Oh, by the way, Kit, don’t dive into the water”?

  4. T February 9, 2016

    So, not to rock the boat, but doesn’t God sometimes send people places to rock the boat?  Like, Kit being there would bring a new ability for the locals to relook at their lives and the things they hold to so dearly that aren’t necessarily non-negotiables.  When is it okay for us to rock the boat, as well?  When do we do it on accident because of ignorance, and when out of defiance and when out of inspiration?  I’ve done all 3, and surely there are categories I’ve missed.  Oh, and I finished the whole book last week.  Ooops.  It was good!

    1. Michele Womble February 9, 2016

      Yes, there seem to be several of us who have done that…oops!  But it was so good!

      I like your question…thinking about it.  I started to write and realized that I was straying into the next chapters – yikes – so this might be a good question to bring up again next week.

      But yes, some rocking of the boat is good – knowing when and where and how (when you have control over it at all.)

       

    2. Elizabeth February 13, 2016

      I love this question, T — when are we supposed to rock the boat? I know I have rocked the boat on certain things in ministry, because I thought it was the right thing to do, and inadvertently hurt people’s feelings. Which I hate. (I also know I have made simple slipups and inadvertently hurt people’s feelings, no boat-rocking intended! I hate it when that happens too. . .)

      Anyway, yes, good question here, and will have me thinking on it awhile!

    3. Emily Smith February 13, 2016

      I keep thinking about this question, too. Thank you for bringing it up. I keep thinking there is something to be said for at least knowing you are going to rock the boat.

      I can look back at times I rocked the boat out of complete ignorance. On a number of occasions, I still believe I was speaking out for what was right and I would speak out again. I would also change my approach (and be prepared for other people’s reactions.) Maybe that would lead to fewer situations where I stuck my foot in my mouth and more of an attitude of grace and love.

      Part of me also wonders if God doesn’t sometimes use our ignorance to blurt out what many are afraid to say.

      I don’t feel like I have any answers, but it is making me think. Thank you

       

  5. Michele Womble February 9, 2016

    Second paragraph in chapter 8 – she is dressed exactly like Judith’s.  “Beyond a doubt it made for an easier relationship with her cousin”

    She’s “fitting in” and it makes life easier.  Absolutely. But as Amy mentioned above, Nat says “they’ve done their best to make you into a sparrow..”

    So… where is the line?  Fitting in to make life easier…fitting in to be able to share…but not losing yourself in the process?

    Of course in the book it’s just clothes.  But I’m not talking about making a fashion statement.  When I relaxed in Russia was when I could finally feel my way to be myself and still be part of the culture.  I stopped being so uptight about doing or saying something wrong.  My personality came through more then, I believe, which naturally deepened my friendships.

  6. Michele Womble February 9, 2016

    And oh! “Someday I am going to come back to this place, when there is time just to stand still and look at it.”

    I can’t even begin to tell how many times I’ve said that about places and things (and instruments).  I just love this line, although for me pretty much all the places and things I’ve said it about are waiting for me in God’s hand on the other side of eternity…(“Will you hold onto that for me and let me take it out and look at it long when I get there…?”)  But thank God, thank God I can say that – or there would be so much pain in it. (Well – there is pain in it, still, but a sweet pain – don’t think I could stand it otherwise.)

    1. Amy Young February 11, 2016

      I love the thought that just as God is collecting all of our tears, he can be collecting all of the beautiful places we’ve seen and we can revisit them! Love this!!

  7. Elizabeth February 12, 2016

    I love all the comparisons to “The Secret Garden”!

    “Thee has been homesick” — reminds me of the speech patterns of Miss Alice in Christy, who can often “read” people like that. Also, just love that someone was willing to listen. It’s the same with asking anyone about losses in their lives. Sometimes we want to tiptoe around them and avoid them, thinking that will avoid the pain, but sometimes people actually want to be asked about their old memories.

    Sorry I haven’t had much time to chime in on this, one of my favorite reads, but I am enjoying all the posts and comments!

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