Don’t You Know Anything? {Book Club}

Today we start The Witch of Blackbird Pond and will discuss chapters 1-7. It is only $6.99 on kindle or here’s a free PDF.

Today is also a first! This is the first time I haven’t read the book (or short story) ahead of time. Truly I have only read the first seven chapters and then made myself stop so I can write this post. I was going to do some research on background or info on the author but I was afraid I might see a spoiler alert, and since I think I’m one of the few who hasn’t read this, I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. I’ll do some research the last week :).

I’m now going to start discussing the book, so if you don’t want any spoiler alerts, avert your eyes.

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My first thought was, “Why have I never read this book?!” My second thought was, “Kit reminds me of Mary from The Secret Garden.” We read The Secret Garden two summers ago. You can read the posts and our discussion here, here, here, and here. I had read TSG many times before that, but it was the first time I’d thought of Mary as a TCK. In both cases, Kit and Mary experienced tragic losses of key adults in their lives, had grown up privileged outside of their home culture, were educated, and went to a distant country to live with a relative they had never met in person.

Interesting how both books included two other children: the “nice” (Dickens and Mercy) and the “cranky” (Colin and Judith). Also both books had a child who was “crippled”—same word used in both — but in one book it’s the nice child and the other the cranky one.

What other young adult literature or grown-up books did The Witch of Blackbird Pond make you think of?

At this point in the book, my feelings towards Kit are all over the board. I’m sorry for the amount of loss she has experienced. I’m impressed with the ways she stepped up after her Grandfather’s death and had to settle all of his financial affairs. I’m concerned that she might become trapped in Connecticut at such a young age because she has so few options. I’m annoyed at the ways many girls and women were so constricted by their gender (okay, this isn’t Kit’s fault and I know also true of many girls and women today).

As a TCK (or for those of us adults who are TCP), Kit is almost textbook:

  • She had experiences others can’t fathom. (What? You can swim? You can read?)
  • She had different perspectives on things like the purpose of reading. (From chapter 2: John speaking, “But the proper use of reading is to improve our sinful nature, and to fill our minds with God’s holy world.” Kit stared at him. She pictured Grandfather, the blue-veined hands caressing the leather binding, and that she knew that he had not cherished his books with any thought of improving his sinful nature.)
  • She had a confidence and willingness to act.
  • She also misinterpreted several situations such as floating meant she was a witch, not that she was an capable swimmer. Or when William visited and said he was “building a house” and Judith asked Kit, “Don’t you know anything?”

I also identified with Kit at how exhausting it can be to learn a new culture. I think we’ve all been there where we talked ourselves through a boring situation thinking we made it through! Hallelujah!!!! Only to find, nope, there’s more to come. When Kit found out there was a second service on Sunday, my heart sank a little bit with hers. I’m sorry Kit! At that point she wondered, “Why have I come to this hateful place?” No matter how awful or wonderful your location is, we have all wondered that at different times or stages of life.

Kit is also quite insightful. When she recoiled at Mercy being described as “cripple” because she saw how Mercy really was the glue that held the family together, I thought “Yes. We too may see things others miss because we have fresh eyes.”

What else have you noticed about Kit and either TCK or cross-cultural themes? I laughed at her uncle’s response to all the luggage. Hehehe, I too, have traveled with more luggage than others thought I needed.

See you in the comments friends!

Amy

 

Next week: Chapters 8-15 and the following week we’ll finish the book with chapters 16-21.

The last week of February we 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. 

30 Comments

  1. Beth Everett February 1, 2016

    I can’t believe I have not read this book before – being a Barbadian and all! I’ve had it on my list to read, but it is VA’s bookclub that finally got me reading it … and I couldn’t put it down! … something about community reading helps! 🙂 So thanks for that!

    Last Friday I was on my way into Bridgetown to pick up my children’s documentation for their Barbadian citizen-by-descent, now that we have returned to and are living in Barbados (they were both born in China, and have American citizenship by their father – yup, true TCKs!). I was in the middle of reading this book and thought it would be fun to take and post some pictures of two of the places mentioned in the book – Bridgetown the capital, and Carlisle Bay! Enjoy! (and come visit sometime!) 🙂

    So back to the chapters at hand …

    On being a TCK and being a cross-cultural worker in general, that feeling of being an outsider, and always feeling like you don’t quite belong, Kit sums it up well … “There was something strange about this country of America, something that they all seemed to share and understand and she did not.” – Chapter 1 – That whole “them” and “us” thing in general. It’s inevitable I guess. What we don’t know and understand about the “other” can so often lead to fear. Being a courageous learner of what is new helps to break that fear. Kit is great at this. And I think this is one of the many advantages of being a TCK/TCA – that is, the expanding of one’s appreciation for what is different and ‘strange’ and learning to accept and embrace, while also not losing oneself in the process. Which leads me to the next thought …

    “She would naturally have lifted her skirts free of the uncut grass, but a new self-consciousness restrained her” – Chapter 3 … how much do we hold back of our true selves in the process of adapting and figuring out a new place? I’m thinking it’s a good thing and wise as we choose to be learners first. And also wondering how much time needs to pass as we adapt and learn before we allow our true (different) self to emerge. I’m glad Kit does not lose herself in the process of settling into this new world.

    1. Lisette February 1, 2016

       “how much do we hold back of our true selves in the process of adapting and figuring out a new place?”

      Yes! I find myself doing this all too often. My life in Kenya and my life in America are so completely different that sometimes I feel like an entirely different person. My expectations, thinking, and behavior can change so much depending on the culture I am in.

      1. Amy Young February 1, 2016

        Lisette, me too. I find I really can be almost three different people — one version of me when it is just me and local friends, a different version of me when I’m in my home country, and a third version when I’m around other expats who get that there is more than one of me :).

        1. Michele Womble February 4, 2016

          I think we had been in Russia about five years before I started trying to really joke around…(I had attempted some jokes before but they kind of fell flat because people just assumed I was making a language mistake) – like I said, after around 5 years I began to loosen up in the joking around department.  One of our friends said it was as if I had spread my wings.  In the first years I had to acclimate to the culture and get a feel for what’s appropriate and what’s not – what’s funny and what’s not – and they also had to learn to know ME and what was a real mistake and what was me just joking.  (This sounds like I’m a person who jokes around a lot, I’m not, I would be average in that department, but I couldn’t joke or “play” much for awhile.)

          1. Amy Young February 5, 2016

            Love this insight. Yes . . . the time needed to figure out what is appropriate, what’s considered funny, and for people to know you too. Michele, I don’t know you well, but my sense is you’re good with the under the radar humor. Humor people might not see coming and then once they get it, it knocks them over :).

    2. Amy Young February 1, 2016

      Beth, I love seeing the pictures!! Please feel warmly welcome to share as many as you want 🙂 — this week or in other weeks. I’m so glad you chimed in because I was thinking of you and Barbados!

    3. Susan February 1, 2016

      I could see myself in Kit when she was on the boat talking with John.  She wanted him to know about the things that she loved, what her life was like in Barbados but “She saw now that she could not tell him about the books she had loved any more than she could make him see the palm trees swaying under a brilliant blue sky.”  It can be difficult for others to understand or even desire to understand a world that is really different from their own.  I feel that with Indonesian friends when talking about my American home and with American friends when talking about my Indonesian home.  Also, Kit recognized that John might judge her life if she share, she realized he wasn’t a “safe” place for that.  And that’s totally life, some places just aren’t safe to share from the heart.

      Beth, love the pics!  I, too, was struck by the part when she lifted her skirts up from the grass…it was her first inclination to do that, but then she worried how that would be perceived.  I can really relate to that…in my home culture I would do it this certain way, but in this other culture, is that okay? Do this/wear that, etc.

      Amy, interesting point that she was privileged as are TCKs living overseas.  It wasn’t an aspect I had connected til I read your article…

      I can totally relate with Kit’s horrified reaction to ANOTHER church service too.  We live in a culture where the formal structure of church can be so exhausting.  I laughed bc it is so familiar…when Rev. Buxley was praying at the family home, “she knew this would be a length masterpiece” and “the husky voice scraped inexorably on”….long, stifling, boring, irrelevant, not from the heart, but a performance.   The religion that was so prevalent around her seemed to be over the top stifling, a shock for an unchurched girl used to running free.  Religion felt heavy and burdensome to her and I feel that here, too, with so much of Chr.istian.ity being about doing enough, following the rules, being faithful to stay spriritual by going to ALL the never ending formal services.  Bc of the cultural context, it is a real struggle to hang on to faith in Jesus as One who brings life, not One who heaps on mounds of expectations of doing more, better.

      So I was sure I had read this book in high school, but as I read it, no part rang a bell in my memory so it’s a new read for me.  And I have to confess, I couldn’t put it down and am already done:)

      1. Amy Young February 2, 2016

        Susan, excellent point! The whole idea of who is “safe” and who isn’t. Man, that was spot on, what you said.

        And the stifling part of religion you mention — the mounds of expectations. I’m reminded again and again how the call is to keep our eyes on the One who gives life and out of that will our actions flow. But it can be hard when it looks like we aren’t “doing” enough!

        It was hard to put the book down and not keep reading. :)!!

      2. Michele Womble February 4, 2016

        Susan, I also have to confess that I couldn’t stop  and read the whole book this week. In 2 days.  Even though I didn’t really have time to commit to reading a book in 2 days, and even though I’d already read it several times before.  It’s just a good book, it pulls you in.

        The part where she saw she couldn’t tell him about the books she loved anymore than tell him about the sky – yeah, that resonated with me, too.  It’s so hard when you want to share with people in one of your “worlds” about things or people from another of them – and often you just can’t, even sometimes when the person IS a “safe” place.    (But sometimes you can – and those times end up being really beautiful.)

  2. Lisette February 1, 2016

    I am SO glad we are reading this book. It is one of my favorite books of all time-even now, as an adult, I can open it up to any page and just start reading. (I have even stolen the copy I read and re-read so often as a child from my parents’ bookshelf!)

    I have taught and worked with TCKs, but it had never quite clicked that Kit is a TCK. It makes so much sense. I am not a TCK, but I grew up as the only girl in a family of brothers and, as much as I love my brothers, I always felt a bit on the outside of things. I knew that was why I connected with Kit so much and why I felt such a kindred spirit with the TCKs I taught, but I never occurred to me that Kit was a TCK. 🙂 (Maybe there is something here about seeing with fresh eyes?)

    I always laughed at her misunderstanding of William, but it’s something that is all too familiar to us single ladies living in a foreign culture. It is SO hard to read the signals correctly. And often, it’s not a laughing matter, especially when you don’t have a Judith to help you interpret what it all means.

    1. Amy Young February 1, 2016

      Lisette, this is also how I feel about Where the red fern grows! I can turn to about any page and am transported back :)! Fun to hear a bit about your life and experience — I think you’re on to something with you only having brothers and TCKness of feeling a bit different.

      It could be interesting to collect stories of social cues we missed — in particular to romantic interest. In China, if a girl says she’s a little sister to a boy (or a boy/young man says he’s the big brother) they are meaning something romantic. Well, you can imagine the westerners who have misread this because using family terms tends to mean you are not romantic because the thought of using romantic terms and sibling terms in the same sentiment is creepy. I’d love to know from Asians, what westerners do that’s creepy to them :). How about in Kenya? What are ways to express romantic interest or intent?

  3. Kim A. February 1, 2016

    Oh, I love this book!!  We just finished reading this as our homeschool read-aloud and no one wanted to stop…ever!!!  One thing I enjoy about being ‘different’ is that we get to break the mould a bit…there are some things that I do (like go to parties at the veggie stand peoples house, and have my hairdresser over for tea…where these people are sometimes considered on a different ‘level’ as others…or ‘oh dear, maybe you didn’t know about them”…begin gossip about their past…)  Those things that so define a persons place in this culture can define who they are here, but we can stand oblivious and share a different kindgom, one where each person has value and deserves to be loved.  I think I may be skipping ahead in the book….I’m really excited!!  Great book choice!

     

    1. Amy Young February 2, 2016

      Another great point made! How there is freedom in being different. Yes. And I like it too 🙂

  4. Kiera February 2, 2016

    I read the whole book straight through too – I couldn’t stop after 7 chapters. I had read it once before and only remembered the storyline vaguely. I had never considered this a TCK book, but now that I am re-reading, I definitely see it. I noticed the same quote as Beth. Although I’ve never made as drastic a move as Kit, that feeling that people know things that you do not is familiar to me…especially unsettling when you are back in your “home” culture.

    1. Amy Young February 2, 2016

      That is a weird feeling, isn’t it?! I’ve been known to say out loud (to comfort myself), “I do know how to do lots of things, just not these things :)”

  5. Christy J February 2, 2016

    I also thought I had read this book before but have discovered that it is new to me. I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is a captivating story that is so relevant to the experience of anyone who has lived in another culture. I wish I had read it when I first moved overseas so many years ago.

    I was convicted as I read about Kit’s church experience, as it pointed out to me the judgmental attitude I frequently have when going to church here. Even this Sunday I found myself questioning some things that were happening in the service and then I reminded myself to take a step back and consider things from the perspective of the Ghanaians who were worshipping there. Though that particular form of worship was not in my religious “comfort zone”, there were plenty of people there who were clearly connecting with God. I don’t know what will happen with Kit in this story since I haven’t read the rest of the book yet, but in my situation I am seeking ways to be more open in the ways that I know and worship God by learning from those around me. I hope that this kind of connection can cross the cultural boundaries in both directions, but I have to be willing to receive if I ever expect to give.

  6. Elizabeth February 3, 2016

    Can I just say I love all the comments?!! And your original post, Amy! I love what everyone is saying. This is why it’s so great to read fiction in community — something I forget! I tend to be so serious and gravitate towards the heavy non-fiction stuff, and want to talk about that. But here there’s so much depth in the story. Wow. Thanks everyone for your comments. 🙂

    And I love the comparison to “Secret Garden,” Amy — I remember that book club and realizing for the first time that Mary is a TCK. That book club was great too! Love the luggage comment — that’s probably both literal and metaphorical, isn’t it??

    1. Michele Womble February 4, 2016

      The LUGGAGE was hilarious.  I agree, Elizabeth, that it was both.

      I also thought it was interesting about not just how many dresses she had, but how fine they were in comparison with her cousins – and her impulse to give them away – which doesn’t always come across well, but it didn’t even occur to wonder 1) whether or not it would be appropriate dress for this new culture, (that was the first thing that crossed my mind when she started handing them out, if their town would even allow such things to be worn) and 2) what kind of cultural boundaries she might be crossing by offering the dresses to her cousins.

      1. Elizabeth February 5, 2016

        Totally agree Michele! And it has applications to our own “charity” too. . .

    2. Amy Young February 5, 2016

      Elizabeth, me too! Reading through the comments I have been reminded/encouraged that fiction is (for me) so much better in community. As I glance at the stack of books I’m reading, there is only ONE fiction book in it (this one :)) —I know we are all drawn to different books and that’s OK, but when i read fiction like this, I wonder why I don’t read more!!

  7. Michele Womble February 5, 2016

    When she arrives, everything is gray and bleak (to her).  That struck me because when we first arrived in Russia (in the nineties) everything seemed so gray and bleak.  (Partly it was, because the buildings were in the old soviet style, so many of them were gray and ..ok, well, bleak.  And their economy had just done a major nosedive, (to put it mildly) so in that sense things seemed bleak as well, and other reasons.  But partly…we just needed to see things with different eyes and different perspective.  So…more about that later.

     

    I loved Nat the captain’s son’s comment “I never know myself which is best, the setting out or the coming back to harbor.”

    (The confusion comes when you know longer know which you are doing, setting out or coming back, because “homes” are many!)

    I loved her description of her fear in the storm and how she said she was so terrified during it, but “now” she wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  It was the most exciting thing she had ever known….Can I just say that I feel this way about Russia?  (this is also probably a bit of forshadowing).

    I LOVED it when Kit asked “Is it far to the town?” and Judith answered “This is the town” – NOW (after years of experience) I would probably have been holding my tongue and waiting to see what would happen…of course, NOW (after years of experience) I might have already had a suspicion that maybe this was, in fact, the town…but the first years…what might I have said innocently enough that would have been an affront to those around me?

    “oh, why had she ever come to this hateful place?”  ever had one of those moments?

    1. Elizabeth February 5, 2016

      “(The confusion comes when you know longer know which you are doing, setting out or coming back, because “homes” are many!)” Ooh good point Michele.

      And yes, having an “oh why had she ever come to this hateful place” today in fact. (And they are few and far between for me so to have one is especially bad.)

      1. Amy Young February 5, 2016

        Sorry Elizabeth :(. As you said, if they are few and far between, when they happen, they cut deep. I’ll spend a few minutes praying for you now. xox

    2. Amy Young February 5, 2016

      Oh I can see myself having made the same kind of mistake too Michele! Ah, the blessing of knowing NOW so as to avoid some of the blunders. But the truth is I’m making new blunders and still learning :)!!

  8. Felicity February 8, 2016

    Hi friends! Just wanted to chime in even though I’m late, but I am reading with you and have enjoyed all your comments.

    This is my first time reading the book and it’s fun to hear all the comments from those of you who read it as children. I did not read much at all as a child and had never even heard of this book.

    Before starting the book I read the first few sentences Amy wrote here and then decided to check it out from my online library app (yay they had it!) when I got to the Amy’s spoiler alert. So, interestingly enough the thing that kept going through my mind was (and I can’t even find it now–I thought Amy wrote it somewhere …but someone’s comment that when they read this book as a child they thought, “I am Kit!”

    What struck me as I read Kit’s story was that she is so different from who I was as a child. So confident and capable–she took on the responsibility of settling all of her grandfathers debts, finding her own way to a new land, eager to step up and help the little girl on the boat and never regretting it even when everyone ends up judging her for her generous and kind act, and willing to work hard in her aunt’s home from day one even when she doesn’t have the skills (yet) to do the kind of work she’s being called to. I did not have these character qualities as a child. I was incredibly insecure especially when it came to adults questioning my actions. I was very compliant at Kit’s age.

    I’m sure there are some ways my young self could have related to Kit but reading now as an adult it just makes me grieve for the insecurity I experienced as a child.

    How about you all? Could your childhood self relate to Kit? In what way?

    I was especially floored when I read her comment to the captain that she would take all responsibility for having come so far if it turned out that her aunt Rachel could not be found in Wethersfield. She did not even let herself begin to doubt that maybe she had made the wrong move! Such a brave soul!

     

    1. Michele Womble February 8, 2016

      Felicity, the similarities between Kit and the young me are in 1) new place 2) attempting to fit in and endure.  But like you, I was very compliant at Kit’s age.  I would have wanted to jump in after the doll – not sure if I would have or not.  If I had, and been chastised for it, I would have hidden in my cabin the rest of the trip. ( I would have been brave enough to jump in the water, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to go against the adults).   I was also insecure about adults questioning my actions.   I would never have been confident in my own decisions.  In my abilities, yes, in my decisions, no.  .  I would have doubted every decision I made.  Very interesting question, I’m glad you asked it.

    2. Kathy Vaughan February 18, 2016

      I would say that as a young person I was pretty confident in myself, and although I probably had some insecurities, I mostly felt capable and ready to take on what the world had to offer.  Although this might seem to be a place of strength, and I have definitely seen God use this here where I serve, I would say that it has not always served me well.  I have had to learn to be very careful not to do things in my own strength and wisdom, rather than rely on the Lord, and I have had to continually ask the Lord to help me know true humilitiy.  Our perceived strength is also sometimes our weakness, and we have to continually submit it to God, knowing that in His grace He wants to use it for His glory and our good.  This is my first time to read the book, and it will be interesting to see if Kit’s strength in this area leads to difficulty, and how she might learn and grow from it.

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