03-09-2009 11:33 PM - edited 03-09-2009 11:47 PM
Please use this thread to discuss your overall impressions of Sag Harbor. How did your feelings about Benji and his novel change as the story progressed?
Do you have a favorite minor character?
If this is a coming-of-age-novel for Benji, how does he grow and change?
Can you compare Sag Harbor to other novels you've read about growing up?
03-10-2009 08:35 AM
My favorite minor character is Elena. We didn't see a lot of her, but she seemed to have a strength building in her. I really think she wanted to help her brothers, but knew that in order to do that, she had to help herself. She seemed to be one who would break the chain of abuse. At least, I hope so.
There is a line that seemed to sum up the book for me. On page 164, Mr. Whitehead writes,
"Incomplete children become incomplete adults." What a powerful line! If a child is not loved, respected, encouraged, and supervised; he can grow up to be the kind of person Ben's father was. The way many of the adults were. Throughout the book, I saw many incomplete children. Parents were not involved in what their children were doing, or they didn't care. (i.e. not "coming out", shutting bedroom doors) I was amazed that not one adult noticed the changing bonfire!
Thank you for a well-written, thought provoking book, Colson!
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
03-10-2009 09:43 AM
Even though the book was way out of my realm of usual reads I enjoyed it, which is one reason I belong to First Look because my horizons get opened up a bit. I liked the author's use of words and phrases and I really liked his characters and their outlook on life. I only raised daughters so being in the mind of a adolescent boy was a wake up experience for me.
My liking of Benji increased as the book went on, I liked him from the first and liked him even more by the end.
This is a coming of age book for Benji and he develops in small but radical ways, his first job, his first kiss, getting his braces off all earth shattering events for him, but they only change him minutely each time.
My favorite minor character would have to be Melanie because when I was that age I also ran around trying to kiss this one boy who always ran away screaming, so when I read that it brought back some bittersweet memories.
03-10-2009 01:18 PM
My feelings about Benji's family changed dramatically from the begining of the book until the end. In the begining of the book, I thought it seemed like his family has it all: money, nice family, etc. Then further in we start to see that things are not what they seem. The Dad is an abusive alcoholic, Mom is emotionally absent, and the electricity being turned off points to money troubles.
My favorite minor character was Elena, although we don't see much of her. I liked the advice she gave Benji.
I think Benji has matured a bit towards the end. If nothing else, I think he realizes that life is always changing, and that you can make your own destiny.
One book that reminded me *somewhat* of Sag Harbor was This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff.
03-10-2009 02:56 PM
I had an extremely hard time with this one. I just couldn't get past the tone and jumpiness (this from a LOST addict who reads alternative novels as one of her favorite genres). The fragmentation never allowed me to connect with any of the characters, including Benji.
I've not been doing so well with B&N's First Look even though I've participated in every one and sent a review for every one, only one of my reviews shows in my profile... odd. I wonder if this is because my reviews for The Sister & Songs For the Missing were less than glowing ??? I loved Monsters of Templeton and I adore historical fiction so maybe April's pick will give me something to love.
03-10-2009 03:17 PM
While reading this book I experienced many emotions.
Initially I was shocked at the distain or mistrust shown by the characters toward white people.
Mid book I was uncomfortable with these young men living alone for a week at a time while thier parents worked in the city.
In the last third of the book I began to enjoy the capades of Benji growing up. I really liked Benji and his friends.
Although skeptical in the beginning, I have come to the opinion that Benji and his brother were better off growing up alone in Sag Harbor than they would have been living with his dysfunctional family. The room for growth became a way for the boys to learn responsibility, get jobs without being nagged by the parents and become, in Benji's case a sensitive caring man. Without this time alone he may not have been given the opportunity to learn "who he was".
Race was an interesting part of this book, especially with the recent emotion shown when President Obama was elected. This "learned feeling" about whites as well as the Jim Crowe attitude shown toward Black professionalism lead me into deeper thinking about how race plays more of a part in our society than just affirmative action.
Finally, I respected the young man that Benji had become. Reading about him as he became confident and comfortable with himself. Seeing the insight he had into his parents and others who vacationed at Sag Harbour while creating his own memories made Benji a endearing and likeable character.
I would like to revisit Benjni in 2009 to see how his life has evolved..
I really enjoyed this stimulating book, thanks to Barnes and Noble for the opportunity to be involved in this book club.
03-10-2009 04:09 PM
Overall I really enjoyed the book. I'm not typically the type of gal who reads coming of age stories but this one intrigued me because it was different than most in the genre. In other words it was written and told from the view point of a boy on the verge of manhood.
I'm going to have to say my favorite minor character was Elena. I agree with the other comments that even though she wasn't around we got to know her through Benji's eyes and I did like the advice she gave him. It was at the perfect time in the novel and the perfect time in Benji's life to hear that. I hope he listened to her too.
I like that fact that Colson Whitehead wrote this as an autobiographical novel instead of a memoir. I can't stand memoirs and probably wouldn't have read this if it was in that genre. So major props have to go out to Colson for being more creative with what I feel is his story.
03-10-2009 07:43 PM
Sag Harbor was definately an enjoyable reading. Hats off to Colson Whitehead, this novel
really made me think, which it makes reading it all the more worth while. This novel takes
you on a journey, which starts off carefree and then the reality of life responsibility. My favorite character of course, is Benji, because I could totaly relate to many various stages
of growing up years. My second choice is his sister, Elana, for the fact, she had very strong
good advice for Benji. All in all, I would definately recommend this book to family and friends to read this novel. ThankYou Colson Whitehead for the honor of reading your work,
and once again Thankyou B&N for allowing me to take part in the disscussions.
03-10-2009 08:12 PM - edited 03-10-2009 08:16 PM
I really enjoyed the book. To put it bluntly, as a white person, I appreciated this book enormously because I learned a lot looking through the eyes of Benji. We all misunderstand each other sometimes but I think this book and books like these will help us all learn to live together in better harmony. Perhaps that sounds naive or idealistic but we are, after all, the same; we are flesh and blood, we have likes and dislikes, we love and hate, we feel joy and pain, fear and courage. All that separates us is mutual respect. We should work toward that, always.
03-10-2009 11:27 PM
I really enjoyed this book. It does not matter what color your skin is most of us can feel the emotion this book has brought to mind. Growing up we never had very much money and our summer was usually spent at the swimming pool. My mom and dad saved all year to buy a family pass so we could take swimming lessons. We never went on vacations we did not have the extra money. But we had a great childhood.
Thank you Colson Whitehead for a very thought provoking book.
03-11-2009 08:24 AM
One thing I felt after finishing this book is that things change but they stay the same. Although Benji has grown, traditions are changing new ones take its place. Anew young man will go through growing up. I remember how every summer where we went there were certain traditions such as an annual 4th of July party etc . When I went back there 20 years later things were very different - to me- but the people there then had their own traditions.
Not sure how to say this right but it's like we are all the same, different, yet the same. We all have our coming of age stories, our traditions, our ethnic ,religious, etc differences yet we all have them. We have adventures , we have highs and lows, we all have them, even though they may vary in what they are. Life teaches us all lessons and we all can relate to each other if we try.
03-11-2009 10:57 AM
03-11-2009 03:14 PM
This was one of my favorite "First Look" books. I enjoyed seeing life through Benji's eyes. I thought there was a real flow to the story. It starts off with Benji being an awkward mid teen, uncomfortable with who he is and where he is going. It ends with Benji having a plan as to how he is going to progress with his life. The scene when he breaks into his old childhood house seems to be the turning point. He finally can deal with the memories and loss, then moves on and leaves childhood behind. I think next summer he will be "Ben". Benji will be gone.
03-11-2009 04:49 PM
03-11-2009 05:00 PM
Overall I enjoyed the book. This is not the type of book that I normally read. Colson has a way with words that I enjoyed and at the same time did not like. I found the chapters a bit long for my taste. I prefer short chapters that get to the point quickly.
Benji did seem to grow up by the end of the book. The story was written by Benji at some point in his future. That being said I enjoyed the final chapter and felt it was written not after one summer but after a few years went by. All of the talk of the "replacments" the boys were in the early years of high school meaning they were still a few years away from not longer coming "out".
~ Joseph Addison ~
"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
03-11-2009 05:20 PM
03-11-2009 07:57 PM
Live the life you love ~ Love the life you live.
03-11-2009 10:40 PM
While I really liked this book-it is my favorite first look so far-I think it would not have been quite as enjoyable to me without this forum. Many issues were raised in this book, such as....race, family dynamics and being a teenager in general. As usual, the discussions are so informative, enlightening and educational due to the melting pot of individuals and opinions represented. I learn things that I might never without the voice of so many diverse individuals. Thank you Barnes and Noble for making this wonderful program available to all!
I completely agree with you. I always feel like I get more out of a book after having discussed it with someone else. There were many things in this book that I might have overlooked had it not been for this group discussing them. Especially why Benji left the freezer door open. That was something that left me a little confused and it helped having others explain why they felt that happened. So thanks to everyone! You made this First Look a wonderful experience!
03-12-2009 12:07 PM
Although skeptical in the beginning, I have come to the opinion that Benji and his brother were better off growing up alone in Sag Harbor than they would have been living with his dysfunctional family.
oh, excellent point! Like you at the beginning, I wouldn't have guessed I'd believe that in the end. Still, it's sad.
Sag Harbor is my favorite FirstLook book. Ironically, I delayed requesting it because I couldn't get any sense of a storyline from the description. Turns out, there wasn'treally one -- but rather snapshots that added up bigger than their separate parts. I agree with Thayer, this discussion really added to my enjoyment of the book. Thanks to B&N, Doubleday, Colson, and FirstLook-ers!
03-12-2009 12:37 PM
I am really glad that I signed up for this club. I usually read mysteries and supernatural style books. This made me realize that I need to look at other styles of writing.
I really enjoyed the way that Mr. Whitehead describe scenarios/characters in his book. This was a very humorous take on coming of age!