JHATOR was chosen as the summer read for the book club at the United Church of Christ in Norwell, MA. Today, the Rev. Deborah Spratley hosted an author's brunch and discussion of the book with me and members of both the book club and writer's group at the church.
One of the first things I learned from the group members, who are approaching the book from a Christian POV, is that starting the book with Anat, the vulture, was unsettling for most of them. Of course, that is the point of Chapter 1. Viewing a vulture or a serpent or the big bad wolf as evil is part of our culture. The Buddhist POV teaches us that many of our ideas of good and bad do not involve real evil or harm. They are opinions that lead to conflict and suffering.
This was a great starting point for our discussion, which was lively and intense. We talked about the nature of suffering, emptiness and clear mind and spent a few moments learning how to use breath to clear one's mind. We continued by examining what Afra, the doe, and Jet, the dog, represent in the novel. (In different ways, both characters demonstrate that there is a time for grieving but when it passes, we must ask what the next correct action should be.) We finished with the Buddhist perspective on death and grieving. It was an intense two hours with great questions and feedback from the participants.