signs of life

Book Club Wrap-Up: Signs of Life

April 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm , by

Natalie Taylor kept us in stitches (and near a box of tissues), with her hilarious yet gut-wrenching memoir, Signs of Life, last month. She unabashedly allowed readers to dive into her psyche during the months after the sudden death of her husband and birth of her first-born son. And we’re so glad that Natalie continued to be candid with us all month long, game for a Q&A and Facebook chat about the book. If you haven’t yet picked up Signs of Life, read her letter to readers now–you’ll want to run out to the nearest book store by the second paragraph.

But now that our May issue is officially on newsstands (doesn’t cover star Melissa McCarthy look great?), it’s time to reveal our next pick! This month, we’re reading The Language of Flowers, the illustrious debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a true labor of love. Though the story of a young woman aging out of the foster care system and finding joy in the world of flowers is fictional, Diffenbaugh means it to be a symbol of a cause dear to her heart—creating a better outlook on life for the many young people who leave the foster care system each year. Find out more about why this is so important to Diffenbaugh in her Q&A with us, and her letter to readers. And, as always, stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on our blog to join the conversation as we chat about the book all month long.

We’re hosting a live Facebook chat with Vanessa Diffenbaugh on Thursday, April 26 at 1:00pm EST! Mark your calendars, and come to our wall to ask Vanessa a question about The Language of Flowers, her life as a writer, or her philanthropic efforts. We hope to see you there!

Book Club Guest Blog: Signs of Life and the Healing Power of Literature

March 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm , by

Today’s post is by Neely Kennedy of Reading Group Choices, a leading online resource for book club tips and discussible selections.

In the LHJ book club pick, Signs of Life, author Natalie Taylor shares her story of loss, grief and healing following the untimely death of her husband. She finds love and hope in her baby, takes comfort in the support of her friends, and, as a high school English teacher, reflects on the wisdom she’s read in great books.

Here are some brief excerpts from the book that illustrate how Taylor used classic literature as therapy, helping her understand and deal with her grief.

After the death of her husband, Taylor suffers agonizing grief. She relates the shock and disbelief with characters from The Great Gatsby.

“Oh my God, I’m never going to see him again…I will never be able to go back…I know that even now, three months later, my brain hasn’t fully absorbed the concept. That’s what Gatsby and I also have in common. We can’t seem to swallow our own realities.”

When Taylor gives birth to her son, Kai, she is overcome with an a feeling of love and hopefulness that even the greatest poets cannot describe.

“The best way I can say it is that when a baby is born, the ghosts of the world’s greatest poets stand and listen to the cry of a life that just took its first breath and even they can’t find the words.”

As Taylor begins to redefine her life, she is inspired to avoid the ‘W’ of widowhood, like the label ‘A’ for adulterer in The Scarlet Letter.

“Suddenly literature turns into a good movie and you’re standing up in your seat, smiling and clapping in your head. You wish at some point in your life you get to tell someone how you really feel. It makes you wish you had the courage to redefine what your letter stood for.”

As Taylor finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel, Thoreau’s writing helps put her expectations for the future into perspective.

“…although Thoreau’s narrative of ice melting may not wow the average twenty-first century audience, the process itself is really amazing when you think about it. Nature understands that things take time. You can’t rush certain things if you want them to work correctly…Sometimes I really look forward to how I will feel in ten years.”


During your Signs of Life book club discussion, ask your members to:

  • Share the three books that have made the biggest impact in their lives. What meaningful lessons did the books offer?
  • Write his/her own six-word memoir.  For Example: Hope triumphs death; life goes on.


Book Club Wrap-up: Vaclav & Lena

March 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm , by

Did you fall in love reading Haley Tanner’s Vaclav & Lena this month with us? We hope all of our fellow book clubbers swooned together while reading this work of romantic literary fiction, and that you were dazzled by its themes of magic and illusions. We invited Tanner to take over our Facebook wall one afternoon, and we couldn’t peel our eyes away from her candid accounts of her life as a writer and behind-the-scenes secrets about working on V&L, her first novel. Missed out? You can read the chat here, and listen up for info on more author chats to come—all you have to do is like us on Facebook to stay in the loop.

Now that our April issue is on newsstands, we’re ready to reveal our next pick! A first for the LHJ Book Club, we’ve chosen a truly mesmerizing memoir this month, Signs of Life, by Natalie Taylor. When Taylor was 24, she was newly married, pregnant, and on top of the world. Then, the worst thing happened: her husband died in a freak accident. Signs of Life is the story of the year-and-a-half that followed, and trust us when we say it is as hilarious as it is harrowing. Visit our book club page to read a letter from Taylor to get you started. And, as always, stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on our blog to join the conversation as we chat about the book all month long.

But first, tell us what you thought of Vaclav & Lena! Comment here or tweet us at @LHJMagazine with the hashtag #lhjbookclub.