*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Book of Lost Friends, I provide your book club with food ideas, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
In The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate conquers another fascinating, yet obscure, piece of American history. Not to be confused with The Book of Lost Names, which came out around the same time and centers on a WWII story (and is also fascinating), The Book of Lost Friends is a post-Civil War era novel.
This is another dual-timeline novel by Wingate. It follows Hannie, a freed slave, as she travels through post-war Texas in search of her people and attempts to return home to Louisiana, and Benny, a modern-day teacher, struggling to inspire her students until she unearths a history that links them to Hannie and much more.
I have to say that as much as I enjoyed Before We Were Yours, Wingate’s last book, I almost enjoyed The Book of Lost Friends more.
I really loved the post-Civil War timeline (Civil War era is one of my personal favorites), coupled with the struggling teacher timeline. If you are or have ever been a teacher, I think you will love Benny’s story. It echoes the teacher-trying-to-inspire-underpriveleged-kids theme that we’ve seen in many movies, but I thought the tie-in to the Civil War timeline made it fresh. Plus, I’m a sucker for those movies anyway.
This novel wasn’t as dark as Before We Were Yours was (due to its subject). And, while there was still adventure and drama and not every character got a complete happily-ever-after, it was overall an upbeat novel. So, if you’re looking for something inspiring and positive to read as a group, I think you will enjoy this novel.
Beyond that, there is plenty to discuss in The Book of Lost Friends and it will make for a lively book club meeting. On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a recipe for The Book of Lost Friends, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
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Here’s a brief summary of The Book of Lost Friends:
In 1875, during the Civil War Reconstruction, Hannie, a freed slave, finds herself thrust into a journey with her prior mistress, Lavinia, and Lavinia’s Creole half-sister, Juneau Jane. Each woman is clinging to her heritage and the hope of a brighter future as they travel to the wild frontier of Texas in search of the man who can secure their livelihoods. And, each is carrying her own wounds and secrets, but, for Hannie, who was torn from her mother and siblings before the war, the journey dredges up the old hope that her long-lost family could still be out there.
In 1987, Benedetta Silva finds her first job as a teacher in the poverty-stricken Mississippi River town of Augustine, Louisiana. Struggling to connect with her less-than-enthusiastic students, Benny discovers a story that might just ignite their interest when she stumbles across a century-old history of three women on a journey and their book of lost friends.
For The Book of Lost Friends recipe:
This is a book set in Louisiana, so needless to say, there are plenty of references to Louisiana fare. Well, I should say that there are plenty mentioned in Benny’s timeline. Food mentioned in Hannie’s timeline is more scarce, but that is to be expected.
While I was tempted to conquer the Doberge cake mentioned in Chapter 18, I decided that boudin balls were a better choice. If you aren’t familiar with boudin, it’s pronounced boo-dan. And, it’s a type of sausage, only it isn’t really. It’s more of a mix of pork and chicken livers and rice, which is stuffed into a sausage casing.
To make boudin balls, you remove the boudin from the casing, form it into balls with your hands, roll it in breading, and fry it up until the outside is crispy and the inside is, well, delicious.
If boudin balls don’t sound like your thing, here are a few suggestions from the pages of The Book of Lost Friends:
- Chapter 4 – Benny visits the Cluck and Oink for the first time – Smoked sausages and meats, rotisserie chicken, hot bread, and boudin balls
- Chapter 8 – Granny T brings Benny pooperoos for the students and Benny is no longer the Ding Dong Lady – Pooperoos and Ding Dongs – cookies made with oatmeal, butter, flour, raisin, old brown bananas, and just enough sugar to make them edible but not too sweet
- Chapter 14 – Benny visits Aunt Dicey and Sarge and is invited to stay for fried okra, fried green tomatoes and roast and ham but declines
- Chapter 18 – Nathan brings a Doberge cake over for his first meeting with Benny and they also grab some barbecue and iced tea
- Chapter 19 – Hannie makes a stew of rice, salted ham, and beans. They also eat biscuits with peaches as they travel to Fort Worth.
- Chapter 22 – Nathan and Benny eat dinner at the Cluck and Oink – corn muffins, breadsticks, jalapeno cornbread and rolls with butter and honey butter
- Also mentioned throughout Hannie’s story – corn pone
After doing some research, I came across a restaurant in Louisiana who adds pepper jack cheese to their boudin balls and I couldn’t resist.
One thing to note is that boudin is naturally crumbly when removed from the casing because of the rice. However, if your boudin is too dry and you just can’t form it into balls, you can mix in one egg to help things stick together. Just make sure you cook them at the proper temperature until done. You can also try compacting them into balls with a meatball scoop if you have one.
These delicious appetizers are sure to be a hit with your book club!
So, if you are looking for food suggestions for The Book of Lost Friends, I think your book club will be happy to try Boudin Balls!
Boudin Balls Stuffed with Pepper Jack Cheese
- 1 lb boudin sausage
- 4 oz pepper jack cheese cubed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
- 1 egg plus 1 additional egg, if needed*
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- Creole or Spicy Mustard for serving
- Canola or Peanut Oil
- Remove the boudin sausage from its casing and place in a medium bowl. Break apart any large clumps with your fingers.
- Taking a handful of boudin sausage, place one 1/2 inch cube of pepper jack in middle and form the sausage around the cheese into a golf ball sized ball by pressing the boudin sausage tightly in your palms or by using a meatball scoop. *If the boudin is too dry and crumbly and will not form into balls, then mix an egg into the mixture to help. Place the balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- In three shallow and separate dishes, place the flour mixed with Cajun seasoning, the egg mixed with milk, and the bread crumbs. See the photo above.
- Prepare another parchment lined baking sheet and place beside dish of bread crumbs.
- Take one boudin ball at a time and dredge in the flour mix followed by the egg mix and then the bread crumbs. Place the covered boudin ball on the baking sheet and continue until all balls are coated.
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- In a large saute pan, heat canola or peanut oil to 350˚F over medium heat.
- In a single layer, fry the boudin balls for 3-4 minutes, flipping half-way through if your oil is not deep enough to cover the entire ball. When the boudin balls are golden brown, remove from the oil and place on a wire rack. Continue until all of the boudin balls are cooked.
- Serve immediately with creole or spicy mustard.
The Book of Lost Friends Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- This novel follows two stories that eventually intersect. Which storyline did you enjoy the most—Hannie’s or Benny’s?
- Did you know of the Lost Friends circular or any other similar circulars from post-Civil War? Share what you knew before reading and how the book changed or affirmed your feelings OR share anything you were led to research and learn after reading the book.
- Hannie decides to follow Lavinia and Juneau Jane in order to protect her share crop, but eventually it turns into more than that. Why do you think Hannie feels such a strong need to protect Lavinia and Juneau Jane?
- Towards the end of the book, we learn that Hannie, Lavinia, and Juneau Jane are all connected in deep way. In Benny’s timeline, Nathan and many of Benny’s students are connected as well. How do you think understanding this allowed Juneau Jane and Hannie and Nathan and Benny’s students to see each other in a different light? Do you think it shed empathy on all the situations involved? Why does finding that common string help people connect in ways they couldn’t before?
- Benny struggles to get her students excited about reading until they discover the Underground stories. Share with the group a unique way a teacher inspired you to love a subject (or if you are/were a teacher, share your own most successful endeavor).
- In the novel, Benny says “We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name.” How often do you talk about your family’s history with younger generations? Why is this important even if the history was sometimes painful? Has this book inspired you to be more intentional about that?
- There are so many fascinating secondary characters in this book. Who was your favorite? (i.e. Lil’ Ray, Aunt Dicey, Granny T, Aunt Sarge, LaJuna, Gus McKlatchy, Elam Salter, etc.)
- Despite significant obstacles, both Benny and Hannie succeed in their efforts. Discuss their various set backs and the ways they overcame. Which was your favorite part?
- In recent years, there have been quite a few books on obscure American history. If you’ve read others, share which book was your favorite and discuss whether the group should read any suggested books.
- Have you read any other Lisa Wingate books, such as Before We Were Yours? How did this book compare? Which was your favorite?
Have you read The Book of Lost Friends? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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