The Sensational Seven Book Club and the Fabulous Six Book Clubs of Appleton, Wisconsin
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague Minnesota, Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington, and Pittsburgh Chick LIt Book Club of Pennsylvania
SPIN: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story by Peter Zheutlin (Pegasus, 6/21)
Ride away on a 'round-the-world adventure of a lifetime—with only a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver—in this transcendent novel inspired by the life of Annie Londonderry
The Sensational Seven Book Club: “What a story Peter Zheutlin told, what a fascinating woman. and such a beautifully written story! We had an animated conversation like no other, with many opinions about Annie’s choices and how her decisions shaped the person she became."
"We loved the beautiful cover of Annie on her ‘wheel’ and the simple, perfect title. seeing the cover and the title made us anxious to dive into SPIN! The book prompted such great discussion. At the young age of 23, she made the bold decision to take up the daunting challenge of biking around the world. How many of us would ever even think to attempt this feat? The author based the book on ‘a mostly true story,' but what a story he told through a letter from Annie to her granddaughter, Mary. What a creative take on Miss Londonderry’s tale! He authored the book in such a beautiful way that you could often visualize the sights and scenes as Annie navigated her way across the world on her bicycle.
"We agreed that although Annie is a champion and a woman truly ahead of her time, it was difficult to approve of her choice to leave her husband and three young children for 15 months. One of the reading guide questions prompted a long discussion about Annie’s character: She was charismatic, driven, courageous, and adventurous. Could we look beyond so many of the choices she made and deem her a ‘likable’ character? Peter Zheutlin’s great-grandaunt was a character not soon forgotten by any of us and one who provided our book club with an animated conversation like no other!
"Menu: "We focused on Annie’s ancestry with Jewish-themed snacks and drinks. We spent an evening around a bonfire drinking Manischewitz wine and noshing on snacks with Za’atar seasoning. Delicious!"
Fabulous Six Book Club: “Written from the viewpoint of Annie, in a letter to her granddaughter, was the perfect way to tell her story. After all, SPIN is "A Novel Based on A Mostly True Story."
An engaging and quick read, SPIN is laced with bits of American history during the time Annie was biking around the world in the 1890s. She encountered several well-known people, such as Susan B Anthony and Annie Oakley. So why have we heard nothing of Annie's feat before? Peter Zheutlin skillfully took us on Annie's journey using a letter that she has written to her only Granddaughter, Mary, and was able to capture her feelings, her awareness, and why made some of her decisions. Both Annie and the author tell us to decide for ourselves what to believe and what is imagined. If not for the author's research and tenacity, the story of Annie Londonderry (Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) likely would have been lost. Our discussion revolved around Annie, women's issues, and the press. We decided that even during Annie's time, the press played an important role in promoting her and her journey.
Annie was ahead of her time. Every idea of what a woman ‘should’ be during the 1800s— she was not. She seemed aware of the fact that what she was doing would be frowned upon. We had good discussions regarding women and motherhood. Members were not fond of the choices that Annie made in her life, while others thought she felt trapped and had non-maternal instinct. Annie wasn’t suited for the traditional role of wife and mother and didn't deny it. At the first chance, she set out on her adventure around the world on a 42 -pound Columbia bike. To do this, she gradually changed her persona. Annie spun embellished tales on her trip.
Having never heard of Annie and her "Round-the-World" adventure, it was fun to do some additional research using d links provided via the author's Reading Guide and website. How is it that her family didn't know more of her story? The Author's Note explained that this family story had been lost. and gave insight into Annie's decisions. I appreciate the commitment made by the author in researching Annie, and that we are encouraged to imagine which parts of her story are true. You'll find Annie quite fascinating!”
Get Woke Book Club: "Read SPIN! You will be happy you went on the ride! As the wheels on Annie’s bike turn, readers are entertained with tales of adventure, imprisonment, romance, and danger. Annie’s contribution to the women’s movement made our members fortunate to have gone on the ride with her.” Our first in-person meeting in over a year was held at Next Chapter Winery. In honor of Annie, we rode bikes to the winery, and faced many dangers on the way! SPIN is based on the life of Zheutlin’s great-grandaunt, Annie Londonderry, who at age 23 in 1894 pedals around the world on a man’s one-speed bike, earning room and board as she travels. In the first paragraph Annie, a.k.a. Annie Kopchovsky, reveals that she is not the ‘most reliable witness to the events of [her] own life,’ alerting readers that her penchant for ‘spinning’ was not confined to the bike. Let the ‘spinning begin’! We were amused and captivated by Annie’s stories. Did 500 people really attend Annie’s send-off in Boston? Did Annie log 10,000 miles on her one-speed, man’s bike? Did Annie perform in the Wild West show with Annie Oakley? These questions were spinning through our minds as we read."
"The important message behind Annie’s life and adventures: In an arranged marriage with an older man, the mother of three small children was the family’s breadwinner. Annie tells us that she was not the only woman of her era to be overwhelmed by her responsibilities, but she was able to ‘break free.' We felt we would not have left our children as Annie did, but understood the pressures and expectations placed on women of the era. Annie’s resourcefulness, spunk, and courage made her a ‘symbol for an entire generation of women and a symbol of the struggle for women’s equality.' The invention of the bicycle emancipated women, and drastically influenced a redesign of their clothing. Annie’s ability to 'ride' this new movement was more important than any actual miles spent on her bike."
"We played ‘Fact or Fiction,’ a game combining Annie’s stories with facts from Zheutlin’s biography of Annie, Around the Word on Two Wheels Each card featured an Annie story that prompted discussion about its veracity. The flip-side provided factual information. Annie’s tales had our heads spinning and judgments faltering. Events we labeled as fact were fiction, and vice versa. Trust us, Annie’s stories are worth the read. 125 years after her momentous trip, she is reveling in the attention that her stories continue to generate. As one member said, ‘This was over 100 years ago, and women are still fighting some of the same battles.'"
Menu: "Annie suggested that Colonel Pope greet her whiskey. We identified as 'Kindred Spirits' with Annie with the winery’s whiskey.
Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington "A good match for a book club of independent and adventurous women. SPIN: A novel based on a MOSTLY true story told us we'd be reading a biographical account of an interesting woman with a little bit of artistic license thrown in. A global sensation in the 1890s, the story of Annie Londonderry was mostly forgotten: In 1895 The New York World declared Annie’s round-the-world bicycle tour “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” A hundred years later, the extraordinary journey of discovery Peter undertook to bring this story to life is just as fascinating.
Discussion highlights included our fascination with how the story of Annie came to the author's attention and what kind of providence? fate? luck? started the chain of events that ended with this interesting story. Sorting through Annie's truth to try to imagine what the actual situations would be like was interesting. A woman of her time being able to self-promote and control her own narrative was very impressive -even if it meant embellishing the truth. No man (then or now) would think embellishing the truth for promotional purposes is even the slightest bit scandalous. We were left wanting to know more about Annie. Tons of Googling and Wiki searches were our norm."
Very few books compel the reader to want to know more about the origins of the story. After reading SPIN I not only craved more information about Annie Londonderry, but dare I say, I wanted to learn so much more about the circumstances that brought this book into being. The story behind the story captured my imagination as much as Ms. Londonderry herself.
A series of events led Zheutlin to discover the details of his family’s history from a second cousin. Deep in her basement are boxes filled with forgotten family secrets and history. After extensive research and time piecing together the puzzle, he has created a novel, mostly based on fact, of this amazing woman, Annie Londonderry.
"We highly recommend the book, and suggest you check out the author's 2008 account of Annie Londonderry’s extraordinary ride Around the Word on Two Wheels.”
Pittsburgh Chick LIt Book Club of Pennsylvania: "A winner! We thoroughly enjoyed SPIN. Annie motivated us to dust off our bikes and travel local bike paths this spring. We may just call ourselves the ‘Annie's Girls’ as we bike around our neighborhoods.
‘Annie didn't run away to join the circus. Annie became the circus.’ Author Peter Zheutlin 's comment summarizes our book discussion. Peter joined our discussion and provided insight on the research and writing. It's difficult to believe that a 23 year-old, married woman with three children, would leave her family for over a year to bicycle around the world—over 100 years ago. Annie Kopchovksy, who assumed the name Annie Londonderry for her adventure, learned to ride a bike, plotted biking routes, handled the logistics of traveling between stops, and financed her adventure primarily by giving lectures and working odd jobs while on her trip. Our complaints about commutes and business trip delays pale in comparison to Annie’s challenges as she biked around the world. While the author admitted it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in Annie's stories, the route she traveled is accurate and indicates a woman with a strong desire to succeed. A master of self-promotion, Annie notified journalists before arriving in a city and worked with them to get her story published in newspapers.
"It surprised us that Annie was a sensation not only in the countries and cities that she visited but also in places to which she never traveled. The world delighted in her sensational stories. While she may have embellished her accomplishments, it was clear she was not afraid to be herself and to be recognized for her success. We appreciate stories about women who overcame difficulties to achieve their dreams/goals."