Book Club Discussion: "The First Noelle"

in #steemhouselitmag10 months ago

The Steemhouse Community has been looking forward to the opportunity to organize an online book club right here on Steem, where we can discuss published stories both novel-length and short form, and earn rewards for doing it. Our new literary journal published a collection this week that we are very proud of, and while the site itself is not completely finished, we’re thrilled that we can go ahead and use it to curate some of the best short fiction on Steem.

The First Noelle: by Diane Ryan

Noelle Gibson adopts a dog that shares her name and its unusual spelling. But she soon learns that the dog holds more secrets than just the mystery of how she ended up in a kill shelter with a name like that, at Christmas.

Read “The First Noelle” Here

We’ve provided two questions to encourage discussion in the comments. Pick one of them, respond to both, or ignore them completely and discuss anything about this story you’d like. The author is available to join the conversation with us!

I couldn’t leave her there on death row at Christmas, this shaggy, patchwork dog named Noelle. Never mind that she and I shared the same name, even the same unusual spelling that so few would know to use. Her sad eyes told a story that kept me from sleeping for nearly a week until I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to save her. And save her I did, although now as we huddled together in the exam room of a local veterinary clinic, I had to wonder just how determined I was to sabotage my own sanity.

Question 1:

Some genres can be very formulaic and predictable. Without giving away any spoilers, did you figure out what was happening in this story before the narrative led you there?

Question 2:

Noelle Gibson was very determined to keep her new dog safe, but she was torn because she knew she didn’t have enough information to make a good decision. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that?


Well at some points I did know what was gonna happen, but not entirely. The story is amazing I loved it and the ending. It really is hard to make an ending... Also the plot is what is really amazing. And to answer your second question, yes I was in that place before but I found a new friend in my school who is totally innocent and vulnerable. Always gets bullied. I never had friends because all I do is read. I was determined to make her alright, make her smile and stop all the bullies. So that's what I did. When she became normal and amazing I left her... She likes me, but I never thought myself as a good friend and never thought I deserve her... she learnt a lot from me but still she is the same good innocent girl inside.

Oh also I still hope I learn to make as good endings as yours.

What a great comment, @blackpools! I am so happy to hear that something we published (and I wrote) got you thinking about real social situations and how you made that girl's life better. :-) That's the reason we write, because enough people thinking about how to make the world better for people will cause good things to happen everywhere.

Thank you Rhondak! storys like this, not only help us remember what we did before, make is love to read storys. But it also encourages people to help others. Storys help you in real life situations when you are stuck in some big mess and have no one to help you out. You can use the morals, tactics, solutions and more things that you have learnt from the books you have read. All you have to do is read a story like this and promise yourself to help like her and done! all of a sudden you get more happiness to help others. That's what I do. Help.

What a wonderful way to use the positive aspects of fiction in real life!

This is a well-written story that takes the reader on a roller coaster ride; not the 80 mph, loopity-loop one that makes you feel like you're going to lose your life (or at the very least, your lunch), but the gentle one that is actually fun.

On the second read I caught the foreshadows (two of them) that I missed on the initial read. That says a lot about how subtle they are. Well done, Diane Ryan!

The ending point works well too because this reader was left entertaining "what's next?" scenarios.

Very enjoyable read both times.

That's a great way to capture the tone of this story. I love slow burn reads like this that manage to keep your attention through the authenticity of the characters.

Q1: Did I figure it out? Yes, I knew pretty early on because I'm a writer that likes to write in a lot of the same style. So I knew the tricks being used, and loved it. Now, with that said, the significance of the title did floor me. By the end, the reward of realizing that significance created that pull on my heart strings material. The whole story was pull on my heart strings material.

Q2: Not knowing enough to make a good decision? Why does this seem passive aggressively aimed at me personally? Everyone can relate to the MC predicament. The moments where you know that you don't know enough is hard enough already, but involving another living creature who may also have opinions and preferences (and you can't ask them what those thoughts are) is quite an obstacle. The way the dog communicates her wants speak to truth.

Passive-aggressively aimed at you. Hahaha! You crack me up. 😂

Thank you for the insightful and informed response here. I'm glad to know that even with my knickers showing (the writer tricks) I still gotcha a little in the end. :-)

For me, the story was predictable and formulaic, and the conflict was too contrived for me (failing to use both first and last names in discussing the chip and the current caretaker of the dog, e.g.). HOWEVER, the story was engaging and well written, and I would have been disappointed it if had NOT ended the way it did. The Christmas photo of the dog, the Hallmark-movie "feel good" theme is just what I was in the mood for, so for fans of the genre, this story hits the spot. Fans of other genres can wait their turn for a dark, stark, heart-breaking horror of a story. (Like "High Kill" - oy! the details, the inhumanity!)

Even if anyone should think a happy ending = "fluff," our own Katrina Ariel Retweeted @Joannechocolat and I fully embrace this way of thinking (and feeling!):

Writers - especially women: Don't let anyone sneer at you for writing "fluff." Fluff is an insulator. Correctly used, it can stop you from freezing, or burning to death. Fluff fiction is designed to protect you from the relentless toxicity of the real world. Fluff saves lives.

This story captivated me from the opening line. Having been a part of animal rescue and mom to several rescue dogs like Noelle, I was sucked in and ready for a tear-filled ride through emotions I'd rather not have. This author, however, is a master of emotion. And at no point did I regret venturing into this potentially heartbreaking story.
To answer question one...I found nothing predictable about this story. Quite the opposite. No spoilers here, but the ending blew my mind. I was stunned. Looking back over the story, yes, there was gentle foreshadowing, but nothing painfully obvious and certainly nothing cliche.
Question two can be answered with a resounding YES! I could hear very clearly Noelle's inner voice - the good vs. evil, if you will - pulling her in two different directions. The hoping for the best, but navigating without a clue. I've felt it and this struggle was extremely well written and accurate.
Diane Ryan is something special, and this story only served to make my holiday reading even better!

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