Friday, October 8, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Sun Down Motel Book Talk!

We have jumped right into the Literary Sewing Circle round for this fall! Today's the day for some beginning book talk! How are you doing with the book? Have you started it yet? Finished it? Do you have any reactions you'd like to share? 

Here are a few questions to ponder today and for the next while -- whether you have begun reading, or you've only read blurbs & author interviews so far and still have something to say, join in! Although there might be a few spoilers in the questions and discussion below so if you haven't got too far yet you might want to come back to this post.

I'll add some of my own thoughts and you can reply to them or add your own impressions. If you want to hear other takes on a part of the book that you are curious about, leave your own questions in the comments, too. 

If you decided to pick up this book and read it for this round, why? Do you usually like spooky books like this or is this a new genre for you? 

I don't usually like books that are TOO scary. This one was just right for me, gave me shivers (especially when reading at night) but didn't freak me out or have too graphic or gory bits in it. I have a low tolerance for horror so this is about as scary as I get ;)

What do you think of the dual timeline? Does it work for you? Do you prefer one over the other? 

I liked the dual timeline and the way that they interact. Of course, I enjoyed the 80s a lot as that one of my favourite decades, and also because I found Viv slightly more interesting than Carly. One effect of the timeline shifts is that there is a fair bit of repetition of some of the content, which is unavoidable. But overall I liked the way the two stories interact and come together in the end. 

Why do you think Vivian and Carly might both have made the decision to stay employed on the night shift at a haunted, creepy motel? Would you have done the same? Would you have made a different choice?

Yeah, this was funny to me -- if I was the main character in this book, the story would have been over in the second chapter. One night like Viv's first ghostly encounter and I'd have been out of there and on a bus to NY City. I can understand, with their character development and their fascination with true crime, why they would stay...but I would not have done the same!

Most of the characters in this story are women, and their stories are the primary focus here. Do you feel a stronger draw to a specific character, and if so, do you feel more intrigued by them as they appear in the 80s or in the present day?

I loved how women's experiences were primary here. Viv's relationship with her mother and sister, Carly's own family experience and fascination with the story of her aunt, all the women who were killed and their stories -- everything showed many sides of women's lives and how women are always the ones expected to "be careful" and take precautions - men are never expected to take a role in managing their own actions or those of other men. I feel that this theme is very timely right now, and hope that someday this dynamic will change. 

Both Viv and Carly are compelled to investigate missing women and their stories. What did you think of their actions as amateurs/true crime aficionados? 

I would have called in the police long before either of these two would have even thought of it. However, the police didn't seem too interested in what happened to the women that Viv was investigating so I can see why she got obsessed and couldn't just ignore it, especially when she felt that she was hot on the trail. Carly, on the other hand, could have gotten some help or at least information on the guy she felt creeped out by before he started stalking her.

The women who were murdered are described differently by the media. How does this reflect the way that victims are described even today? What part do you think that plays in Viv's determination to discover the truth?

As noted, the police in Viv's timeline seemed perfunctory about the murder investigation, especially for the women who weren't "beloved wife and mother". This says a lot about the value placed on women's lives, which feels like it hasn't changed very much, in many ways. Viv's sense of justice for the women involved drove her to continue investigating, and with Betty's constant presence spooking up the joint, Viv can't forget her mission. I could appreciate how she took the investigation - and justice - into her own hands, since nobody else was doing anything about it.

Is there anything specific  in the book that has sparked an idea for a project yet? Are you mulling over any ideas?

It's still early days so I only have some vague ideas, maybe based on some of the 80s inspiration I've already shared -- or maybe on something in Carly's timeline, and the places she hangs out. I'll be sharing a bit of Carly-based inspo next week so maybe you'll get more ideas then as well. If you've thought of a project idea so far, feel free to share in the comments - along with your thoughts on these questions, or other elements of the book.

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash


  1. I decided to pick up this book and read it for this round because I'm newly retired and have time to participate in a venture like this! I like thrillers, but don't usually don't read spooky books with a supernatural element. Stephen King gives me nightmares, and the R.L. Stine Goosebumps books for kids are just scary enough for me :-). As for the women-as-victims, especially in the 1980s, I agree, there was definitely a value structure in place for women then. And "good girls" didn't put themselves in harm's way, or they got what they deserved. I guess that is still true, as evidenced by the parallel experiences of both Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford.

    I'm working on a project idea around the theme of disappearance, using a length of wool from my stash. It is black with a white windowpane check. The check is woven with a marled yarn, so it has an interesting "now you see it, now you don't" texture. A bonus is that the back has a different pattern, and both sides are usable. I'm looking at the deconstructed skirts Karl Lagerfeld designed for Chanel, with the weft yarns removed from the tweed leaving the warp yarns backed with mesh.

    1. I'm glad you're joining in this time Mary! It's great to have the time to read more :) Glad this wasn't too scary for you.

      Your project idea sounds very ambitious and creative. The fabric sounds really beautiful, and the Karl inspiration is of course amazing. I'll look forward to seeing what you do with the theme of disappearance.

  2. I was excited to read this book, firstly because I always so look forward to the Literary Sewing Circle – I have read some great books I would never have chosen otherwise. I love the front cover of this book – it entices me to pick it up (which happens at the library), and it presents a period of time I really enjoyed. And I like the concept of a thriller, but not too much so.

    So far the dual time line is working for me. I am not usually a fan. So often I love the story line from the older period in time, and the most recent time I often consider to be more shallow and more unrealistic (for me). But not yet. Having said that, I do find the stronger draw to Viv. I am getting a little confused at times and have to concentrate on which time is which, because they are so similar.

    I really need to read more before I can comment on themes within the book. I will come back to that.

    And as for the project, ideas are bubbling away, but nothing concrete yet.

    1. I also feel slightly more drawn to Viv but perhaps it's because I really like the nostalgia of those chapters -- I think the author has really drawn the atmosphere of the 80s well. Hope that you've got further in now and are starting to get some ideas for your project.

  3. @Sara, when I was about 10% into the book, I had to go back and re-read from the beginning. That helped me sort out the story lines. Eventually, it became easier to keep the characters and time-frames straight.

  4. I picked up this book because I have read previous Literary
    Sewing Circle reviews here and thought I'd give it a go. It took me 3 days to read this book. I just gobbled it up so to speak. The book was spooky enough, but not too over the top for me. The dual time line worked very well showing how each woman approached their individual situations. Viv was young, without ties to her final destination and she needed money so a job handed to here in exchange for lodging was attractive. Carly, on the other hand, felt if she could put herself in her Aunt's shoes she might find her. Little did she know. I am afraid I would probably have been too creeped out after the first couple of incidents to have stayed and I would have told someone about what was happening long before either of them did. I haven't come up with any project ideas yet. I will wait for your Carly-based inspo next week . Laura S.

    1. Glad to have you joining us, and happy to hear that you gobbled up the book! I agree that both Carly and Viv had reasons to stay at this creepy job but yikes, braver than I am. Hope a project idea will come to you soon :)

  5. This isn't a book I would normally pick up. I like participating in The Literary Sewing Circle because it pushes me to read something I probably wouldn't.
    I thought the dual timeline worked well for this book. It gave interesting insight into the events in the story.
    Carly and Vivian ended up staying at the motel for different reasons. Vivian just ended up there and needed a job so she stayed when she started investigating the unsolved murders. I'm not sure what I would do in Viv's situation. I'd like to think I'd move on when things started getting scary but I'm not sure I would because I'm very pragmatic and would not be as prone to up and leaving without another job.
    I found Nick to be an interesting character. I never could understand why he came back to Fell after all these years but didn't want anyone to know why he was back. And then to be willing to stay at a creepy hotel was beyond me. I would have liked to find out more of his story.
    Viv and Carly were both pretty good investigators but the police in Fell seemed to be a sham so involving them wasn't going to do much good until they had and airtight case.
    It was clear the dead women were described in ways that would draw sympathy, or not, based on who they were and their lifestyle. I think that's true still today. It's easy to see that some murders and missing persons cases get much better attention than others. Every murdered or missing person deserves the same attention and perseverance on the part of law enforcement regardless of who they are.
    I won't have time to make a project this time because of travel obligations and house guests but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's creativity.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Diane, and for reading along even if you won't have time for a project! I'm also curious as to Nick's motivations for returning to Fell. It seems like an odd choice, but I think it was either Carly or Viv who said that Fell seemed to be a place that outsiders could call home, so maybe there was something about it drawing back all these people with dark interests.

      And definitely true that law enforcement *should* treat all murdered or missing people the same, but it doesn't seem to happen in reality, as we see over and over again.

  6. I have never participated in a book group of any sort before let alone sewing. I reserved the book at the library, and had to wait but in the meantime read an earlier work of the author, The Broken Girls recommended by the Librarian. That book had the same dual storyline, and similar themes of women and ghosts. I might have skipped pages. So when reading the Sun Down Motel I found that format a bit annoying and eventually just read all of the Carly parts to get to the denouement. I probably would not read another book by the author if this is her format. My personal feelings got in the way of reading this book because I worked at a roadside motel for a number of years, not quite a dump but on its way down. There were some hotel things that just weren’t quite right operationally although the staff did believe in hauntings, especially in rooms where guests had died. Desk clerks, especially ones who work audit/nights are a particular psyche and I didn't get that from either Viv or Carly. Ghosts or not they wouldn't have stuck around. Then honestly all I could think about was the front desk vest because that rang true. The bulletproof polyester, and that it could indeed be the same vest that Viv could have worn is absolutely possible! This unfortunately does not bring any good inspiration for sewing projects because I can’t get ugly vest out of my mind. I’ve been trying to think back what I wore in the 1980’s, specifically 1982 and it is hard as "The 1980's" had so many fashion highlights but 1982 was more Lady Di than Gordon Gekko. I will read along, this is a very interesting concept and I've never really put into real life the outfits I've read about on book characters.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!