The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Book Notes | ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’

May 19, 2023, at 2pm

Miss Marjory Benson hates her job teaching cookery to young girls in England in 1950, and one day she walks out of the school. Once she gets home, she formulates a plan. Her father was an entomologist and shared with her his interest in the myth of a golden beetle in New Caledonia. She’s going to find it!

Marjory knows nothing about New Caledonia, but plots her escape from England. She advertises for a French-speaking assistant, interviews candidates, plans her travel, and orders supplies for the beetle-finding expedition. Enid Pretty—who applied but wasn’t interviewed for the position and is Marjory’s total opposite—confronts Marjory at the train station and soon the two of them are off together on the expedition to New Caledonia via train, ship, and airplane.

Enid proves invaluable to the expedition, stealing equipment they need, including a Jeep, and endearing herself to the officials and local people. Marjorie and Enid establish their base camp in a ramshackle cabin near the top of the mountain and start collecting insects, ever looking for the elusive golden beetle. Unbeknownst to them, they are being stalked by the unstable and dangerous Mr. Mundic, who also applied for the expedition assistant position but was rejected.

Members of the UMRA Book Club had mixed reactions to the historical novel. Some felt much of it was unbelievable. Others felt one just had “to go with it” and not try to make sense of it. Some thought it was hilarious; others thought it was sad.

The overriding themes in the book were noted by the book group members: the friendship that grew between the two disparate women helped them forge on with their quest, people destroyed by war (Marjory’s four brothers were killed in WWII and Mr. Mundic suffered horrific PTSD), and appreciation of the natural world.

Do the two friends find the golden beetle? No spoiler here—you’ll have to read this quirky book to discover the answer.

— Stephanie Daily, UMRA Book Club I




Book Club announces May 19 and summer meeting plans

Fri, May 19 2023, 2pm

Meeting will be held via Zoom.

UMRA member Stephanie Daily will lead a discussion of Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, which debuted as a New York Times bestseller in 2020, when the UMRA Book Club meets at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 19.

Beth Bedell will lead a discussion of Flight Behavior, a 2012 novel by Barbara Kingsolver, on June 16. And Diane Madlon-Kay will lead a discussion of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, first published in 1940, when the group meets on July 21.

All three meetings will be held via Zoom. Email Pat Tollefson at [email protected] for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.


Upcoming Events

Event Date: October 2, 2023, at 9:30am

We will meet at the Mel-O-Glaze bakery on 28th and Minnehaha Parkway and walk to Minnehaha Falls and then back again.

Event Date: October 3, 2023, at 1pm

Some of the most valuable and rare maps in the world are held in UMN's own James Ford Bell Library, housed in Andersen Library  See https://www.lib.umn.edu/collections/special/bell .

Event Date: October 4, 2023, at 10am

The first meeting of UMRA’s Family History Interest Group for 2023–24 will feature a presentation by Marilyn DeLong about sharing family stories and learning surprising family connections. 

Event Date: October 4, 2023, at 10am

UMRA has a special opportunity to engage with the four newest members of the U of M Board of Regents on Wednesday, October 4, via Zoom. The purpose of the event is to share our perspectives as former University employees. 

Event Date: October 10, 2023, at 12:30pm

All UMRA members with an interest in photography are welcome to attend the meeting of the UMRA Photo Club on Tuesday, October 10. We welcome photographers of all abilities. Most of us are struggling amateurs. We laugh a lot and learn from sharing and talking about our pictures.

Event Date: October 16, 2023, at 9:30am

The walk along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis is always changing, with many attractions being added along both sides of the river and, now, the beautiful fall colors.

Event Date: October 19, 2023, at 11am

UMRA’s workshop on Open Enrollment for U of M retiree health plans for 2024 will include a briefing on the choice between Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans, by Jeff Snegosky of BCBS of Minnesota, followed by an overview of the U of M’s retiree health insurance plans, by Katie Kolodge from the Office of Human Resources.

Event Date: October 20, 2023, at 2pm

Mary Jane Towle will lead the discussion of The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams.

Event Date: October 24, 2023, at 11am

To help us understand the growing movement in the U.S. to ban books, especially children’s literature, and the critical role of libraries to protect intellectual freedom, UMRA will welcome U of M Librarian Lisa Von Drasek (pictured) and Rochester Public Librarian Kimberly Edson as the guest speakers for our October luncheon forum at Midland Hills. 

Event Date: October 27, 2023, at 2pm

The Fourth Friday Book Club will meet from 2 to 3:30 p.m. CDT on October 27 to discuss the life and narrative of Frederick Douglass.

Event Date: November 6, 2023, at 9:30am

Join us for a 5 mile moderately paced hike around Pleasant Lake located in the heart of North Oaks.  It takes us past some of James J. Hill’s original farm buildings as well as beautiful homes built along the lakeshore. The trail is wide, generally flat and consists of packed dirt and crushed rock. 

Event Date: November 6, 2023, at 9:40am

The documents noted for this event specify your managers and can minimize income taxes now, and estate taxes. 

Event Date: November 7, 2023, at 1pm

The material world we live in is shaped by design. While popular discussions of design typically focus on fashion and furniture, design is fundamental in art, architecture, and indeed nearly all aspects of the everyday world around us.  Goldstein Museum of Design curator Jean McElvain will demonstrate and discuss some of the fascinating and often unexpected holdings before we walk through the current gallery exhibit.

Event Date: November 27, 2023, at 9am - December 3, 2023, at 5pm

Get an insider's perspective on Santa Fe and Taos alongside local artists, exploring the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, enjoying traditional music and learning about native cultures. The deadline for reserving a space is June 2, 2023.

Event Date: December 4, 2023, at 9:30am

Please join us for an invigorating hike from The Monument located at the intersection of Mississippi RIver Blvd and Summit Avenue in St. Paul to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and back.  This hike is on paved trails, approximately 5.5 miles in length, and will be at a pace suitable to the weather.

Event Date: December 13, 2023, at 11:30am

Topics include tax changes; tax reducing moves required now and tax management in 2024 & 2025.