Summer Fiction Book Club

Revealing present realities and imagining possible futures

Tuesday, June 25 • Tuesday, July 23 • Tuesday, August 27 
12.00 - 1.15 pm (Eastern) • Online

This program is free. Donations to support the ongoing work of The BTS Center will be accepted with gratitude.

Note: Once you register, we’ll consider you a part of The BTS Center’s Fiction Book Club, so you will receive notifications for all of the sessions. We welcome you to come to one, two, or all three sessions!

The BTS Center is excited to offer our second annual Summer Fiction Book Club! During June, July, and August, we will immerse ourselves in the creative world of fiction, while daring to explore challenging topics related to climate change. 

Each month, participants will read a selected novel on their own, and then we will gather virtually to discuss as a group. In addition to small group discussion, a guest conversation partner will join us to offer some reflections on the book and share about its impact in their life. 

You are welcome to join us for one, two, or all three sessions!

This summer, we’ll be reading the following novels — purchase at your local bookstore or find at your favorite library:

On Tuesday, June 25:  North Woods

by Daniel Mason, with facilitator Nicole Diroff and guest conversationalist Maggid David Arfa

Learn more about North Woods

From the publisher: North Woods is a sweeping novel about a single house in the woods of New England, told through the lives of those who inhabit it across the centuries. This magisterial and highly inventive novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Daniel Mason brims with love and madness, humor and hope. Following the cycles of history, nature, and even language, North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we’re connected to our environment, to history, and to one another. It is not just an unforgettable novel about secrets and destinies, but a way of looking at the world that asks the timeless question: How do we live on, even after we’re gone?

On Tuesday, July 23:  Future Home of the Living God

by Louise Erdrich, with facilitator Alison Cornish and guest conversationalist Rev. Stephanie Perdew

Learn more about Future Home of the Living God

From the publisher: Louise Erdrich, the New York Times bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of LaRose and The Round House, paints a startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

On Tuesday, August 27:  Cloud Cuckoo Land

by Anthony Doerr, with facilitator Ash Temin and and  guest conversationalist Tory Stephens

Learn more about Cloud Cuckoo Land

From the publisher: From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” (The New York Times Book Review).

Among the most celebrated and beloved novels of recent times, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope, and a book.

Why summer?

Let’s face it: summer is changing. Gone are the sunny Goldilocks days when everything was just right and any imposing threats, like the tale’s three bears, did no actual harm. Today, the realities of climate change and ecological injustice mean that things are not right and that dangers present real-life consequences. No longer a time of carefree leisure, summer is now the season of wildfires and orange smoky skies, drought and heat waves, floods and extreme weather events, melting ice caps, and more. Summer, therefore, is a dynamic reminder of the effects of climate change.

Why fiction?

Simply put, fiction has the potential to reveal present realities and imagine possible futures. Through truth-telling, a good story confronts the current systems of power, the unequal material conditions, or the overwhelming circumstances that prevent all life from flourishing. It gives voice to whomever or whatever has been silenced, forgotten, or ignored — the lives of marginalized humans and exploited nonhumans, the values or perspectives that advocate for collective good, or the complex emotions that humans may experience during planetary polycrisis. Fiction can also be a window through which we envision compelling and creative possibilities, whether social, ecological, political, or economic. Imagining what worlds are possible creates the opportunity for us to build towards a better and more just future.

Why a book club?

Reading fiction together is a dynamic way for humans to make sense of the world(s) in which we live. By coming together to discuss these books, we also collectively share the weightiness of the subjects. Readers may find the book club to be a space where they can encounter fictional worlds, exercise their imaginative capacities, and even explore and experience their own emotions through the narrative lens of fiction. The Summer Fiction Book Club’s collective format encourages everybody to reconnect with themselves, with community, with earth, and with the divine. 

Why you?

In response to the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor, the task for spiritual leaders today is to press deeper into the power and potential of storytelling. Storytelling is meaning-making — the way we make sense of life, truth, and beauty. There is no greater witness to the depth and diversity of such narrative power than the sacred texts and oral traditions of religions, spiritualities, and indigenous traditions across the world. They attempt to say something about realities beyond the grasp of human language: the divine or sacred, love and community, life and death, morality and justice, and so on. Many sacred texts and oral traditions teach us that, when faced with enormous obstacles, the pathways toward healing and transformation begin by stepping into a story that is larger than our circumstances. Guiding our communities through climate change is no different. We hope that the Summer Fiction Book Club will be a valuable exercise of your moral and ecological capacities for spiritual care in a climate-changed world.

We welcome you to join us from June through August as we explore spellbinding stories and discuss their voices, visions, and themes. Join us for one, two, or all three sessions!

Contact BTS Center Program Director, Rev. Nicole Diroff, at

Meet our Host:

Madeline Bugeau-Heartt serves at The BTS Center as a program associate. She is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and NYU Tisch School of the Arts. A longtime experimental theater and film-maker, Madeline is passionate about creating spaces for people to tap into their kindest, most imaginative selves, especially as we navigate this radical transition that our beloved, climate-changed world demands. She draws from this artistry, her “catholic-adjacent” mysticism, as well as her past-lives as farmer and caregiver to practice into better ways of being with others. When not working, Madeline can be found taking lengthy walks, spending time with her cherished family and friends, and lifting weights; she is forever cooking up new ways to build neighborhood in her home of York, Maine and beyond.


Meet our Facilitators:

The Rev. Alison Cornish serves as the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy Initiative at the BTS Center. Alison spent the first half of her professional life working as an historic preservationist and architectural historian, primarily in New England and on Long Island, NY.  After 20 years of work with museums, municipalities and nonprofit organizations, Alison attended Andover Newton Theological Seminary in response to a felt sense of call directly from Earth to address what is it that we are doing in our daily lives and habits that is destroying the planet that we inhabit. Following CPE, field education in interfaith work and parish ministry, and ordination in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, Alison served congregations on Long Island while also embarking on studies with the Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy and Dominican sister Miriam McGillis. Alison became a GreenFaith Fellow in 2013, and a Climate Reality Project presenter in 2017. She has served as Senior Director of Programs at Partners for Sacred Places, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, Director of Seminary and Congregational Initiatives at Interfaith Philadelphia, and as the Affiliated Community Minister at First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia.  Alison’s facilitation work includes the Work That Reconnects, training-the-trainers for Civil Conversations, group practice of Nonviolent Communication, and the curriculum “Healthy Congregations.” A Program Consultant for the BTS Center since 2021, her work has focused on ecological and climate grief, religious imagination, and chaplaincy in a climate-changed world. Alison and her husband Pat live in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, on the unceded lands of the Nipmuc and Pocumtuc peoples, in the watershed of the Connecticut River.  When not working, Alison can be found along, on, and in, a local natural body of water, currently the Deerfield River.

Rev. Nicole Diroff is ordained in the United Church of Christ and serves as Program Director at The BTS Center, where she coordinates the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the Center’s programmatic offerings. She holds expertise in facilitation, data management, and strategic planning. Nicole is a certified Maine Master Naturalist, serves as Chair of the Spiritual Formation Committee at Williston-Immanuel United Church and Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committee for the Scarborough Public School District. She lives with her family in Scarborough, Maine.

Prior to her work with The BTS Center, Nicole served as the Associate Director at Interfaith Philadelphia, where she coordinated the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia and directed the creation and expansion of the organization’s many Dare to Understand initiatives.

Nicole is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Ohio Wesleyan University. When she’s not leading programs or facilitating meetings, she can be found exploring tide pools with her son, hiking with her dogs, or reading a memoir at a local coffee shop.

Rev. Ash Temin is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who serves as the Communications Manager at The BTS Center. She also offers spiritual direction through her independent practice in Portland, Maine.

Ash is a graduate of the University of Virginia (BA), the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin (MPhil) and Harvard Divinity School (MDiv). Her time at both the ISE and HDS sparked a passion for ecological theology and prompted her to begin delving more deeply into the experience of ecological grief. Prior to moving to Portland, she served as an Acting Associate Pastor at Hope Central Church, a UCC/DOC congregation in Boston. Before answering the call to ordination, Ash worked in various administrative roles at Harvard University. She also has worked as a hospital and hospice chaplain, an adjunct professor, and a freelance editor.

After time spent living in Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Ireland, and Massachusetts, Ash is grateful to make her home in Maine, where she spends part of most days walking on the shores of Casco Bay. When not absorbed in work, she can be found cooking with friends, laying in her garden hammock, hiking in the woods, playing in the ocean, or attempting to learn the Irish language with a cat on her lap.

Meet our Conversationalists:

David Arfa works full time for Baystate Hospice where he coordinates their bereavement services and provides grief counseling. He retrained as a spiritual counselor nearly ten years ago and has served as a chaplain in community hospitals, behavioral health hospitals and elder care facilities. He completed four units of CPE with concentrations in trauma informed care, addiction and spirituality, spiritual care at the end of life, theology and personal narrative, and grief care. 

David is also a storyteller and educator who is rooted in Judaism’s storytelling heritage and ancient environmental wisdom. He has helped renew the role of Maggid (Hebrew for storyteller) in the Jewish community. He has performed and taught in schools, libraries, fields, festivals, places of worship, national conferences, and forests. Over the years, he has worked as a synagogue school principal, Hillel program director, classroom science teacher and nature center educator. He is currently volunteering as co-director of the Jewish Storytelling Coalition where he is honored to help steward Jewish stories and their storytellers.  

David's formal education includes a MS in Education from Lesley College's Audubon Expedition Institute; two Bachelor degrees from Michigan State University in Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Policy; and a year of advanced study in Jerusalem in dialogue with texts exploring Jewish theology and ethical practice. He has earned certificates in moral injury recovery, mediation training, and prayer leadership. David lives in a small cohousing community along the Deerfield River in Shelburne Falls, MA.

To find out about his programs, including his outdoor 'Shretelech Expeditions', where he guides families in search of the magical little people (aka the Yiddish word, 'Shretelech'), please visit,    

Rev. Stephanie Perdew, PhD is an ordained UCC minister who serves as director of the Damascus Project online theological education initiative of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences, United Church of Christ. She teaches history as an affiliate faculty member at Garrett Seminary. She is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and an educator and consultant in Native history, cultures, and land acknowledgements.

Tory Stephens creates opportunities that transform organizations and shift culture. He is a resource generator and community builder for social justice issues, people, and movements. He currently works at Grist Magazine as their climate fiction creative manager, and uses storytelling to champion climate justice, and imagine green, clean, and just futures. In another life he owned a kick-butt streetwear company, and he would have gotten away with eating the last cookie too, if it weren't for his three meddling kids.

A related program from our partner, Creation Justice Ministries

Are you interested in reading some non-fiction alongside these novels this summer? Our friends at Creation Justice Ministries are hosting a Summer Reads Series with some fantastic non-fiction selections. Head to their website for more information and to register!