Books and Book Clubs
I’ve always loved to read. I was the kid who used to hide in my closet or under my covers with a flashlight. My mother would scold me and tell me to go outside and play, and I’d bring a book with me so I could find a tree to hide behind, to lose myself into someone else’s adventures.
When I was in my late 20s, I joined my first bookclub. These women were ferociously intelligent, and I was exposed to classics by Sōseki Natsume and George Elliott. As was before, I spent late evenings reading, but they were joyless hours spent re-reading passages to try to understand, exactly, the subterfuge of it all. When my career started taking off and my free time became even more limited, I bowed out of the bookclub with a sense of freedom and relief.
After my son was born, I became friendly with some other new mothers. Eventually, as all mothers do, we came to the conclusion that we needed an official excuse to gossip, drink wine and get out of the house. Hence the bookclub was born.
For me, bookclub gave me a guilt-free excuse to check out of my life for a few hours. I’ve painted our mudroom while listening to The Devil in the White City. Sobbed through My Sister’s Keeper. Wiggled my toes on my big feet while reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Delighted my senses in The Namesake. Gained an appreciation for Western freedom in the Kite Runner. Shivered with horror through Sarah’s Key.
A dear friend of the family turned 95 and moved across country to be near her niece. During one of our phone conversations, she told me that she had joined the bookclub at her assisted living facility. A few months later, I asked her how she was enjoying it. “I dropped out,” she explained. “All they did was gossip and read popular novels.” The intellectual discussion, she said, was missing.
Which is exactly what I love about my bookclub.
In fact, my bookclub spends much of the time talking about anything other than the book itself. We catch up on what’s happening around town and with each other. We solve what’s wrong with the world. We brag and complain about husbands, jobs and kids. We share diet secrets while indulging in chocolate therapy. And we drink wine. Lots of it. But we always end the evening by talking about the book itself. Sometimes it’s a quick conversation and sometimes, it keeps us up way too late as we debate and discuss (and drink more wine). It’s an escape I look forward to, month after month.
My mother’s generation had the bridge club. I’d hide in my room with my pillow over my ears, trying to sleep while 12 ladies laughed, played cards and smoked into the night. Now, 40 years later, my daughter survives the nights that I host bookclub by putting in her earbuds to drown out the laughter and chatter below. And whatever the bookclub equivalent is for her generation, I know that she, too, will relish in the community and comradery of Mom’s Night Out.
OnTheCusp is a reluctant workaholic and Boston-based mother of two teenagers, whose dream is a daily walk on the beach to savor the sunrise.