Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Ladies Who Read - Twenty-one

When I started going to the monthly book club meetings in Dunedin almost 2 years ago, my only intention was to fill-up some time, meet some nice people and hopefully finish at least one book a month.

The first meeting was hosted by my dear friend, Misty and other than her the only other person I had any previous info on was Nancy. Our first book was “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon (
www.markhaddon.com). I loved the book. The autistic narrator thrilled me and I found such delight in the murder-mystery aspect paired with the sociological study and the dose of stepping out of my overly rational comfort zone. I was the only one who liked it. Some found it disconcerting and hard to read (chapters were numbered in primes only – 1,3,5,7,11,13, etc.), some, who had previous experience with autistic people, hated the reality of the boy’s characterizations, and others, mainly mothers, were annoyed by the trouble it would take to have such a child.

After that, I seriously considered whether or not to return since at first glance I had nothing in common with these folks. But I persisted, thanks to Misty and Nancy. Sometimes I didn’t get the books read on time (“Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides -
http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahsbookclub/middlesex/middlesex_author_bio/1, which I finished in the parking lot across the street), sometimes I shut them off halfway out of boredom (“Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett) and sometimes I just wasn’t interested in the first place (“Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel” by Gregory Maguire and Bill Sanderson).

On the other hand, it did open my eyes to some books I have been wanting to read (“Lady Sings The Blues” by Billie Holiday -
http://www.billie-holiday.net/), some I would never have picked up (“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novelby Lisa See - http://www.lisasee.com/) and books that had a special influence on my life (“Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert - http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/).

We have ventured into fiction and non-fiction, chick-lit and less mainstream offerings, but what I have found to be the most wonderful aspect of this adventure are the people I get to spend an hour or so with each month under the pretense of reading a good book.

The dream of having time to read a book a month has turned into reading a couple books a month with stacks overwhelming my living room and bedroom waiting to be cracked open and exposed. As is my own inspirational spirit.

Each month, I get to learn more about these women (we have had one man, but I think he only wanted to be there to meet Misty and, shall we say, hook-up). They each have very vivid backgrounds from one woman who came of age in a time when a woman’s main goal was to marry and have kids and live a sheltered-domestic life only to be driven into a world struggling with the redefinition of the female role to a woman who grew up outside of Paris, a diplomat’s daughter finding herself in the nightlife of D.C. and settling into the battle of her life for a little girl that wasn’t even her own spawn, but more loved by my friend than by her own mother. Some come to visit from the Great White North during our winter and others try their damnedest to make it to every meeting.

I value this time more and more as the months pass and look forward to new books and ideas every time. Our discussions seem to diverge usually into our intimate philosophies about who we are and who we have been. In fact, at the last meeting, while discussing “Three Cups of Tea” by By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (
http://www.threecupsoftea.com/) our collective stream of conscience lead us to women who are content to wear bukkhas (http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2001/05/iran.html ) and appreciate their role in Islamic society and how that wasn’t too far off from women wearing dresses and pearls in the 1950s’ dream of perfect wife and motherhood. Roles were clearly defined in that age and I (letting my mouth speak freely from my soul) said, “Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes to have some of those clear definitions back?”

For those who know me, I am an independent woman and though I would love to be cared for, I still have a strong liking for my own way of being. But the discussion lead to this point and it was a nice thought to be able to step out of my “role” as a single woman and share my point. This is what this group does to me --- lets me see things a bit askew from my normal vision and to learn from it.

Some ladies strongly disagreed and others nodded in recognition, not necessarily agreement. As we say in the ad game “My branding had changed.” But these are the kinds of things we touch upon at each meeting. And I am very thankful for that, and for these lovely, smart, funny and unpretentious women who I would have never met if not for a few good reads.

If you care to join us, here are some books we are going to be reading (and a couple I hope will make the list next year):

September 2008 Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch
October 2008T he Liar's Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
November 2008 Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
December 2008 The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman by Alice Steinbach
Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet by Joanne Proulx

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