A novel about the power of friendship
It is not often that a book we have chosen to read disappoints so many members. Unfortunately, that was case with The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe. Members felt she missed an opportunity to write a stimulating and thought-provoking novel about five very different women who were brought together by their love of reading. They expected more from this book and were dismayed by the often-trite dialogue and predictable plot.
Our amazing facilitator Diane Dean turned lemons into lemonade by sending out a call for members to think about the books that have had an impact on their lives.
To set the mood for the discussion, Diane toted in a tableful of books. Then, starting with a childhood favorite The Velveteen Rabbit, clued us in to the books that have held meaning for her through the various stages of her life including Les Miserable, Spoon River Anthology, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Feminine Mystique, Passages and recently Help, Thanks, Wow.
Members were given slips of paper and asked to list their favorite titles over the years. What followed was one of the most interesting and enjoyable discussions we have had in book club. As the slips were drawn at random from a basket, each member was asked to explain what the books on their list meant to them.
When it came to books they adored as children, the exploits of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were beloved along with Zane Grey novels and such classics as The Little Prince, Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree and The Prince and the Pauper.
Moving into adolescent times, a majority of members said reading biographies inspired them to excel in school. Other familiar titles on many lists were The Diary of Anne Frank, Marjorie Morningstar, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, A Christmas Carol and the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Two others evoked powerful memories, Five Smooth Stones and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
As the lists moved into adulthood, some interesting and diverse titles appeared, including The Prophet, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Interpretation of Dreams, The Origin of the Species, Watership Down, Silent Spring, Fear of Flying, The Persian Pickle Club, The Meaning of Relativity, A Town Like Alice and What Do Women Want?
In recent years, Devil in the Grove elicited exciting memories. Other newer titles that have been favorites are The Devil in the White City, The Poisonwood Bible, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Loving Frank, Cutting for Stone, The Glass Castle, The Boys in the Boat and Still Alice. The group was unanimous in its high praise for the Harry Potter series as it brought the love of reading to an entire generation.
This article has only begun to touch on the scores of fabulous books we discussed. We all agreed that this was a wonderful experience and it enabled us to share our love of these time-honored books with others in the club. Book clubs foster the expansion our reading choices and the heart and soul of a book club are its members who, regardless of personalities and differences of opinions, share the joy of what they read with others. We encourage you to read a book today, share that experience with someone and consider joining a book club.
About the Author
Mary Alice Monroe is noted for her intimate portrayals of women’s lives and is the author of two dozen novels, several non-fiction books and children’s books. Her books have appeared on best sellers lists and she is the recipient of many literary awards. Monroe is an active environmentalist and themes for many of her novels have been drawn from nature. The novels are often set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina where she resides. She serves on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherback Trust and the Charleston Volunteers for Literacy.