The Young Wife by Pam Lewis and Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
Whom do you see as you stare into the mirror? Someone you LIKE? If so, congratulations…you’re being rewarded for an introspective life piloted by the golden rule.
28 Bookers jingling with dashes of Jolly Old St. Nicholas and armed with goodies guaranteed to soak up the spirits of the season descended on the home of Jean Alexander for our annual celebration of the holidays. Our ultimate hostess even has her own valet, husband Lee, who chauffeured guests from their cars to the front door. Many thanks to the Alexanders for sharing their beautifully decorated home with us, to those who volunteered to supply the nourishments, to Leslie and Jane for keeping our glasses full, and to Bonnie Magee, the ultimate food czar!
For the sake of clarification, The Young Wife was the book selection for the month, and in keeping with its theme, we added Back When We Were Grownups for its comparative value. In both novels, a common thread zigzagged throughout – young women choosing which path to take in her life’s journey. In hindsight, we should have tied the two together more closely as many read only one or the other, but as our discussion unfolded, the shared elements came to light and our “madness” made more sense. The similarities of the book jackets highlighted the links…both views from behind two women…both looking off to the side…one with an updo…the other with a pony tail…one at life’s sunrise, the other facing twilight…both reflecting on the patchworks of their decisions. Minke and Rebecca… two fictional characters personified in each of us as we look back and wonder…have I turned into the wrong person…or am I just a different person than I was?
Melanie Prebis delivered the review of Back When We Were Grownups, the story of nineteen-year old Rebecca Holmes, a college student, an only child, plump, and socially insecure who was “engaged to be engaged” to her long-time boyfriend. She makes a choice to throw caution to the wind and marry a man who threw parties for a living and had three young daughters. Widowed after only six years of marriage her life revolved around raising the children, nurturing her husband’s older uncle, and running the business, aptly named The Open Arms. At fifty-three she took a step back to evaluate – wondering who she might have been had she chosen the other fork in the road. Rebecca ultimately discovered the most valuable contribution she had given to her family was joyousness filling herself with a sense of pride in her achievements and realizing that she really had been having “a wonderful time.”
Jane Freer led the review of A Young Wife, loosely based on the author’s maternal grandmother’s life, set in 1912 and spanning over three continents from Amsterdam to South America and finally to New York. The story begins with a decision of fifteen-year old Minke to put all her faith in the hands of an older man, Sander DeVries –“ a man who never passed up an opportunity” – and embark on a life-changing voyage of love and friendships, deceit and jealousy, discovery, betrayal, revenge, and redemption. We watch a young woman virtually kidnapped by the promise of adventure and intrigue grow into a pillar of strength breaking ties with her abusive husband and nauseating sister devoting her life to finding her abducted son and caring for her small daughter. The story is of a woman’s struggle to determine her own fate given the choices she has made in the past. If you were going to write a novel based on a member of your family, who would it be?
We discussed our favorite characters in each novel, Minke and Cassian…Rebecca and Poppy – interestingly each were the other’s support systems and one of the favorite scenes – Ellis Island…how Minke turned into a swan all by herself… and how Poppy’s wisdom rings true in every era – you have to do the best you can with what you’ve got. Anne Tyler’s style of writing, sometimes referred to as snail-paced, ponderous, and wearyingly plotted, resulted in a few yawns. Compared to today’s bestsellers, she does mosey along with her literary family of thousands, most with strange names, but she does this very successfully in all fifteen of her novels.
Four book clubs in Athens are sponsoring a luncheon event on Friday, April 12th at the Cain Center to raise money for the Henderson County Library. Kathleen Kent, author of Heretic’s Daughter, will be the speaker. Tickets are $25.00 for the luncheon only and $40.00 if you would like to meet the author and have your book signed. We’re on their mailing list now so we’ll keep you updated on more details of the event. MN or I will read the book for consideration as our April choice whether we participate as a group or individually.
MN is going to sign Bookers’ to a copy of No Easy Day to give to Mr. Tucker. We thought he would enjoy this military memoir of the capture of bin Laden.
Beverly Dossett loved Rules of Civility and we will be screening this debut novel for a possible selection.
Jack Stone e-mailed us with this selection, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. It begins, “What are you reading?” The author is asking his mother this question as they sit in the waiting room of a cancer center waiting for her treatment. This is a true story of a mother and son who start their two-person book club and for the next two years, they carry on wide-ranging conversations about the books they are sharing. They are “constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. It is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also joyful, and often a humorous celebration of life.”
Eunice Hamlin finished and loved Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah.
Life of Pi, the movie, is being discussed by many – recommended in 3D – and evidently provokes conversation, questions, and conclusions…just like the book!
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
February 12th The Good Dream by Donna Van Liere
Home of Janet Erwin
Reviewer: Jean Alexander
March 12th Home of Charlotte Pechacek
Book not assigned yet
April 9th Home of MN Stanky
Book not assigned yet
May 14th 6th Annual Wine & Cheese Evening Meeting
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet, Jamie Ford
Home of Melanie Prebis
At the heart of this season is the focus on family and friends. In cyberspace, all we have to do is click the “like” button and we have another “friend.” However, in a real friendship we have to do more…there is a responsibility attached…we have to stay together in our lifeboat of caring…again and again. Hold dear those in your vessel and have a Merry Christmas.