I wasn’t always a member of this group. I knew they existed and many of my friends and neighbours were part of it. It is a rather large group fluctuating between ten to twelve members, but always at least eight, all women, are in attendance. We meet for nine presentations and a year-end social where the books are picked for the next year. Each member is expected to present and to host at least once a year. Books are selected from a myriad of genres with attention paid to styles we have not done before. We throw coats, catch up, fill plates and pour drinks, but the main event is the author presentation and ensuing discussion. It’s interesting to note that a high enjoyment rating of the book does not equal interesting or raucous conversation about the book.
I was ambivalent about book club. I was busy with my parenting group that, as our children grew, became more social. Also, this was not the kind of club you asked to join. That would be considered rude. Not because the women were snobs or because they were looking for “like” kind, you know the people who can’t stand dissension and gather around them people who nod ~ but because like many women’s groups, it was a place with a vibe and a rhythm, where you kept confidence, and where you could make outrageous statements and people would actually entertain them.
Yes, there was gossip and, yes, sometimes the din was unbelievable, so much at times that I felt I needed to, and did, raise my hand like a school girl to express a point. Men are not built for this din, but then also my husband does not want me at his shinny game and I don’t want him at book club. Win win.
At the time the invitation came for me to join, I was experiencing the death of my mother, a divorce, a change of homes and one of my children went insane. I don’t mean clinically insane, but the kind of insanity that comes with being a hormonal teen with divorcing parents and ready access to drugs and alcohol. It flummoxed me how a teen feigned helplessness at shopping and cooking supper, but proved able to obtain alcohol underage, to swipe cough syrup from the drugstore and mix it with crushed heart medication from seniors to make a potentially fatal cocktail. Spoiler alert, we all survived.
I’m lucky that a friend down the street let me stay in her home on the rotating weeks when I was away from our family home and my children. I stayed in their “t.v.” room for which all their children, also teens, should be given a medal. It was she who got me in the club door and it was the promise of and being in this club that kept me buoyed to an afterlife. Meaning a life after whatever I was in at that time.
Not because of their sympathy or sandwiches, that too, and not because they understood divorce, they were all married, but because individually they were brilliant, funny, open, and interested in what I had to say.
That’s really important. The interested in what I had to say part. For most people who are divorcing, men and women, it’s the disinterest of their former partners that hurts more than anything else.
At the time I began with Book Club, I was a wounded animal, incoherent, dizzy with grief. When she was alive, my mother called this state of being, my state of being when sad, as the dying duck in a thunderstorm. My mother also was part of something she called Group.
Group was started in Calgary by friends, including my mom and my Auntie Joan, meeting in a local church, being the only space available to them sans children, husbands and beckoning mangle machines. They told the Minister that it was a sewing club. Being the early 60’s they could find no words that would make the Minister sympathetic to housewives with young children who wanted to explore beyond domesticity and their own intellect. The book they started with was The Feminine Mystique, written in 1963 by Betty Friedan, an American writer, activist and a leader in the feminist movement. You should check her out.
My mother would be happy that I am part of a Group because together, these women, my Book Club, have woven a blanket of comfort around me and if there is Chardonnay involved, all the better.