About five years ago a friend of mine asked me to join a book club with her. At the time, she was living in my current suburb and I was living 25 minutes away at our old house. The book club meetings always took place in her city. So I would drive and pick her up on the way. It was nice to belong to the book club and I enjoyed seeing my friend, who I didn’t get to see very often.
If you don’t know me personally, then you might not know that that I’m Catholic. All of the ladies in the book club were also Catholic. This is important later in the story. You’ll see.
We were reading things like Jane Austen (yeah!) and Shakespeare (I’m sorry but I don’t like reading it, only watching), Dorothy Sayers (yeah!) – you get the idea. About one year in, it was finally my turn to pick a book. I decided to change things up a bit and pick a book by a contemporary novelist, “The Inn At Lake Devine” by Elinor Lipman. It had been recommended to me in my early twenties by my sister-in-law and had become a favorite. I hadn’t read it in several years and I wanted to get other opinions. Be careful what you ask for!
The vehement dislike that some people in the group had for the book was startling to me. I was also shocked that they didn’t temper their comments a bit, since I had prefaced my choosing with an explanation of how much I liked the book. The author, Elinor Lipman, is a Jewish boomer who grew up on the East Coast and still lives there. She does what any good author does, she writes what she knows. This means that her beliefs and environs will be a bit foreign to a group of Catholic ladies in Texas who are a generation younger than her. I (obviously) don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I got comments like, “I’m so sorry I wasted my time reading this book.” Not only was this not constructive, but it was rude. My friend was there, but had unfortunately not had time to read the book. So she couldn’t defend the book or me. She did have the best comment when we got in the car and I will never forget it. She said, “Nichole, I could have told some of those women in there that you were a stripper to pay for college and they would have believed me!”. We laughed all the way to her house.
Of course, the story does not end there. One of my big flaws is that I can be a bit of a grudge holder. A little while after “the incident”, the husband and I took our amazing trip to Italy. On the plane ride back to the States, I had to borrow one of his books because I had read all of mine. I ended up reading “The Thanatos Syndrome” by Walker Percy. Walker Percy was Catholic. Walker Percy was also very cynical and many of his books are quite shocking. As I neared the end of the book – a plot was born. If the book club ladies wanted to read authors that have a similar value system to their own, I would give them one.
Luckily, I decided a few months later that it was unhealthy to be plotting vengeance on your own book club. My friend had also moved and couldn’t go very often. So, I quit. I now belong to a new book club that I really like. And they’ve even read Walker Percy (before I joined)! I did warn the hostess when she invited me that I had been plotting against my last book club when I quit. I figured full disclosure was in order.
Have you ever had your pick panned at book club? Are you scared of me now? Will you never read one of my recommendations for fear that I will go berserk if you don’t like it? I’m trying to reform, honest.