The Time I Swore Vengeance On My Book Club

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. ;)

9 responses to this post.

  1. I just happened upon your blog this morning and had to comment… And honestly I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never been in a book club either. Its just people like that bug me. People who can’t go outside their narrow experience – even to read about it. Even to consider others might live there…

    I don’t know, I just don’t get it.

    I guess it’s why it’s very hard to join established communities in some places. ‘Outsider’ is something that is felt to the core.

    Tracu

    Reply

    • Thanks for the comment. It was a bit upsetting at the time, but it’s one of those things my husband and I laugh about now. The really funny thing is that I now live in the same city as a lot of those women and run into them socially once in a while. They are perfectly nice to me. I honestly doubt that they even remember it.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Erika on June 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    HaHa! I had forgotten that story!! I remember you telling me that they hated your book and the “stripper” comment, but I don’t think I knew you were plotting vengeance against them!! I loved that book when you recommended it to me, btw. :)

    Reply

  3. I was in a fantastic book club for a couple of years. Everybody read the books, nobody got too drunk to discuss, and even though I was the youngest by 15-25 years, we all saw eye to eye on a lot of things. Then one by one, all but two of us moved out of town (three of us moved to other states) and we disbanded, but we kept in touch–in the last month I’ve had dinner with two of them in different cities, and two are Facebook friends.

    We did disagree occasionally on books. Once when it was my turn to pick a book, I picked A Prayer for Owen Meany, which is one of my favorite books of all time. It was immediately vetoed by the member who didn’t read male authors (she had recently relented and said she’d consider books by men), and by another one who said, “I’ve tried to read that book three times, and I hate it. Every time that little bastard opens his mouth I want to slap him.”

    I just love that. She had such a strong reaction to the character of Owen Meany that even though she didn’t ever finish the book, it had an impact on her. We didn’t read it, but I didn’t mind.

    BTW, I liked The Inn at Lake Devine, and can’t understand your book group’s response at all. What on earth did they find so objectionable? Granted, I haven’t read it in a few years, but I can’t remember anything that would provoke that kind of reaction.

    Reply

    • Molly, I think that was what was so frustrating. I didn’t come away from the discussion with a clear understanding of the objections. If I had to guess, I would say the pre-marital sex and probably deep down the rejection of their parent’s guidance and value system. Many of the ladies were already mothers many times over and I would guess that even if they didn’t realize it, that really bothered them. This is all my guessing, because it really was never spelled out. Of course it was several years ago, so my memory could be faulty. Maybe I just heard their initial negative blasts and the rest of the discussion was just buzzing in my head. :)

      Reply

  4. Posted by Jen on June 30, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I’m going to have to add this to my list of ‘must reads’ now so I can know how to judge you. You had told me about the incident before, but you left the title of the book out of the story. We were in the same book club, just at different times, but I was under the impression that it disbanded. That may tell you something about what I contributed to the club???

    Reply

    • You were in that book club?! When? Remember, I found it in my early twenties when I ran out of Jane Austen. :)

      Reply

      • Posted by Jen on July 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

        Well, I was in it after Noah was born so you win! I have heard rumors that it IS still meeting, but I really only went to one or two meetings and decided maybe book clubs weren’t the thing for me. It was really that THAT book club wasn’t the thing for me.

  5. Oh yes, I loved Book Club and had to drop out because of committments. We all chose the book for the month we were hostess and there were also books I did not enjoy greatly, however it all made for lively discusiion, while drinking wine!

    Karena
    Art by Karena

    Reply

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