Admittedly belonging to four book clubs is a tad extreme but oh so enjoyable. It affords one the opportunity to read a varied mix of books and discuss them with interesting groups. Thankfully none of my four clubs are high brow so I do not have many flashbacks to college English classes and deep analysis.
Let me start with club number 1-- work. The members are a mere 3 with a preference to read mysteries. A memorable selection was One Second After by William R. Forstchen. Unsettling story about a terrorist attack using an electromagnetic pulse to take down the country. It results in a complete collapse of economy and society. Often, I have my teens read book club selections. They have not read this one as it is so realistic. It depicts the victimization of women at the hands of gangs; dire conditions in hospitals and nursing homes. As an adult, these scenes made my skin crawl but recognized their validity. As an American, felt deep sorrow that in such severe, harrowing times, many in our populace would indeed behave in deplorable and selfish ways. As a parent, my heart throbbed with fear for such an event to happen today and the resulting impact to my children.
One Second After is a good read. It illustrates how a person with integrity, basic common sense with some practical ability can survive and even find love when in the midst of disaster. Recently, my family encouraged me to watch a show on NatGeo called Doomsday Preppers. A few minutes into the show, I realized, with a sickening feeling in my stomach, that I was reliving reading One Second After. While I enjoyed the TV show, retaining weapons, not quite ready to take that step. The episode was extreme at times but filled with useful tips.
Book club number 2-- parents from school. The members differ month to month as the club encompasses mothers all from the same school district with attendance based on their responsibilities that month. This is a particularly fun group as the personalities result in heated exchanges but more than that, a lot of sensitive school information is shared-- teachers of issue, kids dabbling in drinking, and the like. The book selections are quite eclectic. For this essay, the focus will be on a classic-- The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Big book with 400+ pages but written with simplicity which masks the fact that it is a deep, thoughtful, complex story. This is a book my children will be reading this summer.
The Good Earth is set in China. It is the first book of a Trilogy-- Sons and A House Divided are the other 2 books that round out the saga. As the focus is The Good Earth, let me begin and hope this essay wets your appetite to read all three books. The setting is China on a farm where a young, poor farmer is now at marriageable age. Wang Lung marries a young slave, O-Lan, who works in the home of the town's wealthy landowners. The story revolves around this young couple and the obstacles they face. Be prepared for heart rendering tales of malnourished children, opium induced lives, hardships that are beyond our 21st century western lives. This book no doubt reverberated with folks in the midst of the Depression.
On to book club number 3-- women only. Another interesting group with the majority being working, well educated mothers. The others being well educated single ladies. The meetings are wine filled evenings with laughter, a few moments of snarkyness and lots of female camaraderie. The group has minimal ethnic diversity, in fact all four book clubs are limited in that aspect. Nonetheless the discussions on race and ethnicity get very heated with this group. There are a few ladies who are very conservative in their politics and this leads to debates that do become awkward. There is that old adage that politics and religion are best left out of conversation. Thus, Mr. Obama's autobiography Dreams from my Father has not been on our list. However, Still Alice by Lisa Genova was one selections and a good book.
Still Alice is about a college professor who develops Alzheimer's. Brilliant psychology professor and she receives an ironic diagnosis. The ensuing human drama is humbling as it shows the fragility of life; the impact of a mother slowly losing her memory and independence; parental and spousal relationships. My teens did read this book and their perception of the husband was quite different from book club. Book club 3 cut and diced the husband to bits. The teen readers viewed the husband as a victim and found nothing wanting in his behavior. It is for such reasons that my children read book club selections. As adults our views are colored by our experiences, wants and biases. As young readers, they are still forming opinions, wants and experiences and they offer a different perspective. Truth be told it makes me proud o hear my children argue their position.
Finally book club 4-- neighbors. This is a mixed gender group and a lot fun. We recently read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. A well written story that offers a glimpse of Ethiopian life with vivid imagery and descriptive medical scenes. The novel offers strong male and female characters who are flawed yet strong. The reader follows the birth of twins and their path to maturity. There is plenty to enjoy from politics to a love triangle to appreciation of present day conveniences. The author is also a physician. In fact, besides practicing medicine, the author also has a creative writing masters. Some folks seem to accomplish so much. Inspirational to say the least.
Join or start a book club. Besides reading terrific books, it affords the opportunity to spend an enjoyable time with interesting people and varied view points. The four novels mentioned were engaging and considering the number of books I read, those that stand out, resonate.