For many years, I wandered the suburban wilderness alone, without a book group. I wanted to join one.
But, being as I am choosier than Goldilocks, none of the available options seemed quite right for me.
First, I tried the Eager Beaver book group. It was composed of incredibly busy women who all managed to read at least one novel a month, on top of full-time jobs or family obligations that would stagger an efficiency expert.
These women somehow had enough time and energy left at the end of their day to speak in complete sentences while relaxing on someone else’s couch.
I flunked out of that one after my first try, when the friend who was my sponsor woke me up to drive me home.
My next attempt was what I call the Better Homes and Gardens group. Everyone else in it had beautiful homes — mansions, really.
I enjoyed myself tremendously — until I realized that the next month, it was my turn to host.
I couldn’t even be sure there was usable soap in both bathrooms at my house, never mind potpourri pillows that matched the woodwork. Luckily, a judiciously-placed rumor of head lice got me out of that one.
Then I learned of a group that did away with reading books altogether, in favor of going to the movies made from them, instead.
I thought that group had distinct possibilities; at least none of them would whine, after a movie, that “The book was better!”
Unfortunately, my husband objected to my spending money on sitters and movies when he couldn’t come with me.
Next, I heard about the Weight-Lifters’ book club. These women all ate thousand-page tomes for breakfast, on such peppy topics as genocide; global warming; and the roots of poverty.
Every once in a while they threw in a fiction book, to lighten the mix — so long as they could be assured that no one in the story ended up happy.
My problem is, I did enough required reading in college to last me several lifetimes. The next time I stay up all night speed-reading anything, it had better be a completed tax return. And I get all the bad news I can handle every morning, just switching on the radio for the weather.
I turn to literature to escape reality, not to get even more of it!
Besides — although I know there is a tendency to think that only something sad can be “serious” fiction, in my opinion it’s only the books with happy endings that can be considered “fiction” at all.
“Haven’t you got anything light?” I asked the Book Group Coordinator at the local library. She just stared at me. “Okay, what about the classics?”
She directed me to a group that met after-school hours. I loved the list – “Harry Potter;” “The Secret Garden;” “A Wrinkle In Time” — and was really looking forward to our first meeting.
Alas, when I walked in, I discovered I was the only member of the group over the age of 10… including the moderator!
But now, at last, I have a book group that is just right.
There isn’t any “homework” because we’ve all agreed to simply read aloud passages from the works that interest us.
We have tried our hands at fiction; non-fiction; essays; even poetry! Best of all, when I complain that I can’t understand the ending, no one says “It’s perfectly obvious, Judy.”
Instead they say “Oh, do you think that’s too obscure?”
And the author goes back to her computer, and brings another draft of the chapter to our next meeting.
Yes, my ultimate book group is my writing group, and I am finally at home.