From the Nightstand: A New Book Group

I cannot live without books … or book groups. I joined Over-readers Anonymous in northern Wisconsin in 1983, shortly after I completed graduate school. (Does anyone have time to read novels in graduate school?) We read scores of books — far too many to list; some were great, others not so much, but nearly all were worth the read. I remained a member of that wonderful group until 2004 when I moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland. There, I found another book group and was a member until I moved to Lakefield, Ontario, in April 2015. One month later, I joined a fabulous group of book women.

Our first meeting was May 19, 2015, at the Canoe & Paddle. We managed to organize ourselves, to discuss what we wanted the group to be, and to choose our first book: The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King. At our June meeting, we agreed that the book was entertainingly written, which made King’s historical account of the appalling treatment of indigenous people in the US and Canada all the more affecting and shameful. We also agreed that everyone in North America should read this book.

July’s book was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, the story of a good man gone wrong (an oversimplification of a very complex novel). There was a consensus that the book was well written and intelligent, but we held decidedly different opinions about the story and the characters. Some of us loved the novel and all its complexity; others thought the characters were unengaging, unlikeable, and, in some cases, unbelievable, which made for a lengthy and difficult read.

In August, we read All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews for our September meeting. AMPS is a deeply affecting novel about suicide, not only the devastating loss, but also the mix of emotions — fear, sorrow, anger, frustration — experienced by family and friends. We loved this book and agreed that it was beautifully and imaginatively written. Well worth a second read.

Our October book was Sweetland by Michael Crummey, a novel about the resettlement of outport communities in Newfoundland and one man’s choice of solitude. For many of us, it was our second time reading the book, and we agreed that we could easily read it again. A multi-layered novel, beautifully written, imaginative and intriguing. We loved this book too.

In November, we discussed The Confabulist by Steven Galloway. The consensus was that this was a disappointing novel, especially for those who’d read The Cellist of Sarajevo and loved it. Our expectations were high, but we found the writing in The Confabulist to be a bit clunky and the characters and story not all that engaging or interesting.

We took a break for Christmas. 2016 books yet to come …

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