I was delighted in January when my friend Mary suggested we organize a book club by mail, just for the two of us, and I jumped at the suggestion.
When we first met in Virginia fifteen years ago, Mary invited me to join her long-time traditional book club, and I participated enthusiastically until I moved out of state. I never did get back into another book club, and not for a lack of trying. Somehow, I just didn't find the right one. Some met during the day. Others were dedicated to just one genre. One had too much socializing and not enough book discussion. Another was too much book discussion, and presided over by a leader who might as well have had a ring of keys at her waist and be named Matron.
But Mary's book club fit just right! Our rules, if you can call them that, are loosey-goosey, to use a technical term. We will send each other books we have enjoyed and if we feel like it, we will exchange insights and commentary by text, email, and/or phone.
It began when I received "If the Creek Don't Rise," by Leah Weiss, an author from our Central Virginia town. This beautifully written book made me practically weep with its perfectly executed prose and solid expanse of time and place. In exchange, I sent Mary "The Flight of the Maidens," by Jane Gardam, a post- WW II coming-of-age story. We were off to a good start!
Then we moved on to "The Dollhouse," by Fiona Davis, and Mary sent me "Angel," by Elizabeth Taylor.
I have to pause here to say that "Angel" perfectly exemplifies the point of book clubs. This is a book I never would have picked up, and had it not been for Mary's endorsement, probably would not have kept reading. The main character has only one redeeming quality, and that is her love for animals, something that Mary and I have in common. I ended up loving this book, in a macabre kind of way, and will read more by this author.
We exchanged biographies of Wallis Simpson and Beatrix Potter. I'm currently reading "Normal People" by Sally Rooney, and recently sent Mary a book of short stories, "An Evening in Paradise," by Lucia Berlin. As a birthday present Mary slipped in a copy of "A Woman of No Importance," by Sonia Purnell, about an American woman super spy in World War II. She bought a copy for herself, too, and for the first time we're reading the same book together!
I find myself thinking of Mary when I buy a new book. Yesterday, at my local library book sale, I purchased a copy of "The New Woman," by John Hassler, thinking to myself, this looks like something Mary would like, too!
Another bonus of our little book club? It reverberates beyond just the two of us. I've shared copies of books Mary has sent me with my sister in New York and a friend in Virginia, who in turn shares them with her daughter in South Carolina, and Mary shares my books with her sister in Maryland.
Books are indeed the gifts that keep on giving.
Read our literary insights, exchanged via texts, in the slideshow below.