by Laura Sillerman | bio

Our book group follows the best practices of book groups everywhere: rotating leadership, democratic selection process, inclusion of different genres and cultures.

We adhere to higher principles as well. We consider a meeting successful if we’ve gone through more wine than soft beverages. We are extremely serious about the food that’s served. We plan at least one meeting a year to be held at a reading of some kind, followed by some serious fun afterwards.

What’s more, I venture to say we are more diverse than 99 percent of book groups. It’s not only ethnic diversity (easy in an urban setting like ours). What we have is age diversity. And let me tell you, if you haven’t tried it, you’ve been missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

Our youngest member is 24 years old. Our eldest is 63. We’ve got three other 20-somethings and the rest of us range from 46 to 61. We rock!

We have the chance to come together every month or so and to define ourselves not according to how age sets us apart but according to what we have in common — which, besides loving "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" this month, is a great deal.

We share a disdain for the facile in books and interactions. We love honesty even when it’s brutal. We don’t mind language more suited to military service than a church service. We know laughing is better for our abdominal muscles than self-importance. We hate a certain candidate and love another — all of us, if you can believe it.

We like to shout our beliefs, and we want each and every one of us to be happy. Really down-to-the-toes happy. We are an age-blind coalition of book lovers, thinkers and almost-hedonists. And, because of that vision impairment, we are indispensable to each other. 

The young ones give the rest of us access to theories and methodologies we forgot a couple of decades ago. The older ones bring memories of books the others have never heard of or have yet to get to. The young ones give the elders tips on which current films to see. The elders have prescription drugs down cold.

It goes even deeper. One member had a double mastectomy five weeks ago. When she came to the meeting this week, all the embraces were sister-to-sister. And when she confessed to worries about her boyfriend, the young ones had the best advice of all and gave her the most confidence because they have more skin in that game than the rest of us do.

We’ve got a newlywed and someone separating from her husband. We’ve got a member thrice married and a couple of us who celebrated our 30th wedding anniversaries years ago. We’ve got a young one with a cute new boyfriend and another about to dump hers. We’ve got a spring chicken who can’t seem to find the right guy, and a tough bird who at a very late date just might have. 

When we talk about a book, uncomfortable barriers that might be present in other situations (I wouldn’t want to have to walk down a beach in my bathing suit with some of this crowd, for instance) drop away. We are women on a dig together, mining between the lines for common themes in literature and life. We go into the deepest, darkest recesses of paragraphs and, when one of us comes up with something small and gem-like or huge and universal, the rest of us gather round and add our insights. 

I like to think we are all learning something that will serve us for the rest of our days. To be with women of varying ages engaged in thinking about what literature means to the human soul is to hear the music of the spheres. It sounds like deep thoughts and laughter all at once, it’s timeless and pure, rare and available and a gift I wish for women everywhere.

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  • Laura Sillerman March 19, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    April being National Poetry Month, we are reading “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time,” the newly released volume from Marie Howe as well as some Maxine Kumin, Carol Muske-Dukes, Jorie Graham and Susan Kinsolving — with Robert Hass in there for some male representation.

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  • Dr. Pat Allen March 15, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I am pressing my face against the small window of the room where this book club is meeting. I am searching each month for the title of the book you are reading … and it is just out of my range of vision.
    Will your book club share its choice with the readers of our blog each month? We won’t necessarily pester you with our insights, but we will be so grateful to be included.

    Reply