I love to read – it’s been a passion of mine since I was just a little girl. I was a frequent visitor to the little library in my hometown, devouring series like Nancy Drew, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Boxcar Children and The Wizard of Oz (yes, it’s a series – not just one book about a girl with ruby slippers)! I went through a few, embarrassing years when I was addicted to Harlequin romances and I even wrote a novel and submitted it to Harlequin at one point (I still have the rejection letter, which contains such gems as “your story offers nothing really new or exciting” and “the characters are too close to stereotype and the plot is too contrived”).
While reading is wonderful – it is a solitary activity, which usually doesn’t bother me. However, this year I decided that I needed to stop being such a hermit, start socializing and maybe even make a few friends! I tried some new things, taking classes to learn how to fuse glass jewelry and to cook paella and tapas. But I also wanted to do something social that incorporated something I already knew I loved – so I signed up for a book club hosted by my favorite used book store.
The book club was held on the second Tuesday of every month – at 4:00pm. Since I work Monday-Friday on an 8am-5pm schedule, this presented a problem – but I was determined to give it a go, even though the thought of meeting a bunch of strangers kind of terrified me. So, I did what any normal person would do to get out of work early – I faked a migraine. About 3pm, I suddenly was hit with intense pain, crippling nausea, and a sensitivity to light. I was given the go-ahead to head home early to take my meds and lay in a dark room – but instead, I hit the road – instantly and miraculously cured of my ailment.
I entered the bookstore with some trepidation and immediately spotted the book club members – seated in front of the floor to ceiling plate glass windows near the front of the store. I made my way to them, introduced myself, and was offered a seat. I noticed two things right away: 1) the afternoon sun streaming through the windows heated up the seating area to a searing 5000 degrees – and since I was facing the windows, it also threatened to burn out my retinas. And 2) I was the youngest person in the group. This was surprising because I’m a little long in the tooth myself – a quinquagenarian with grown children and even a grandchild. However, compared to these gals, I was a spring chicken…a fresh faced ingénue!
I reminded myself that my social experiment did not require that I make friends only with people my age. I reminded myself that, with age, came experience and wisdom – and that my book club buddies-to-be probably had many interesting stories and thought-provoking comments about the books we were reviewing. I decided that I needed to give this several months in order to really feel comfortable and see what it was all about.
So, for four months, on the second Tuesday of every month, around 3pm in the afternoon, I would suddenly develop a malady that would require I leave work early in order to recover – and I joined my cronies for what I hoped would be a spirited, intelligent, and animated discussion about the book we had read that month. However, this was rarely the case.
Usually the conversation centered on the snacks. Each month, a member volunteered to bring the snacks and they were serious about this responsibility! Everything was artfully arranged and described ad nauseam. Often, the snacks were made from secret family recipes or were intended to be healthy (“these cookies are made with a prune puree – it’s better for you than butter and it has the added benefit of keeping you regular!”)
The snacks also attracted interlopers, sometimes a child would wander by and decide that the mini bran muffins looked delicious (usually they was dropped on the floor after the first bite) – but more often, an older gentleman and his dog. At first, I thought he was a member of the book club, because he was there so often. He would never speak – with his dog in his lap, he would load a plate with copious amounts of whatever snack was on the menu that day and, after eating it, he would promptly fall asleep. It was only after the third consecutive visit, when the old man began to snore loudly and his dog (at least I hope it was his dog) began to pass putrid gas, and when the owner of the book store gently woke him up and told him it was time to head home, that I learned he was an uninvited guest.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that this book club was just not for me (plus, I was running out of plausible excuses to get out of work early)! I bid my farewells, but I didn’t give up! I eventually found another book club that met after work – with members of all ages – interesting, intelligent, and amusing women that not only discuss the merits of the book of the month, but also mix it up by having potlucks and movie nights. I think it might be the perfect fit!
Have you ever been in a book club? What other things have you tried in order to make new friends? What was the best book you’ve read this year?