Reading a book brings me the enjoyment of being transported to another existence, a parallel life of time or place that yields personal introspection. Discussing that book with a lively and intuitive literary group of friends yields an expanded result beyond my own initial experience. Often a book I’ve read and critiqued as “Meh” becomes “Oh, wow!” after the input of multiple viewpoints and insights.
In May, the Chardon Book Discussion read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. As I read the book, I thought I was reading about a “dysfunctional” family through several generations. Then, when our group got together and shared their stories, I realized I had been figuratively holding the book at arm’s length. What I was quick to judge as dysfunction was actually real life as it is seen from different views within any family. Members of our group told stories of relatives harboring grudges and adult siblings still competing over sharing their parents’ time and attention. As mothers and grandmothers, we told how we remain aware of keeping balance between our adult children even as we all mature and move on in life. This book pointed out how items are valued by the memories and meaning they represent, and the value can vary greatly. The house is the anchor of A Spool of Blue Thread; it’s almost another character, yet its value to individual family members diminishes as the generations shift. Some people felt sorry for Linnie Mae, even as they admire her ingenuity. We felt daughter-in-law Nora was the gem of the family, and it made us reflect upon the importance of our in-laws and others who are “adopted” as family. I am touched by the willingness of a book group to share their own personal stories of triumphs and tragedies. Books can bring out the best in us, even as they are describing our worst flaws and secrets.
Carol Tuttle is Head of Adult Services at the Chardon Branch. She is currently reading The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.
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