Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Club Exchange - Pam from the Wakomata Women

I was so excited when Pam offered to write about her book club for
Book Club Exchange, a new (and hopefully) regular feature on Booking Mama which highlights anything and everything book club-related!
Pam isn't a blogger, but it's obvious that she shares my love of books and reading.

I am so impressed that her book club has been going strong for 10 years; and I think we can all learn something from Pam's experiences -- I love how she mentions that their group has lasted longer than a lot of marriages! And since I am always curious about what everyone else is reading, I like that she provided a list of books that her group has read this year.

The Wakomata Women

Ten years ago, there were a group of women who joined together to form a Book Club. Some of them were single, some were married. Some had children and some did not. Some were in their twenties and some were close to retirement. Some had traveled extensively, some had stayed closer to home. Some of them were originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Canada and others had relocated to the Sault. What bound them together was their work in the rehab field, whether as a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, dietitian or manager of the rehab group. And all of them loved books.

When I began working with these ladies a few months after their inaugural meeting, I was somewhat reluctant to join their Book Club when invited. Would it be like English class? Would I be expected to analyze the book and all the characters? Would I be required to speak of analogies and metaphors? I knew I loved reading but would I enjoy discussing books on this level? And what if I didn’t like the book? I decided to give it a shot in spite of my fears and I was hooked.

Our group meets once a month, usually the first Monday night, rotating between hostesses and enjoying coffee, tea, and most importantly, dessert, often of the chocolate variety. We take the month of August off and then towards the end of September, we have a weekend retreat at Wakomata Lake at the cottage of one of our members. That weekend, we hike, play games, drink wine, eat great food, read books, talk about books, and choose books and hostesses for the next year.

Towards the beginning of our club’s existence, we would choose categories first and then pick books to fit into those categories. For example, memoir, science fiction, young adult, classics, etc. It definitely ensured that we read a variety of books, however, we soon realized that we had similar tastes in books and none of us were very fond of science fiction! Now, we simply come to the weekend with a few suggestions of books we’ve read that we think would make for good group discussion or ones we want to read or sometimes ones others have suggested. We take turns discussing the books on each of our lists and then assign different hostesses to each month and that hostess gets the ultimate say in which book is read and discussed that month. This method seems to work the best for us.

Most of our selected reads are literary or contemporary fiction but we usually find ourselves reading at least one memoir or otherwise non-fiction read each year as well. The past few years have been rather heavy in the books about Afghanistan and India, but this upcoming year’s selections are quite varied. Not all of our choices are universally liked but most of them generate some great discussions. This past year, “DeNiro’s Game” by Rawi Hage and “What the Body Remembers” by Shauna Singh Baldwin were two of the choices that were strongly disliked by some of the group members but both books resulted in lively discussions! In fact, I actually found myself liking “What the Body Remembers” much more following our discussion than I did while reading it, not that I have any plans to re-read it any time soon! One of the universal favourites thus far has been “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving; in fact, that was the standard to which we compared all other books read for a few years (“It was good, but it was no Owen Meany”).

In general, our group is pretty laid back. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book or if you started the book and hated it so put it back down, you’re always welcome to come to the meeting and enjoy the dessert and chat anyways. Some of our original discussions involved such thoughts as who would we cast in a movie based on this book. We may bring in newspaper clippings, internet reviews, etc. of the books being discussed but we don’t usually use any reader’s guides. We start our discussions with the generic “Well, who liked the book?” and the discussion ensues from there. We do keep track of books we’ve read and the group’s thoughts on them in a journal. It’s fun to look back at that journal to see what we’ve read and how we’ve evolved! For a while we also kept scrapbooks with photos and menus from our annual weekend retreat to peruse each year. This year we’ve decided to try to compile all the recipes that people recall bringing to the weekend into a book with photos and notes to keep as a memento.

We have had people leave the group as they’ve moved away, were no longer able to read or attend due to family commitments, health, and such. We’ve also had new people join. We don’t all work together any more as some of the women have retired and I’ve changed jobs, but we still enjoy the chance to catch up once a month. There are about 10 women who attend the meetings regularly; 8 of us are from the original group. There are a few others who attend a few meetings a year whenever they are able. Our club has lasted longer than most marriages these days and it’s still going strong.

Our book club list this year is:
- The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak (November)
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (December)
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (January)
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (February)
- Down to This by Shaugnessy Bishop-Stall (March)
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova (April)
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (May)
- The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (June)
- The Dumas Club by Artruro Perez-Reverte (July)
- The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz-Zafon (September)

Pam is a happily married mother of two: a 3 yr. old boy, Duncan, and a 7 month old girl, Danica. When she finished her year long maternity leave at the end of January, she will be returning to work at the local hospital as a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist. Her passions include traveling, cooking, and, of course, reading.

I am so grateful to Pam for sharing her some of her book club experiences with us. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the idea of a weekend retreat - that sounds just blissful!

Jo-Jo said...

I also enjoy the thought of a weekend retreat with the ladies. Our group has done a couple of weekend field trips that usually include shopping and eating. It would be so relaxing to just hang out and relax at a cabin though.

bermudaonion said...

Pam's book club sounds great! I want to join after seeing the books they've read this year.

Amused said...

What a great bookclub! The fact that you've been together for 10 years and do a weekend retreat sounds wonderful!

Serena said...

Wow, 10-years strong! Great! Sounds like a great book club and I love that they have a getaway weekend together.

Pam said...

It really is a great bookclub. I've heard horror stories from friends of mine who are in clubs where the members are condescending to one another if their points of view differ and such. And the retreat is certainly a highlight! Because of children, pregnancies, other commitments, etc., I haven't been able to spend to whole weekend in a long time but I've already made it clear to my hubby and parents and whoever else may need to take time with the kids that I'm going all weekend next year!