Talking with Book Clubs
For years I’ve longed to be a part of a successful reading group. My sister speaks lovingly about the book club she’s been a member of for twenty years, and I envy her experiences discussing books, choosing titles, meeting authors. I tried to start a group in my little circle of the world, and for a time, I did gather enough friends to talk about books. Sadly, busy lives and active kids intruded, and eight book choices later, the group disbanded.
Long before mother-daughter book clubs became fashionable, my girl and I formed a partnership around the written word. She loved my suggestion to read a selected book and then set aside time to discuss it. The Phantom Tollbooth, Chasing Redbird, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Tuck Everlasting paved the way to The Summer of my German Soldier, Amy and Isabelle, Peace Like a River, and The History of Love. My daughter’s twenty-one now, and thankfully we still discuss books almost every day.
Given my love of discussing all things book-related, imagine how over the moon I was when Life Without Summer was published, and I was invited to my first book club meeting as an author. The women were more than hospitable; all of them eager to talk about my characters as if they were real people. Until then, only I’d considered them to be more than figments of my imagination. They loved the scene when Tessa meets with Abby’s preschool teacher. Some got choked up talking about it, some admitted they cried as they read. They loved the character Ethan but despised Alden’s actions. To me, it’s a gift to learn what readers love, and an even bigger gem as a writer to learn what readers struggle with.
Last week my second novel Sea Escape was published—a novel more personal to me than anything I’ve ever written before—and I’m anticipating visits with book clubs to discuss it. The story explores the ties that bind one woman to her mother. The character Helen struggles with what’s called prolonged grief disorder. A specific kind of depression brought on by loss that for some reason refuses to follow the typical trajectory of grief. Like my mother did, the character Helen gets stuck in the past, gripped by the pain of her loss. And like me, the character Laura tries to make sense of losing both of her parents.
Inspired by my own mother-daughter relationship and the love letters my dad wrote to her in the early days of their romance, some may wonder if it will be hard to discuss this novel with readers. I expect conversations to be emotional and honest, exploring grief that is both universal and personal. Yet as personal as Sea Escape is, it’s a fictional story. It shines a light on an important topic hidden from view in many families, and I’m eager to share the story with readers.
Lynne Griffin is an acclaimed novelist and a nationally recognized expert on family life. She is the author of the novels, Sea Escape (Simon & Schuster, 2010) and Life Without Summer (St. Martin’s Press, 2009).
She is also the author of the nonfiction parenting guide Negotiation Generation: Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment (Penguin, 2007).
As the parenting contributor for Boston’s Fox 25 Morning News, she appears regularly in the segment Family Works.
Lynne teaches in the graduate program of Social Work and Family Studies at Wheelock College, and at Grub Street Writers.
She has written for Parenting Magazine, Scholastic Parent & Child, The Writer Magazine, and hosts the blog, Family Life Stories.
Lynne lives outside Boston, Massachusetts with her family.
I am so grateful to Ms. Griffin for writing this great guest post about her relationships with book clubs! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.
Giveaway alert: I have copies of SEA ESCAPE as well as Ms. Griffin's previous novel LIFE WITHOUT SUMMER (which is supposed to be excellent!) to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just leave a comment with a valid email address telling me that you'd like to be entered to win both books. This giveaway is open until July 28th at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!