Skip to main content

Thursday Night Book Club -- May, 2017



On an unseasonably warm May 18th, the Wallingford Public Library Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss our May book, Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. In the opening pages of this tightly controlled novel, a house fire kills four people, including a young couple whose wedding had been scheduled for later that day. The rest of Did You Ever Have a Family is an exploration of the aftermath of that tragedy and its impact on the lives of the family members and friends who survived. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle of what happened in the hours before that explosion, and in the months and years that preceded it, fall into place.  Clegg's first novel is about forgiveness, connection, and families, both the ones we are born into and the ones we make. As one character comments towards the end of the book, "Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part. Even if that part is coughing to death from cigarettes, or being blown up young in a house with your mother watching. And even if it’s to be that mother. Someone down the line might need to know you got through it."

During our hour together, the group spent some time talking about Clegg's background as a successful literary agent in New York City and his years struggling with alcohol and drug addiction (experiences Clegg describes in his two memoirs, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days).  It seemed clear to the group that Clegg's need for forgiveness for his own behavior informed the story he wanted to tell in the novel and led to an interesting discussion about what it means to forgive, and the differences between forgiving others and forgiving yourself.

Book club members spoke about which characters moved them the most, which they wished to have heard from more, which ones acted in ways they found confusing and which ones acted in ways they found relatable.  A fair portion of the story takes place in Litchfield County, and many people in the room shared their personal knowledge of that part of Connecticut. Several members of the group felt that the book was hard to follow for a time, given that each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character and that the novel's time frame is not exactly linear, but most everyone felt that there were several "aha" moments as one or more of the puzzle pieces fell into place.  In the end, we generally agreed that this book about loss, grief, regret, and survival was painful, touching and heartfelt.  

Join us at 7 pm on June 15th when we will be discussing Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  Copies of the book are available at the Information Desk.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

March is Women's History Month, and Thursday, March 8th was International Women's Day. So it is timely and appropriate that the 2018 longlist for The Women's Prize for Fiction was released on Wednesday, March 7th. The Women's Prize for Fiction is an award that celebrates the best full-length fiction written each year by women. The idea for the Prize stemmed from the release of the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist, which did not include a single novel written by a woman. Although in the early 1990s, 60% of the novels published in the United Kingdom were written by women, by 1992 only 10% of the novelists ever to appear on the Booker Prize shortlist had been female The Women's Prize for Fiction was developed in response to this disparity. It was first awarded in 1996 (then known as the Orange Prize for Fiction) and is the United Kingdom's most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman.

The judging panel for The Women's Prize for Fiction is made…

One Book, One Wallingford 2019

If you are new to town, you may not know that the library launched Wallingford's first-ever One Book One Town extravaganza, called (of course) One Book, One Wallingford, in 2018. The goal of One Book, One Wallingford is to bring members of the Wallingford community together in reading a specific book and then gathering to discuss both the book and topics related to its themes. The culminating event of last year's inaugural One Book, One Wallingford event was the visit to Wallingford by Matthew Quick, the author of the 2018 One Book, One Wallingford selection The Reason You're Alive. Quick spoke to a full house at the Paul Mellon Arts Center, answered questions and then signed copies of his novels, taking the time to chat with the scores of Wallingford residents who had waited to meet him. As people were leaving the PMAC that evening, several of them approached me and other library staff members and asked us to promise that we would run another One Book, One Wallingford pr…

A Facebook Week of Favorite Books

A few weeks ago, I got an email letting me know that a friend of mine had tagged me in a Facebook post. This is a sufficiently rare occurrence that I stopped what I was doing and logged into my Facebook account to read the post. This is what it said: "Day 2 of sharing a favorite book with no explanation and tagging a friend in the hopes that they'll do the same for 7 days. Cynthia Mann Haiken, lawyer-turned-library-scientist, you're on!"

I had seen these kinds of Facebook posts before. Pick a theme of some kind, post a photo each day for a specified period that satisfies the theme and tag someone else to do the same. It's like a chain letter (remember those?), but of the social media variety. For a while, there was a steady stream of black and white photos in my Facebook feed that, without context, represented something in the life of the person who posted them. More recently, there were posts of record covers (remember those?) that are still on the playlist of …