Book Club Babes: Let’s Talk Books

Personally, I love to discuss books, analyze books, and write about books.  For many years, I was a book hoarder refusing to share my love of reading by passing a book along for fear of never seeing said book again.  This unreturned phenomena happened many times to me, by the way, before I decided to put an end to the lending process.  Instead, I chose to alphabetize my books, color-code my books, and stack them in piles by my bed instead of deal with the frustration.

Then, one day I decided not to lend the books, but give them away by stuffing them into friends’ mailboxes or hanging them on their doors, and this felt good. . . right.  I was sharing my love of reading and decluttering my house at the same time.  The likelihood of my rereading a book is slim to none due to the vast assortment of reading materials out there, and I want to read them all.  In truth, I reread books now simply because I have forgotten I have read them at all (until about halfway in) or if a character named Ranger or Morelli is involved. 

So, this morning, my eldest daughter talked books with me, and I was like a kiddo in the candy store.  Scout’s honor, I did not prompt the discussion.  Instead, she admitted to starting Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab (our third book club selection courtesy of Book Club Babe Colleen) last night after we told her for the third time to return to bed.  Sneaky!  She told me her book club buddy, Ava, had been reading it, so my squirt guesstimated Ava was nearly finished with the book (as she is a voracious reader).  

I asked my daughter, “When did you discuss Nick and Tesla with Ava?”  

She responded, “When I was at her house for the slumber party . . ..”  

I took a brief intermission, ran to my room, popped another Benicar due to my excitement, and then returned to our literacy . . . yes, literacy discussion.  

She continued with, “It’s weird how their names are Nick and Tesla, but are referred to as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ in the book.”  

She then loaded Nick and Tesla into her backpack with “I’m going to take this to school,” and off she went.

When this same reader returned from school, she took off her backpack and told me she found “older” was mispelled in Nick and Tesla.  

I asked how it was spelled, and she said, “E-l-d-e-r”  (13).

Aha!  I explained the meaning of “elder,” but then asked where she found the word in the book.  She went right to the page as she had asked her teacher for a post-it note (what I use to mark passages in my book).  Happy Mother’s Day to me.  We reread the passage together, and I explained how “elder” was, in fact, the correct spelling in this particular sentence.  Learning vocabulary through context . . . an English teacher’s dream.

Furthermore, she said, “There was a funny line in the book, ‘IF YOU’RE SELLING GIRL SCOUT COOKIES, I’M NOT HOME'” (14).  We giggled together as we are both registered Girl Scouts (adult and child) and have sold and eaten our fair share of cookies.

She then continued the conversation by telling me how another book club buddy, Emma “. . . talks about book club all the time.”  

I asked, “When?”  

She said, “When we’re at recess, and she uses Bink and Gollie to answer questions.”  

I asked, “How does she use Bink and Gollie to answer questions?”  

My squirt thought about it for a minute before responding, “Like she’ll say, ‘I read this book Bink and Gollie, and one girl wanted a pancake, and the other wanted her to take her sock off, so the one girl shared the pancake, and the other girl took her sock off.'”

“Cool!” I said trying to mask my near hyperventilation.

The conversation ended with, “Emma said she started Ivy and Bean and is reading Chewy and Chica.”  

Feigning an eye itch, I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye.

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Dancing with Gravity Book Club

     Mentally draining, thought-provoking, and utterly fascinating are the descriptions that come to mind after reading Anene Tressler’s Dancing with Gravity.  An International Book Awards 2011 Literary Fiction Winner, Dancing with Gravity immerses the reader into the novel through rich descriptions (some of which caused giggling on my part):
     “Whiting took his ice cream and stepped over to the trash barrel to unwrap it.  The wafer stuck to the paper so that each time he lifted a piece of the wrapper, it tore.  Tiny strips stuck to his fingers.  Ice cream dripped down his hands;  he leaned over the trashcan to avoid dripping anything on his jacket.  He tasted paper and spit it out.  As he unwound the sandwich, a large chunk broke off and fell into the barrel.  He tossed the remainder into the can in disgust and looked around for a napkin or water to rinse his hands” (161) and clever use of vocabulary, “He knew the parents wanted him to respond, but his words were stillborn”  (136).
     The complex protagonist, Father Samuel Whiting, an educated man who suffered a less than stable childhood, inserts the proper anecdotes at the proper times, but remains socially and romantically immature at the age of forty-eight.  Whiting’s incessant questioning, analysis, and uncertainty invites the reader into his psyche and ultimately into the role of psychiatrist to his ramblings from the metaphorical couch (thus, naps were needed between reading “sessions” in order to process and recover).  Tressler accurately portrays the ideal that there is much more to a person than what one witnesses on the outside; even a person who acts as a spiritual advisor or counselor experiences real emotions.
     The setting of Dancing with Gravity centers around a circus specifically located in St. Louis, Missouri, so why not have your book club entertain the idea of a group outing to the circus?  Circus Flora has been thrilling St. Louis audiences for over 25 years.  If this is not possible, bring circus food to your book club discussion.  Hot dogs, flavored ice, cotton candy, popcorn, and an ice cream sandwich for the road.  In closing talks, recognize the importance of thanking a spiritual advisor, pastor, rabbi, counselor, or guru.  Trained to assist others, these often thankless professions deserve appreciation.


Anene Tressler