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Area book club rekindles hope, love for books

By Kat Duncan
March 5, 2014 at 3:03 p.m.
Updated March 4, 2014 at 9:05 p.m.

Susan Cain reads a passage from "The Speed of Light" as Janet Russell, left, and Kristy Nelson, right, listen during the Novel Women book club in Victoria.

"You never know someone's story; you never know what someone has gone through."

Susan Cain, of Victoria, was discussing the characters in "The Speed of Light" by Elizabeth Rosner with fellow literature lovers at the Novel Women book club one afternoon in Victoria.

Paperback books, sheets of reading questions and even an iPad sat among glasses of fresh lemonade and steaming soups and sandwiches. Bouts of laughter rang out amid conversations delving into plot, symbolism and prose.

The Novel Women book club first met in 2005. It operates by invite only, always with exactly 12 women, one picking a book per a month each year.

The woman who picks the book hosts lunch and discussion at the location of her choice. She moderates and raises questions to inspire the dialogue between members.

"I get to read things I normally wouldn't read and hear interpretations from others." one member, Rachel Heard, of Victoria, said.

"It's fun because we are all friends, and we all come from different perspectives." Kim Followwill, of Victoria, chimed in.

Lunch may vary from homemade cuisine to takeout from Jason's Deli depending on the month's host, but the women don't care about the food as much as the books.

"There is a little chitchat - we say hello and how are you doing - but it's really all about the book," said Allison Whitaker, one of the original founders of the club.

The avid readers didn't just discuss the novel but also their own lives and how they connected to this month's pick.

"I related most to Paula, taking lemons and making the most of them in life," Followwill stated to the nodding of heads around the table.

As pages were flipped and shared, different women read passages they loved, asked questions and explored aspects of the book they didn't notice until it was brought up by one of their 11 kindred bibliophiles.

They discussed guilt, love, shame, purpose, marriage and sensuality.

They reflected upon how possibly knowing a parent's history could change a child's perspective.

They each shared their fears, surprises and revelations in relation to the story.

"It's about companionship through books," Kathleen Keating, of Victoria, said. "We email, and we keep talking about what we're reading outside of the club meeting each month."

As I left the cheerful group of women debating a quote and the meaning behind it, I remembered my own book club disasters and triumphs.

A book club succeeds through great conversation and varied perspectives - but most importantly, mutual respect. Being able to be quiet and listen is as important as having an opinion.

Each person adds something to the group, challenging their fellow members to think and read differently.

It was heartening to meet a passionate group of women hidden away here in the Crossroads discussing literature each month with such fervor.

I hope to discover many more.

Kat Duncan is the Photo and Video Editor at the Advocate. She loves to read, travel, run and play with her pup, Panda. Chat with her about books on twitter @KatDuncan_VA.

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