If the first rule of Fight Club is you do not ever talk about Fight Club, then, the first rule of Book Club is you do not ever talk about books at Book Club. Never. At least that’s how the book club I belong to operates.
Many years ago, when we lived in Alexandria, my neighbor invited me to join a new book club that her friend and co-worker was starting up. Her co-worker wanted a book club that actually read books. And, then talked about the books with critical thinking and big words and everything. The book club her co-worker was leaving had devolved into just wine drinking and discussions about kids (Attention! Foreshadowing!) and she was kind of in it for the books.
This all sounded like fun to me. Henry was just a baby at the time so I was game to join anything that would get me out of the house on a regular basis, even if the only person I knew in the group was my neighbor. The first few times we gathered, I can recall we definitely discussed that month’s literary selection. There was, of course, small talk and excellent wine and food but the main focus of our get togethers was always to chat about the book.
I think this lasted for about a year or less. Then, one by one, as members started having children, our monthly literary roundtable became more about eating and drinking and discussing babies and careers and husbands and daycares. Book club became more of a night out and a brief escape from our regular responsibilities. We still picked a book each month to read but it was mostly a ceremonial selection since no one was really expected to read it. One of us would inevitably ask casually, “Did anyone read the book this month?” which was almost always quickly followed by “Hey, please pass that dish with the things covered in prosciutto.”
Our focus shifted from book discussions to life discussions. The hours we spent together each month offered an opportunity to catch up with one another; to chat, to laugh, to decompress.
Approximately seven years and countless titles procured but never read later, the women I met through book club remain some of my dearest friends. Our membership has certainly ebbed and flowed over time but there has always been about eight or nine of us that have met regularly since the beginning (or close to the beginning) of the club. Even during the two years I lived in Richmond, I would still drive up for the occasional book club meeting in the summer or holiday party each December.
One of the treats of moving back to the area was getting to participate in book club regularly again. Except now, we all say “book club” with accompanying air quotes. (Especially Bob.) We no longer meet at each other’s homes. These days, we pick a new restaurant each month and anyone that can join us does. We are all a little bit older now and a bit more weary and our conversations have switched from sharing hilarious tales of labor and delivery and life with nursing newborns to discussions that revolve more around work situations, school choices and how awful homework is. We’ve talked about just renaming our monthly get together, “Dinner Club,” but the name hasn’t stuck.
I’m so pleased our little club keeps chugging along. Even though, for many of us, work responsibilities are bigger, family life is more hectic and having dinner reservations for 7:30 at night means less time spent in pajama pants in front of the TV. But, I absolutely cherish the time I get with these ladies and I hope to be drinking wine by their side for many, many more years to come.
Even if we never discuss another book again.