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©2019 JENNIFER KLEPPER

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On Book Clubs (or, Writing a Book for My Book Club)

March 31, 2017

 

“I was delighted to learn that ‘Book Club’ is a euphemism for “Wine Club’.”

 

Yes, ha ha, funny, looks good on a wine bag. But my wine club, I mean my book club is about words, and thoughts, and opinions—not wine.

 

(Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure I would never join a book club that met in the morning at the coffee shop. I’m no heathen.)

 

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and I’ve been a work-in-an-office mom, and each rivals the other in running on adrenaline, never getting everything done, and always feeling like you’re 3 steps behind where you need to be. Over the course of it all, that once-a-month book club has sometimes been the only adult female socialization I get in a given month. I don’t want to talk about those months I can’t make it.

 

And all it takes is a book—a book!—to get us together. OK, maybe a little wine. But really, it’s that and the promise of a discussion. A deep dive into ourselves, an open examination of what we think and believe and how we relate to each other.

 

There are things I’ve learned about my friends I never would have learned without a book as catalyst. Things not shared on Facebook, the kinds of life experiences that give people unique insight into the most difficult life situations. All of this makes each one of these women more interesting, more complex, and more wonderful. (Even when what I learn is a little on the TMI side—this typically occurring during the occasional “after the club clubs”.)

 

Back to the hook of a book. It works. The hook brings us together physically. Then it opens us up and bonds us intellectually.

 

Do we drink a lot of wine while we’re at it? You betcha. But I can drink wine at home alone.

 

Not that I do.

 

(OK, doc, maybe once or twice.) But that other stuff? I can’t get that.

 

So, naturally, when I was writing my first novel, one of the many voices in my head was constantly asking me: how would this play in book club?

 

I don’t think I was so concerned with whether everyone (or anyone) in my book club would like the book. I’ve been around long enough to know that no book is universally loved—especially in my book club. But even books we don’t like can generate memorable discussions. 

 

So, as I wrote, I’d ask myself how my book club would treat this book:

 

  • Would we relate to the characters?

  • Would we get in heated arguments?

  • Would we learn something about one of us we never knew before?

  • Would a small group stay after everyone else had gone, open another bottle, and do a deeper dive into the topic of the night?

 

I wanted to write a book that led to “yes” for each of these, because those are the best nights at book club.

 

The bottom line is this: I didn’t go out, grow grapes, and make a batch of wine to drink with my friends. I stayed in, holed up in the corner with my laptop, and wrote a book to discuss with my friends. And I can’t wait til they get to read it. For book club.

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