Monday, January 09, 2006

We have so much in common...don't we???

Some years ago, two friends of mine and I started a book club. Audrey and Laura and I all knew each other because our kids were in the same preschool class, and we were craving some time away from kids and home and responsibility. So we organized a book club with like-minded women, to meet once a month for dinner at a local restaurant for good food and talk and sometimes even book discussion.

I love this bunch of women. Most of them are women I don’t see in my day-to-day life, but they’re fun and fascinating. And I tend to think of us as women with a fair amount in common. We’re all moms of elementary school kids living in the same small town, and we’re all juggling motherhood and work and home and sanity. Among us, there’s a winemaker, several doctors, lawyers, mental health professionals, and a restaurant owner. We’re liberal, feminist, and proud of it. And now that we’ve been meeting for several years, we’ve shared a lot of personal stuff: marital strife, a few divorces, child behavior issues, health issues, general suburban mom angst... so I’ve come to think that we know each other fairly well.

And then we read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. If you’ve not read it, it follows the lives of a missionary family – father, mother, and several daughters – in the African jungle. I loved reading it, and part of what I loved about it was how utterly foreign and strange the life it described was! African superstitions, black magic, the frightening insects (there’s a vivid and horrifyingly fascinating description of a locust infestation) and difficulties of African life... it was all vastly different from anything I’ve ever experienced.

When we met for dinner, I was looking forward to talking about this book... I was eager to discuss all the strange aspects of African life encountered by the unsuspecting American girls. Tess jumped in: "I loved this book! It reminded me SO much of my childhood!"

A silence fell on the group as we tried to imagine HOW it was like her childhood. And Tess went on to explain that as a girl, she and her family had lived in Africa and her parents had been missionaries, and the descriptions of places and customs and people and even the odd bugs were exactly as she’d remembered from her childhood.

The rest of us were dumbfounded. And to this day, it amazes me to think that I could sit down with a bunch of friends that I think of as "like me" and discover that the book I have found the most unimaginably foreign is also the book that is the most directly nostalgic to someone else at the table.

How cool is that?

And I guess that’s partly why I love sharing these meme things. Or MeMe things. Among friends and fellow art quilt bloggers, we share many of the things that we have in common. But it’s so fun and fascinating to discover new things about each other, too.

My book club meets tonight, for dinner at a local brew pub and to discuss The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. And who knows what I’ll learn about my book club friends!

4 comments:

Amanda said...

That is one of my all time favorite books. Partly because of all the reasons you described. I loved the descriptions of a life so alien to mine. I also loved the religious aspects and the cultural clashes. It was so interesting to me to try and imagine what the African people made of the crazy father and his total misunderstanding of their culture and beliefs. Great great book. I bet your friend has some interesting stories!

Tami said...

The Poisonwood Bible is a great book. Several years ago my MIL & SIL & I all read the book at the same time and had great conversations about the book. It is a wonderful book to read with others. Great Post, thanks for sharing.

jenclair said...

My favorites are Prodigal Summer and Animal Dreams. She has a page with discussion questions for her various novels: here.

Susan said...

That is what I get out of this ring - I had *thought* that we'd mostly have quilts in common, and then I find that folks are actually sharing their LIVES here, and - gasp - are even interested in mine, even when it keeps me from making art!

Good for you for keeping your eyes and arms open to new experiences! I get to live vicariously through folks like you!