Little Sister & I Chat About This Month's Favorite Novel . . . & Her Fabulous Book Club

What are the odds that you and your sister would read the exact same book at the exact same time, neither one with the slightest idea of what the other was up to?

I kid you not.

But that's what happened this month as the two of us grabbed copies of Christina Baker Kline's A Piece of the World: A Novel, completely clueless that the other was falling in love with the same beautifully spun chapters.

Kindred spirits we are.  

Over breakfast this past weekend, we chatted for the first time about this elegantly penned, instant New York Times best seller ... comparing notes on this haunting, compelling, absorbing tale set on the rugged Maine coast.

We both were captivated by this fictionalized story of artist's Andrew Wyeth's inspirational muse, Christina Olson, whose figure on a hillside field, crawling toward an old Maine homestead, has become the focus of one of the 20th century's most admired paintings.

'Later he told me that he'd been afraid to show me the painting.  He thought I wouldn't like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind.  The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy.  That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won't stay hidden.'

The author deftly captures the unusual, complex relationship that Christina and Andrew shared.  Christina's determination to survive shines through despite a life filled with heartache and challenge, past the bitterness in her spirit and the physical pain that daunts her.  And Andrew captures her simple existence, her very essence, with his artistic genius, his paintings stunning, mesmerizing.

Little Sister and I observed that when you choose bitterness you choose isolation.  

And we both agreed that we couldn't put the book down ... not because it was action-packed or filled with suspense.  But simply because we had been so utterly transported to Christina's world.

And then we continued sipping our mugs of hot tea as we moved on to the subject of the book club she's been attending since 2001.

Each September, 7 - 9 faithful readers kick off another year at the same Thai restaurant where they share their summer readings with each other.  In their 16 years together, they've read about 120 volumes ... a wide variety of genres that range from 'blood and guts' to historical fiction.  Poetry.  Volumes about other countries, world wars, women's issues.

And a number of New England and Boston writings, set on streets that are familiar as the back of their hands.

Books she admits she never would have pulled off the shelf on her own.

The leader kicks off the discussion by asking, 'So what did you think of the book?' and then they take off from there.  The conversation is freewheeling and they don't bother with the suggested questions tucked in the back of the book.  If you thought it was a boring read or you didn't get to finish it, you come anyway.

Differences of opinion are common in the judgement-free zone of their conversations together.  They've chosen not to gather a clique of friends, instead inviting participants with diverse opinions, their ages ranging from their 40's to their 70's.

The hostess-of-the-month has often served snacks that meshed with the subject at hand.  France?  Little croissants.  A concentration camp where the prisoners survived on rice and crumbs?  Matzoh.  A southern theme?  Glasses of lemonade with lots of ice.

On those occasions where they gather to watch film versions of favorite books, individual boxes of popcorn and candy are ready and waiting.

And while the members don't socialize outside of their regularly scheduled meetings, the women in this club give each other sweet, steady support as they lose spouses or launch children.  Wrestle with family issues, battle cancer ... or begin to venture down dementia's long road.

I asked my sister if she'd share their Book Club's 2001 - 2017 Reading List with the readers of this blog ... and she said YES!  To receive your copy, simply join the discussion in the comment section and then email me at and I'll be glad to send it your way.

No strings attached.  Promise.

So ... let's talk about what you're reading right now.  And your book club experiences.

Speaking of sisters, I just finished Susan Meissner's Secrets of a Charmed Life, the story of two young sisters lives forever altered by one's ambitious, selfish choices in the midst of the chaotic tragedy of the London bombings in 1940's.  Yet another superb piece of fiction.


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