As an author, I have spoken to many book clubs. I love being around people who love reading. I love talking about stories, characters, and plots. I always wanted to join a book club, but pandemic book clubs are different from the ones I visited. They are held virtually so you have to supply your own refreshments and come away without hugs, but it can be just as inspiring especially when you can wear your sweatpants and don’t have to drive home in the dark. I attended my first one last night and “got all the feels” even though I had to rush Glen through dinner so I could log onto the computer.
Anyway, the book club I joined is the Jen Hatmaker Book Club. The books are varied and mostly not ones I would choose on my own, but enlightening and enjoyable. This month’s book was This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. Historical fiction at its finest. I read it in less than 48 hours. Then, I had to reread it so I could remember enough of the details to “discuss” it online.
The book is woven around the ancient Greek tale of the Odyssey. Four children run away from an Indian boarding school in the 1930s. Each seeks a different “quest”, but the narrator of the story, Odie, is seeking a home. As the group makes their way through Minnesota and down the Mississippi River to St Louis, they encounter characters and events like what Odysseus, Odie’s namesake, experienced. The book is full of beautiful prose, clearly described settings, solid characters and cliff hanging stories. I could not put it down and learned much of our country’s dark history of the depression and the Indian Boarding Schools as I read.
The discussion last night, even though virtual, helped me to look deeper at the story and to see things that I didn’t get a first glance. It was led by Jen Hatmaker herself and felt inclusive and intimate even though there were over three hundred of us online.
I am looking forward to next month’s book, Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson. And because I generally read more than one book a month, I am going back though the list of books the group has already read and reading those. This month, in addition to This Tender Land, I also read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbie Waxman and No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny. This month, I will pick one of two more from the club list in addition to what is in the ever-growing pile beside my reading chair and on my kindle.
This week, a friend of mine listened to me whine, “I thought I would have more time to read once I retired.” I think she caught me towards the end of another book by William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace, when I wanted to finish the book, but other things kept getting in the way.
My complaint caught me off guard and made me realize that the tendency towards that puritan, “must be productive”, must check things off the to do list, must earn my keep mentality continues to reign strong in my life. I think most of my problem is feeling like the sands of time are slipping through an hourglass. Time is so previous. What will I do with it?
I am reading. A lot. And quilting and gardening and dog training. The only thing I really want to do more of is travel and paint. Since travel is off the table right now, of the six things I want to do, I am doing four of them almost to excess. So, I am trying a new tactic to keep myself from feeling like I squander these retirement days which can be glorious in their simplicity.
As part of the Jen Hatmaker Book Club, I received a planner full of wonderful book quotes. At first, I didn’t think I needed it and went so far as to try and give it away. I already have plenty of plans and don’t need more! Then I thought that instead of using it as a planner, which skill is already honed in my life, I would use it as a recorder.
While I did list eight goals in six categories (dog training, reading, quilting, gardening, watercolor and travel), I plan to use it to keep track of what I read, quilt and paint, and when I train, garden and travel.
So, on the days when I feel like I “wasted” my day or Friday arrives and I feel I have nothing to show for it, I can look back and see, heck yeah, I wasn’t a complete sloth!