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  • Sue Hawley

Why bother with book clubs?

We're some shady ladies.

Ask anyone who knows me: I never, ever join anything. Not a club, an organization, study group, or political movement of any type. Well, I did join the U.S. Army when I was 18, but in my defense I wanted to see the world, experience life and most important, be on my own. The world I saw was Fort Jackson, MA, I did gain a ton of life experience but when you are in the military you truly are not on your own---the government provides room, board, guidance, rules and a job. Pretty much like living at home with your parents but at least you have a job provided for you. Let’s just say the experience cured me of the need to join anything, ever again.

Formally joining anything is more than difficult for me. My throat closes up, I feel as though I’m suffocating and my stomach becomes a twisted mess. There is a sense of claustrophobia—strange, but true. Maybe it’s the fact I feel bound if I become a formal member of a group, no matter how casual—I’m stuck.

However, life is funny at times. Last January I found myself tired of cold weather, ice, snow and miserable temperatures. Tired of being housebound, I spotted a post on Facebook inviting avid readers to join a local book club. Since I qualifiy as an avid reader, live locally, and was sick to death of winter I decided to at the very least check it out. Our first meeting was at Barnes and Noble as a sort of meet and greet. It was disgustingly cold outside (we sat too close to the main doors and never took our coats off) but the small group of women that met seemed to ‘click’. Our ages varied, some married, some not, a couple of us had kids, others didn’t, totally different backgrounds from all over the country and at first glance we didn’t share much in common. I made the decision to take a huge step and plunged myself into joining the book club.

Despite all my hesitations and hang-ups it turned out to be a great decision. We meet once a month at various spots around the area---usually chosen because of either the food or the type of alcohol provided. (Wine bars seem to be winning, but I have to admit we’ve been to some pretty great food joints.) Over the months we’ve read great books, not so great books, and pretty damn crummy books. I’ve discovered the books are simply an excuse to gather together. We spend less than a quarter of our time actually discussing the book of the month. Rather, the time is spent sharing, laughing, plus the occasional bitch session. A member of our group admitted recently there is more drinking involved than actual book discussions. The point is, we are spending time together, sharing our life experiences, and simply being friends. My nerve-wracking decision to finally join something was not in vain. I can’t image my life without these women being a part of it, even though the time spent together is only a couple of hours a month.

Being a part of something isn’t as claustrophobic for me as it has been in the past. But maybe I’ve simply found the right type of group to join.

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