Book clubs are enormously popular in Canada- many can be found online, but most seem to be “just the neighbours” or “we used to work together.” They range from 6 friends drinking wine and talking very little about the suggested book (partly because not everyone read it) to committed readers interested in deep discussion. Most clubs allow members to take turns recommending books, and from what I see, the majority of book clubs are women-only.
One club that I visited read The Importance of Being Earnest the month after reading The Word Not Spoken. They read the play aloud- each member chose a character, and they read with much merriment. In fact, they dressed in period costume, and the meeting lasted well into the night.
Random House of Canada has an annual contest for book clubs. In 2013, “Book Friends ’72” in Ottawa won after 40 years of regular meetings re: 360 books!
I was only a child when I studied the “Book Club Selections” pages of magazines. Do you remember the stamps that could be torn out and pasted on the order card? I imagined a stamp about my book, and all the people who would pick that stamp.
Writers talk about the “the book club circuit”. Finding the clubs are the first challenge and then getting them to read your book is the next. From there, word of mouth travels. It is really grass roots for a book to become known through book clubs. Fifty Shades of Grey owes its success entirely to book clubs- let’s face it, it is poorly written, the last 2 books embarrassingly so, but as a book club selection, it was perfect fodder for interesting conversation. (Of course, there was nothing grass roots about Oprah’s Book Club- being recommended by her equaled overnight success.)
I’ve been to five book clubs now as a guest author. It’s an all-around win to attend such an evening: the immediacy of the discussion, the personal details, the readers’ feedback.
Mainly, book clubs want to know:
-How much is true?
-What happened to Jess in real life?
-How long did it take to write; the writing process/publishing process.
-Am I currently in touch with the family: How are they now? Did Shana marry Memo?
-How do Kurdish and Turkish readers respond to the book?
Mainly, I want to know:
-Did you notice the themes: the animals and water and colours?
-Was the number of deaths too hard on you? How did you feel about the ending?
-How sympathetic did you feel toward Ahmet? The Kurdish situation at the time?
-Did you notice the clues that Ahmet has taken over the story?
-Did you see the “beadwork” in the first and last scenes? The repeated images and words in different contexts?
Some book clubs are into wine and salty hors d’oeuvres; some serve tea in china and homemade cherry tarts. In my experience, they’ve been pleasant groups of women aged 30+ who are travelled, educated and vitally interested in the world around them. I always leave feeling incredibly validated- the “word” is spreading; my promise has been kept.
To release the book, to stop writing and polishing it, was very sad for me. After all, it had been in my pocket for 18 years, and I had spent many holidays, weekends and nights with this friend. It was the place I most loved to go. When I gave up the writing, I feared I’d lost this place, this escape. It has been a relief to learn that I haven’t lost it. In fact, I have only shared it. When I go to that place now, I find others there who love it too and who want to talk about it. To spend an evening talking to people who know who Abla is, who can talk about Ahmet’s mental state and Leigh’s choices, is enormously comforting to me.
In appreciation, I give free e-books to book club members. I bring photos, more personal than the pics on this website. I talk about the healing and personal aspects of my writing journey. But mostly, for me, it is the joy of sharing this story that makes visiting a book club an absolute high.