I recently had the chance to facilitate one of the WPL Book Clubs as the staff person who usually fills that role was ill. It was an absolute pleasure. I came away from the hour that I spent with that group of WPL readers feeling more enthusiastic about books than I have in a long time. And it’s not like I don’t have experience with book clubs. I participate in more than one in my personal life and I passionately follow book discussions online using Goodreads. I just love book chat.
I think that the difference with this group of people is that they all come to the WPL Book Club with such different perspectives. Usually book clubs are made up of friends – I was invited to both of my book clubs by someone who knows me well – and you tend to have similar life experiences so your discussions can be pleasant and chatty but very much same old, same old. In the WPL Book Club the participants are all attending because of the convenience of the location and not because they know each other in their personal lives, so the conversation was much more diverse and stimulating.
Each discussion question we covered brought multiple perspectives and it was invigorating. We were discussing Ami McKay’s book The Witches of New York so there was ample opportunity to discuss spiritualism, midwifery, medicine, the depth of the research that the author had done into the time period, the role of the independent women at the centre of the story and witchcraft, of course. What a great book! We ended up discussing the role of women in the workplace in the last half century, touching on the Waterloo area in particular. We found our way to speaking about nursing and midwifery and even chatted about experiences with the spirit world. The hour went by so quickly I was surprised when it was time for us to close up our books.
Some participants have been coming to the WPL Book Club for years, a few for decades, and others were new arrivals to the group but everyone had a chance to share their thoughts about The Witches of New York. It was very welcoming. And while not every reader would say that it was their favourite among the author’s books – many preferred The Birth House, her 2006 novel – it did provide so much for us to discuss and a chance for us to talk about novels to read next like Diane Setterfield’s Once Upon a River (because of the nurse character, Rita Sunday) or The Witch of Blackbird Pond which was a Newbery Medal winner in 1959. It was the best kind of book talk, really, because we came away with other ideas of what we might read next. I think a few members wrote down some movie titles as well. It was a jam-packed hour.
If it sounds like a wonderful time, it was! And, WPL’s Book Clubs are open to everyone, even if you haven’t been able to attend a session this year, you can jump right in. They run on Monday evenings and Thursday afternoons at the Main Library and I can tell you from first-hand experience that you will have the best time. I had so much fun that I almost forgot that I was at work. Hope to see you here in the library soon!
— Penny M.