LitClub:  Reading Between the Whines
Blair, Nebraska

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ACTUALLY, THIS GROUP reads between the whines, not wines ... though from the looks of it, they do a bit of both! Yet it didn't start out that way.

How did you get your name?

We started out as a group of moms who'd recently left jobs to stay at home with our kids. We were all looking for something to do outside the house.

So while taking our 4-year-olds to a park, we decided it would be fun to read & talk about books — in between the scraped knees, bruises, and whines!

But there's not much whining now, right?
Right...that was in 2005; our kids are older now. We're the ones who do the wine-ing.

As evidenced by the wine glasses at the top...?
They're our Reading Glasses!

Reading Glasses?
We had a craft night one year around Christmas when we decorated the glasses. One of our members is an artist who helped us with supplies and advice. So now we take our "reading glasses" with us to every meeting.

Tell us what you've read recently.
Our list for 2011 follows:
City of Thieves
The Birth House
Cold Mountain
Cutting For Stone
Elizabeth Street
Bel Canto
The Forgotten Garden
The Paris Wife

Any favorites over the years?
We've read 72 books over the past 7 years...but, yes, we've had some favorites:

East of Eden—We loved the Cain and Abel parallels. This was the first book where we found symbolism. We felt so smart!

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy—wasn't our favorite read in that it was difficult, but it's the book that we referenced throughout the year. We really got into the characters and decisions they made.

The Book Thief—One of our favorites because of point of view (told by Death) and the portrayal of a compassionate German family. We invited Gayle Roberts, the Blair Public Library Director, who susggested the book, so we were thrilled to have her there for our discussion.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—A coming of age story is great for any book club. We also loved how Francie valued education and pushed herself to beat the odds.

To Kill a Mockingbird—Just gets better every time it's read. Most of us hadn't read it since high school and we loved it even more than we did then. Only this time we connected to Atticus instead of Scout.

City of Thieves—Another World War II book, an historical period we like to read about. Most of us knew very little about what happened during the siege of Leningrad.

Cutting for Stone—So beautifully written and many surprises throughout the novel.  Our group discussed medicine, siblings, and what it might be like to grow up in an underdeveloped country.

How about really good disucssions?
Cane River—spanned many generations of black women in the south. It was the first book we read about the south and it led to a deep discussion of the treatment of blacks in the south through history

A Separate Peace—a book we still talk about today. After discussing the young men in this novel and their relationships in depth, we asked the town librarian at the next meeting why this book is banned in some schools. Her response made perfect sense. If you don’t know why it is banned, go ask your librarian after the reading the book!

Breathing Lessons—not everyone loved this book, but it led to one of our best discussions. Some of us laughed our way through the novel’s antidotes about the husband and wife traveling together, and other members were just annoyed.

Still Alice—another great discussion. A member has a mother with Alzheimer’s and her insight into the book really added to the discussion. We all really opened up about our parents and the impact Alzheimer’s would have or has had on our families.

Do you have any rules?
Yes, one big rule—no gossip. We don't want to turn into another type of club. Our goal is to focus on the books...and on our own lives.

What about activities aside from regular meetings?
We've gone to hear authors speak in Omaha—Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses) and Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.) I recommend all book clubs find out where authors speak in their area. Those two events really made the books extra special.

Also, every July one of our members invites us to her cabin at the Fremont Lakes. We talk about the book, eat, and drink (lots of drinking at this event). We go out on the lake for a peaceful boat ride. It's something we all look forward to each year.

Overall, how would you describe your group?
We're all different in our own way: some intellectual, some funny; some conservative, some liberal; some stay-at-home moms and some who work. It's a great mix and that's what makes for lively discussions!

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