The Book Club – Mary Alice Munroe

ImageI’ve just finished this book and am so disappointed that it’s done, over, finito! I wish there was more of it, more of the women in it, of their stories…I wish! It’s been a while since I felt like this about a book from this genre. I was drawn to it by a Shelfari friend’s glowing review (Thanks Swati!) and the title…how could I not read a book about a Book Club?!

Didn’t feel like that when I began though, which was two days ago…ah I thought, here’s another one of those books by a woman about women, finding themselves, triumphing against all odds, finding the end of the rainbow…a ‘feel-good’ book and not particularly my favourite genre. After a lifetime of reading, you’d think I know better than to trust my own judgement 😉

I can’t say exactly when I found myself truly hooked onto this group of five very different women on their own separate, unique but oddly similar journeys 🙂 Coz isn’t that what Life’s all about…aren’t we all on the same journey viewd from different perspectives, if you get what I’m saying? I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that, as a woman in her forties, their stories resonated with me. I understood a lot of background and context because I knew so well where they were coming from. Many times I had ‘been there and done that’. I don’t think this would have been as powerful or interesting a book for me personally if I had read it in my twenties, I just wouldn’t have been as interested or understanding of these women and their problems. I would have been…dismissive and boy would I have been a fool!

So, we have Eve, Doris, Annie, Midge and Gabriella and the stories of their lives, intertwined yet separate, each unique not because of the ‘story’ but because of the ‘woman’ it happens to. Munroe is fantastic when it comes to writing about the ‘ordinariness’ (if you will) of life in general. Her prose is easy; her simple, gentle style suits her subject. I love how she takes us on each woman’s journey, every agonizing misstep and every tiny triumph, in an oddly comforting way, peeling away the layers of self-doubt every woman goes through, until she comes to the right decision for herself. Along the way each one of the ‘Girls’ as I like to call them, discovers an inner strength and tests the bonds of friendship, often discovering support & understanding where she least expects to! So like in real Life! Each one during the course of a year, learns more about herself, her friends, trust, love and the hardest lesson of all in my opinion…the art of letting go. Munroe finds a way to make each journey believable, authentic and interesting, without lapsing into extreme sappiness.

In a book with five women, one is bound to have favourites 😀 and although Eve’s story is the dominant one, I liked Doris’s best which surprised me no end, not in the least because I have nothing in common with her life outwardly, but I understood her inner self best and was soon rooting for her to do the right thing! Strange that, coz I felt and still feel that I identify most with Annie…her feelings of isolation in childhood and the kind of person she is because of them, her need to always be strong (or perceived as certainly), her inability to reach out and ask for her help until her world’s collapsing around her are sadly not alien to me, and that’s what really got me thinking. I didn’t ike Annie much in the beginning and I can’t say I liked her in the end, but I understood her better and I was glad she understood that help comes to those that ask. It’s something I need to understand too and I’m getting better at it, but there’s always room for improvement! Maybe it’s a woman thing?!

Another thing I have to be thankful for is that this book finally got me writing again!! A long review that will go on my blog after ages of being abandoned as Life & routine overwhelmed me! Slowly I feel like I’m getting back some semblance control and maybe that’s why this book hit a chord. Munroe’s picked some great books for this Book Club of hers…ranging from Moby Dick to The Bible…and every chapter starts with a quote from the ‘book of the month’, that sets the tone for what’s to follow. I liked that and I loved the retreat at Doris’s cabin on the lake, and the tree house she built…a celebration of womanhood if ever there was one.

This is a wonderful read, easy and fulfilling in a quiet gentle way. It’s about women like you and me trying their best to get on with their lives, battling issues that most women in their forties will identify with consciously or not…troubled marriages, a loss of that ‘sense of self’ that defines who we are, loneliness, menopause, children leaving, and many more. And yet this ‘second adolescence’ as the Girls call it, is worth all the heartache, pain and struggle that come before. That doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Oh No! It’s a trial by fire at best, and I can testify to that coz I’m still still in the middle of mine…but dare I say…enjoying every terrifying, exciting bit of it?! Yeah…it’s all about choice and perspective and most of all about freedom…Freedom of the ‘self’, which so many women fear perhaps because we’ve been conditioned to equate it with betrayal & abandonment of our family & friends. Strong words I know but oh so true. One look at my Mom and I know I’m not wrong. But we’re getting better at taking care of ourselves…slowly, steadily and hopefully 🙂

Let me leave you with a passage from the book that made me smile and that to me defines the essence of this book…”She leaned back in her chair and stared at the moon.  It hung in the sky beside her, a silent but steady presence – inspiring, enlightening, timeless, changing. Sometimes fat, sometimes thin, sometimes glowing. Sometimes those blotches were right there on the surface for the world to see. Some nights the moon dominated the sky, other nights it slipped quietly through veils of clouds. Sometimes it was mysterious, other times it was exposed, scarred with the prints of men’s heavy boots. Tonight the moon seemed to be smiling at her, keeping her company with a glow that seemed to radiate from within. It filled her with its golden light. The moon had to be a woman, Doris decided. Raising her glass, she toasted her new friend and called out, “You Go, Girl!”

Read it!

P. S. Oh and just so we’re clear…as far as I know this book wasn’t nominated for a Booker or any other award but I could be mistaken about ‘any other’. I haven’t checked! Still, for me another nail in the coffin that is my Booker-reading Project 😦

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