Starting a book club with my family during cancer helped

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By Rachel Wada

“What’s new?”

“Nothing.”

“How are the kids?”

“Good.”

If you’re like me, that’s how your conversations have been for the past couple of years, even as the flu and lockdowns and winter storms have given us little to talk about. measures.

For months afterwards, we did nothing. We didn’t go anywhere else except the store. We are tired of talking about COVID, or politics or what we watched on Netflix. When I talk to my grown sons on the phone or Zoom, we run out of things to say.

But we are a family of avid readers and we often talk about what we are reading.

Years ago, as music lovers, my sons and I read Daniel Levitin’s This is your brain in music and discuss each chapter as we go. At one point we talked about having a family book club, but we never did anything about it.

Then, as the months went by, one dribbling day after another, the idea took on a new dimension.

My first son, Jonathan, loves nonfiction. Following reviews of Margaret MacMillan’s new book, War, came out, I sent him a copy and we decided to read the book together, set up a time for a phone conversation to encourage both of us to keep the project. I knew I was paying close attention to what I was reading; creating stories, thinking about the questions we have and things that lead us to a spiritual discussion.

It’s fun reading together in this way and we’ll keep it up The Minister of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984, by Dorian Lynskey. At one point I remember Jonathan saying, “I’m so glad you’re reading the second chapter. I love his style of writing, the words he uses – it’s rare to see a non-fiction writer use language like this.”

We also read the mind Gray of Democracy by Anne Applebaum.

The highlight of our reading year was a book Jonathan discovered, a long and well-researched biography of Mark Twain by Ron Powers. We wanted to learn about the difficult life of Samuel Clemens and the important things about the history of America in the 19th century.

For a short time last summer, the flu seemed to subside, I was able to visit Jonathan in Connecticut and we went to see the famous house that Twain built in New Haven. It seems like we’ve seen every inch of that classic house before, right down to the strange bed that Sam and his wife bought in Italy.

We also looked at each section of The Crown, set up another time to discuss. As in our informal book club, we bring our different opinions to the discussion; I remembered a lot of this story from reading and watching it on TV as it happened before; Jonathan studied for the first time.

My youngest son, Isaac, his wife Emma, ​​and I like opera, jazz and travel and we like the same books. During the first sick winter, we decided to read George Eliot Middlemarch together,

It’s the perfect time to read this book, curl up with a cup of tea on a cold winter’s afternoon and go back to another world. Eliot’s style encourages you to slow down your reading, and we took our time that winter, reading one book at a time, taking notes and FaceTiming each other. pray for an animated discussion of what we have read. We all loved the book, and our different opinions enriched our discussion. Middlemarch it was published in 1871, and was partly set in 1832. So it is quite shocking to read about the small town council meeting where they discussed how to do They ate the cholera that came to London and it also happened to them. Some things never change.

The three of us enjoyed reading together so we decided to stick to James Joyce. Ulysses. It’s like being in a new university. We took notes and made notes as we read, studied our notes and dug up online articles to help us. In our discussions, we wrestled with the problems of the popular book. We were about halfway through the book when their baby Sebastian arrived, and we paused in our reading.

In the fall, we decided to leave Joyce for now, and start with Thomas Mann. Buddenbrooks but this famous story kept us going all winter.

In addition, we also watched Iain Scott’s opera lectures and enjoyed the range of online cooking classes.

The idea of ​​a book club was rekindled when my sons, daughter-in-law and their friend hired a professor at a Midwest university as a tutor. The Iliadtogether, book by book.

Now life is getting closer to normal. We are going to the movies and dinners with friends again. We are starting to travel again. Those dark days of being stuck at home, facing terrible news every day and worrying about our own health and those around us are like a distant memory.

But when I think about that strange half-life we ​​lived for the last two years, what stands out to me is how reading together helped us a lot during that time.

We read with a goal, a section or a few pages that we need to go to the next meeting. Knowing this has given my reading a boost. Reading is more than an escape; a problem.

I found that I read with a lot of thought, asking myself what I wanted to talk about. What ideas do I want to share? Sometimes, when I read something that really excites me, I can’t wait to hear what other people have to say about it.

But it’s more than just sharing excitement about a book that makes joining a book club even better.

When we read together, we build a new relationship. It is very different from being a member of the family. A mother and her children. The age gap has disappeared. When we talk about our books, we are friends; bring our different experiences, perspectives and opinions to those exciting conversations.

Reading about cancer has changed our behavior.

Maxanne Ezer lives in Toronto.

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