Book Club Touring: A Long History of Bonding Over Books

They’ve been through marriages, births, divorces, deaths, grandchildren and menopause together. They’ve laughed, they’ve cried, they’ve eaten and reminisced. And they’ve read. Countless books.

When Nancy Crouchman started her book club 33 years ago, she never imagined how long it would last – or the richness it would bring to her life and the lives of her fellow members.

“I just thought that when I read a book it would be nice to talk to someone else who had read the same book,” Nancy (below, left) told The Pear Tree.

Among the people she approached to join her for the club’s first meeting, way back in 1977, were Shirley Simson, Rose Grant, Shirley-Anne Denney and (sister-in-law) Donna Crouchman, all of whom are still members of the club today.

“We’ve lasted longer than some school friendships,” quipped Shirley.

Jeanette Dunagan and Teresa Manduca joined shortly after, and in more recent years Dixie Ellison, Ako Hobbs and Betty Ann Catcher have rounded out the ranks.

In addition to all the life changes they’ve weathered together over the years, the girls, who range in age from 63 to 75, have survived the early self-help book stage, fiction good and bad, strong opinions and members who don’t quite get to reading that month’s selection.

“It’s like a sisterhood,” said Shirley-Anne, who moved away for about nine years at one point but rejoined the group when she came back to town.

“There’s never been any pettiness or gossip. We inspire each other.”

The group meets once a month, and at the beginning of the year each member is assigned a month to host the club. The hostess gets to pick the book for that month, and anything goes – from non-fiction to self-help, classics to “smutty” books.

In the beginning the hostess took care of dinner, but in recent years they’ve turned their meetings into a potluck where everyone contributes and it’s less pressure for the one in charge.

The meetings start off with dinner and catch-up before turning the discussion to the book of the month during dessert. The “bad” books, they agree, elicit the most discussion. The selection during The Pear Tree’s visit was Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott, and the reviews were mixed.

“We don’t always agree,” Teresa points out. “But the different opinions bring a good dimension to the group, and everyone is respectful of each other’s point of view. It’s a great education. I like that I get introduced to authors and books I might not choose for myself.”

Perhaps most importantly, however, they cite the connection they have made over a shared interest of books. While they only meet once a month as a club, many cherished friendships have been formed that have filtered into their daily lives.

Interestingly, the club’s first book was one about how to be happy. Whether or not its contents were useful, the platform for looking at it, in the long term, was.

– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier

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Giveaway Winner!

The winner of our last giveaway in the New Year’s Resolutions series is Kirsten Nilsen! Kirsten will receive a 90-minute consultation with performance coach Rhonda Victoor to help her get a start on her ambition for 2011! Congratulations! For everyone else, thanks for all your comments – keep reading for more fun giveaways down the road!

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One Comment

  1. Lori-Anne
    You’ve made us feel proud and so very happy to belong to this Book Club. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit us. Your writing and presentation is excellent.Please feel free to join us anytime.
    Cheers
    Nancy Crouchman

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