Last week I had the pleasure of dropping in on the Omni Book Club in Huron, Ohio (60 miles West of Cleveland) by speakerphone as they discussed Little Chapel on the River. It's always surprising to me how five years after publication, I still get new questions about the book.
One reader, Elaine Waterfield, pointed to the book's descriptions of the Hudson River with its ebbing and flowing, which led the Indians to dub it "river-that-flows-two-ways," and said she saw it as a metaphor for the advancing plot of Guinan's and the memories of my childhood. "Was that plan or an instinct?" she asked.
I'd always intended for the Hudson River to be a character in the book - in part because I thought it symbolized the ability to create a fulfilling life that included both the country and the city. "Like the river that flows two ways, the trick was finding room for both currents," I write toward the end of the book. The deeper I got into the book's story, the more the river became a thread that helped stitch all of the narrative arc together.
The club is a bit unusual in that there is no required book to read. The members instead meet once a month and simply talk about what they've been reading. Says member Laura Nemeth: "We're really about getting like-minded people together and making reading a team sport. And some members don't physically show up - they email me their reads and I forward them to the group. It's a good way to get recommendations and commiserate."
Laura Nemeth says she and the others were so sorry to hear that Guinan's had closed and that Jim and John had passed away: "I felt like they were friends too," she said.
One tip: if you ever meet the club, they have a secret password: "Pride and Prejudice is The Greatest Novel Ever Written."
Photos courtesy of Laura Nemeth.