One of my new favorite things is visiting book clubs to talk about my book A Better Next. It’s so interesting to learn about how each club is organized: when they meet, how they choose their books, who hosts and what goodies they serve. I haven’t been to many yet, but I’m eager to do more.
One of the first I visited was hosted by a woman who fosters puppies headed for training as service dogs after they are weaned. One area of the house had this large puppy pen with toys, play equipment and seven two-week old puppies rolling around and looking adorable. I stood with arriving club members entranced by the puppy show while we greeted one another and sipped a glass of wine. What a joy! I made sure to cuddle a pup or two before I left them that night!
Perhaps your book club has a unique characteristic? Maybe another puppy foster home out there somewhere? My guess is the common denominator to all book clubs is the love of good books and the desire to share our thoughts and feelings about the books we read. Over time, I’ve learned to appreciate the array of choices my own book club makes and am often surprised by my response to a book I wouldn’t have picked out.
At one of my first book club visits, someone asked me. “How would you compare Jess Lawson to Alicia Florrick, from ‘The Good Wife’?” That took me aback. Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies in that CBS drama (2009-2016) was the humiliated wife of a philandering husband, played by Chris Noth, who later became a high-profile attorney with a career of notoriety in her own right after many high-stakes legal and political skirmishes which portrayed her as a savvy, sexy, and sophisticated player. I tried to remember the story-line quickly—but couldn’t pull up all of the seasons of drama at a moment’s notice. It didn’t matter.
The discussion went on without me. “Jess wasn’t anything like Alicia” one member offered, and then the entire group weighed in to support that viewpoint:
*Jess had an established career throughout her marriage / Alicia left the work-force to take care of the home-front and act as a political partner
*Jess’s career was in high gear and she adjusted as she needed to when the marriage faltered /Alicia agreed to the charade of a double life to hide the fact of her separation from her husband who continued his political career
*Jess found sustenance from her good friends /Alicia lost her friends during the scandal, and had a tough time making new ones
And then, the similarities were discussed:
*Both were strategic and sophisticated about corporate politics
*Both were terrific mothers
*Both experienced humiliation through the infidelity of their husbands
*Both found balance elusive
*Both found romance again
It kept going until they were worn out, and someone ended it with “they both loved their shoes!” That got the laughter flowing.
I’ve since had a bit more time to consider the question. “The Good Wife” came about in an era when mostly male politicians regularly seemed to get caught in some type of cheating scandal with the long-suffering wife having to stand by her man publicly to weather the storm of scandal. The media shot of a couple facing the cameras so that the husband could admit to an affair followed by the zoom shot of the wife with the frozen smile…Voyeurism for sure.
Jess Lawson’s story wasn’t so public. But infidelity stings regardless. Both of these women were struck by an unforeseen personal crisis and both had to sort out how to respond. We can debate much, but not their shared strength and resilience. Strong women are not all the same, and vulnerability visits all at some point. But, resilience plays out in a variety of ways. Aren’t we lucky to share stories to admire how they are able to bounce back?