What is your #1 worst bookclub experience?
I am sure many of you belong to book clubs, some to more than one.
I am sure most of you love your book club, or at least like it, or you wouldn’t be in it. We do have freedom of choice. Its not as if your boss requires ‘mandatory enrollment’ in his or her book club. Right?
But I am sure there have been times when a book club meeting bombed. Or maybe, smoldered. Reading today’s Wall Street Journal, ‘When you bomb at the book club’, reminded me of my #1 Oh No! experience.
Every time I recommend a book to the group, my hope is that they will all fall in love with it, praise me for my superb choice, give themselves a pat on the back for including me as a member, and say a prayer for me every night. On the other hand of course, my fear is that no one will like the book, will wonder what got into me to have picked this time-waster, be too polite to tell me that my choice reeked like a skunk, and just stare when I ask, ‘so what did you like about the book?’ If you ask any book club member, ‘what is your #1 worst book club experience’, that is likely to top the list.
Before I tell you about my #1 nightmare, here is another good one. (But not a good one, if you are the host). Once upon a time, on book club day, we all showed up at our host’s apartment building, assembled in the lobby, then asked the concierge to announce us to the host, who I will call, Ms. Letterman.
“But Ms. Letterman is out,” he said.
“Can’t be! She is expecting us. Can you please call her?”
He called. Hung up. Shook his head.
Meanwhile, I was dialing Ms. Letterman’s cell phone.
Please, pick up.
“Hello,” she answered in her lovely voice.
“Hi. Its Sabeeha.”
“Oh Hi Sabeeha, how are you?” As if nothing had happened.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“I am with a friend on my way to the theater. Why?” A justifiable question. After all, how often does a friend call and quiz you on your location.
“Because we are all in your lobby for the book club meeting. All 4 of us.” She had to know that it wasn’t just me stranded in her lobby.
“You are kidding!”
“It was today? Oh My God!”
“I will be right there.”
Poor Ms. Letterman. I could picture her explaining to her friend that she has 2 choices: dump her and the theater tickets, or dump her 4 bookies who have traveled from all over New Jersey, and across state lines from New York. We wondered what her poor friend did. Did she head on alone? Or found a friend who had put her evening on hold in case someone offered a last minute ticket to the theater? Was she understanding of the calendar mix-up? Or did she have a ‘how-could-you-do-this-to-me moment’?
As for the four of us, we hung around in the lobby, marveling at Ms. Letterman's decisiveness in quickly making an about-turn on her evening plans. Ten minutes later she rushed in, and ran to the elevator, with a hurried ‘give me 5 minutes’. A few minutes later, we made our way up. Surprisingly, the apartment didn’t have this hurried-fixed-up look. Ms. Letterman must be a tidy person. We ordered out for a meal, as she kept berating herself, ‘I don’t know how I got the dates mixed up.’
That was five years ago. We still meet every month, and we never brought it up again. Not even a ‘Are you and your dumped friend, still friends?’
Now lets come to my #1. I was hosting, we were reading ‘The Nun’s Story,’ and I had gone through the usual communications, emailing the group about the date and time, the address, the book we are reading, etc. Everyone came on time; that wasn’t the problem. Everyone liked the book; that wasn’t the problem. And just as we were beginning to dissect it, I was startled by a comment.
“She had a very troubled relationship with her father.” A new member, who I will call Julia, commented.
“That wasn’t my impression.” I said.
“He forced her into the nunnery,’ Julia said.
“No. She joined the convent by choice,” someone else countered.
“No she didn’t. She was forced into it because she was illegitimate.”
"She was not illegitimate," I felt my voice quiver, realizing what had happened. “Are we talking about the same book?” I was beyond OMG!
Bottom line: Julia had read the wrong book. “The Nun”, not “The Nun’s Story”.
“That’s the book you told me to read!” She was crestfallen.
A book club guest's worst nightmare! Think of it! She had got the book, made the time to read it, come prepared to talk about it, only to learn that she had read the wrong book.
A book club host's worst nightmare. Think of it! Everyone discussing the book, their fascination with rules of the convent, why she left, her Congo experience; and my new guest sitting there feeling totally left out, totally at a loss, looking very unhappy. She had missed out on an evening she had been looking forward to. And she was my guest.
For a host, it doesn’t get worse. I am still berating myself.
Do you have a ‘I wish it had never happened’ bookclub moment?