We’ve known each other longer than I want to say in print – suffice it to say that we met the first week of high school. Since then, we’ve matriculated through college, and one of us grad school; we’ve lived together as roommates, travelled some real and figurative roads together and apart, dated some frogs, broken up, dated again, married, and born children; we’ve talked through teething, teaching, sibling treachery and teens; each of us has buried a parent and weathered life’s disappointments.
Three friends who have lived in other places, again live in the same town, so we set up a book club in order to stay in touch. Like many book clubs, it’s friendship at the core – not the books themselves –that bind us.
We go on stints of meeting every month and then life interferes and we lay off for six months or more. Unlike some formalized clubs that have standing appointments, our troika seldom whips out a calendar to plan the next meeting, let alone the entire year. Why? Because we know it’s gonna happen. One day I’ll look at the phone and there’s a text from S_ with a heads up, or another time it’ll be me putting out the word in an email “Next week?”
Are we all on the same page, literarily? Heck no, but we’re all game and I guess that’s one of the reasons it works. For instance, when B_ proposed a couple of years back, “Let’s read War & Peace” I thought she was simply a wackadoodle. Certainly we’d delved into some pretty heady titles, but had our share of Chic-Lit, too. I believed the myths that it was too hard, too long, too many characters. No, B_ convinced us we are stunningly intelligent, capable and tenacious women. And so we took up the W&P challenge. I hefted that baby everywhere I went, reading on airplanes, dance class, beaches and on top of the bed. (Listen, if I get under the covers, it’s all over!) We broke the volume into thirds and met every other month during that time and I fell in love with Leo Tolstoy and his magnum opus. Three cheers for our trio – we did it and celebrated by eating at three different restaurants, French, Ethiopian and German (yeah, we’re a little bereft of Russian food here). Our translation was highly readable and by golly, I actually want to read it all over again. Someday.
Our latest book, the Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, is itself a study of the relationship between women. Hoffman was inspired by a trip to Jerusalem, when she visited a place called Masada, a fortress built by Herod the Great that is situated on top of a large mountain, where a group of nine hundred Jews in the first century CE, who had fled their homelands from the invading Romans converged to escape the slaughter of their people.
The story is told from the points of view of four of the “imagination(fiction)created” women: The Assassin’s daughter-Yael, The Baker’s Wife-Revka, The Warrior’s Beloved-Aziza, and The Witch of Moab-Shirah.
Despite and because of the tragedies that led these four meet at the fortress, they form a familial-like compact. “Love made you give yourself away; it bound you to this world, and to another’s fate.”
These characters, just like us, don’t always agree about religion, politics, working, or child-rearing, but together they are strong, resourceful, intelligent, sensitive and enduring. The quote after the title page says it all: “Let your burden be your burden and yours be mine.”
Next , we’ll read and talk about Girl Gone. I don’t know if that will become a classic, will elicit intense discussion or if I’ll care at all. While the measure of a good book is what you carry away from it, the measure of our friendship is that it can’t be measured, can’t be quantified, can’t be calibrated. It’s that it fortifies and strengthens my spirit until the next time.