Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

Summer plans and book club

I know this might sound crazy since it is February, I’m planning our book selections for the summer and am wondering if we have enough people interested in reading two books.

Upcoming selections and dates:
March 4 – Testimony
April 22 – The Life Room
June 3 – The Local News
July 15 - ?
August 26 - ?

In talking to some of you offline…most of us read a few books a month so we may want to keep meeting over the summer. Personally, I would love to meet in July so don’t worry about my schedule, coordination etc…I tend to read more over the summer.

Please leave a comment to this post with your thoughts so we can make a decision and secure our book choice.

Thanks, Mari

The Local News (MMBC4)

Announcing our fourth book club selection - a special thank you to Random House (Spiegel & Grau) for donating books to our book group!

Please send me an email with ‘The Local News’ in the subject line and include your address in the body of the email if you are interested in participating. Random House is donating 24 books to us, sign up fast!
Feb 24 update: I have sent the list of recipients to Random House. Be on the look out for your book!

I encourage everyone to participate, even if you are not lucky enough to receive a free copy, we should have a great discussion.

This book will be released Feb 24th, our discussion will begin late May/early June.

The Local News by Miriam Gershow (368 pages)

Synopsis (from Author’s site):

"Going missing was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done."

Even a decade later, the memories of the year Lydia Pasternak turned sixteen continue to haunt her. As a teenager, Lydia lived in her older brother's shadow. While Danny's athletic skills and good looks established his place with the popular set at school, Lydia's smarts relegated her to the sidelines, where she rolled her eyes at her brother and his meathead friends and suffered his casual cruelty with resigned bewilderment. Though a part of her secretly wished for a return of the easy friendship she and Danny shared as children, another part of her wished Danny would just vanish. And then, one night, he did.

In the year following Danny Pasternak's disappearance, his parents go off the rails, his town buzzes with self-indulgent mourning, and his little sister Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity, forced to negotiate her ambivalent--often grudging--grief for a brother she did not particularly like. Suddenly embraced by Danny's old crowd, forgotten by her parents, and drawn into the missing person investigation by her family's intriguing private eye, Lydia both blossoms and struggles to find herself during Danny's absence. But when a trail of clues leads to a shocking outcome in her brother's case, the teenaged Lydia and the adult she will become are irrevocably changed, even now as she reluctantly prepares to return to her hometown.

Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News is a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister and how our siblings define who we are.

Matrimony - Author Q&A

Our discussion of ‘Matrimony’ begins on March 4th. I hope everyone is enjoying the book, I have heard from a few MMBC members mentioning you have finished the book or have started it and can’t wait for our discussion to begin.

I will be sending the author a few book specific questions from MM’s next weekend, please send me an email with your author questions by Feb 20th.

Books on the Brain has a wonderful essay written by Josh Henkin about book clubs and gives us a glimpse into his life.

Thank you Josh for answering my questions! Your answers are insightful and will help our discussion tremendously.

Tell us a little about yourself (biography):

Thanks for these questions, Mari. I’m 44 and live in Brooklyn with my wife and our two daughters, ages 5 and 3, and our golden retriever, Dulcie. I’m the author of two novels, SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON, which came out in 1997, and, most recently, MATRIMONY, which was published in 2007 and was named a New York Times Notable Book. MATRIMONY recently came out in paperback, and I’ve had the good fortune to participate in person, on the phone, and online in close to 100 book group discussions of MATRIMONY, an experience I’ve written about on a lot of blogs, including an essay that I wrote on Lisa Munley’s Books on the Brain. In addition to being a novelist, I teach creative writing to undergraduates and MFA students at Sarah Lawrence College and to MFA students at Brooklyn College.

Do you write daily?

I certainly try to. I tell my students that even if they have next to no time, it’s better to write constantly. Better, that is, to write 10 minutes a day 6 days a week than to write for an hour on a Saturday. If you’re writing every day, even if only for a few minutes, you live with your characters and end up thinking about them when you’re not writing. If you take long breaks, every time you sit down you’re essentially starting over. So I try to heed my own advice. That said, I have to balance a lot of things. Teaching, publicity for MATRIMONY (and I’ve done a lot of that), and the rest of my life—I have two small daughters, and caring for them is itself a full-time job. But I do make sure to write as frequently as possible. On days when I teach I may get only half an hour in, but on non-teaching days I try to write for at least a couple of hours, and then on vacations and during the summer I have more time. I can go much longer with revision than with first draft. I love rewriting and revising but find the first draft absolutely excruciating; the only thing that keeps me going with the first draft is knowing that eventually I get to revise. When I have no time constraints, I can work on the first draft for 3, at most 4, hours a day, but with revision I can sit there all day, just about.

Are you working on a new book or have an idea for one?

I’m about 200 pages into my new novel, which is already overdue at the publisher. But I’m fairly confident it won’t take me ten years (that’s how long MATRIMONY took me, and I threw out more than three thousand pages along the way!). It’s tentatively called THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU, and it takes place over a single July 4th weekend. Three adult sisters (mid to late thirties) and their spouses/significant others return with their parents to the family’s country home in the Berkshires, the occasion for which is the fourth anniversary of the brother’s death; he was a journalist killed in Iraq. When he died, he left a pregnant wife, who subsequently gave birth to a son, who is now three. The wife has moved out to Berkeley, where she’s a graduate student in anthropology, and she’s fallen in love with and has moved in with another man. She may end up marrying this man, and even if she doesn’t, she’ll likely end up marrying someone else, and that person might adopt the son. The dead brother’s widow comes to the reunion, too, with her son, though without her boyfriend. The three-year-old, then, is the object of narrative struggle. For the grandparents and the aunts, he’s their grandson and nephew, respectively; most important, he’s the embodiment of the dead brother. For his mother, though he’s that too, he’s principally her son and she’s moving on. In a sense, then, the novel is about grief and the ways that in some instances, at least, a spouse gets over the death of a spouse while a parent never gets over the death of a child.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)?

I don’t own a Kindle myself, though I wouldn’t rule it out. It’s certainly the kind of thing that can be helpful on a long trip—that way you can carry a lot of books without weighing down your luggage. In general, though, I prefer the feel of an actual book, and I know from my own writing experience that things look different on the page from how they look on the screen. I’m always printing my work as I go along (I’m a terrible environmentalist when it comes to writing) and finding things that look and feel off on the page that I didn’t notice on the screen. The screen is a whole lot more forgiving than the page. But in terms of how people read my book, I’m not picky. I want people to read (and buy!) my book; in what manner they consume it doesn’t matter much to me.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers?

Treat writing as a job. Get up every day and tie yourself to your chair. It’s about effort and sweat as much as anything else. People who wait for inspiration don’t write. In any case, I don’t really believe in inspiration. Sure, there’s inspired work and uninspired work, but it doesn’t usually correlate to how you’re feeling at the time you write. Often when I’m feeling most inspired I produce the worst work (I end up falling in love with the sound of my own voice), whereas when I’m feeling less inspired the work, to my surprise, ends up being better. I think writing should be demystified. Yes, writing is mysterious, but the process of getting work done isn’t mysterious. It’s like everything else; it gets done by carrying your lunch pail into the office every day.

What are you reading now?

The last two books I read and really loved were Roxana Robinson’s most recent novel, COST, and Colm Toibin’s story collection MOTHERS AND SONS. They’re terrific books. By my bedside right now are Anna Winger’s novel THIS MUST BE THE PLACE and Helen Garner’s novel THE SPARE ROOM.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics:

That’s such a tough question; I find it next to impossible to choose. So let me switch the question slightly and tell you about a couple of books I loved that not enough people know about. For all I know, they may both be out of print, but they’re worth finding at the library or buying used. One is Robert Boswell’s amazing novel MYSTERY RIDE. Its about a marriage that ends and it’s about how time doesn’t heal all, and it’s got an amazing teenage daughter character, Dulcie, after whom my wife and I named our golden retriever. The second book is a novel by Max Phillips called SNAKEBITE SONNET. Not the greatest title, perhaps, but a terrific book—a coming-of-age story, but much more than that.