Between grading papers and tests, a group of Mark West Elementary School teachers started a book club about 12 years ago, meeting at homes close to the school to share dinner and discuss the books.
“We are all female and mostly ‘of a certain age’ (meaning over 50),” said book club member Kathie Miller. “Some of us are still teaching and some (the rested ones) are retired.”
The group still meets on week nights during the school year and, in the summer, gets together for a long, leisurely meeting over a light lunch of salads, also sharing what they’ve been up to.
“A huge highlight for us this summer was to have a local author, Amanda McTigue, come share with us,” Miller said. “We were very excited, and a little nervous, and found her to be warm, compassionate and kind, just like her book, ‘Going to Solace.’”
The teachers are drawn to and moved by novels that deal with the plight of children, who often are helpless in the face of the dysfunction they are born into.
“Their great courage and will to survive amid the most difficult of times is a tribute to the human spirit, and each in the end is a tribute to the importance of family and being loved,” member Janet Kirk said. “All of these reads are set in a historical context, which has expanded our knowledge of the world we live in.”
Here is a list of their recent reads:
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett: The close bond between a black nanny and a white child is broken by 20th-century racism in the South, leaving both parties grief-stricken. Members were inspired by the courage to face this adversity and to bring about personal and social change.
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr: A fascinating look into the French resistance, as well as the expectations placed on young German boy soldiers. Members loved the scientific and metaphorical references to light … what we see and can’t see, telling us that underneath the surface of history there are many stories that have not been seen or told.
“Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Members were horrified by the abuse the author endured as a young girl growing up in Somalia and Kenya. And yet she perseveres and begins life anew in Europe.
“Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese: This story about twin boys growing up in an Ethiopian orphanage also focuses on family, love and tragic loss. It provoked discussion about life choices, family relationships and the meaning of life.
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows: A book club is formed as a cover from occupying Germans during World War II.
“Going to Solace” by Amanda McTigue: A story about the end of life that should be sad but isn’t, with a delightfully strong voice of the Appalachian Mountains.
“Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger: The story of a family’s search for their son, as seen through the eyes of his 11-year-old younger brother.
“Samurai’s Garden” by Gail Tsukiyama: A tale of love and friendship by the author of “Women of the Silk,” another example of women overcoming incredible odds.