When Corinne and I first launched the Tipsy Mamas' Book Club in October, 2016, we wanted to create a space to discuss books as well as a place where moms could gather as our children aged out of playgroups and other early childhood experiences that had brought so many of us together in the first place.
Over the years, we have drifted apart at times, moved to new towns, changed jobs, and changed schedules. We had more children, and we got busier.
For five and a half years now, we have been returning when we can in order to discuss the book choice. Reading in common makes us feel a part of a community and gives our bright minds something to chew on aside from the shopping list or the next meeting at work.
But we have been apart more than we have been together.
I know I'm not the only one who has felt isolated during this pandemic. I tried to accept the shift to Zoom, and yet, I have felt increasingly distant from so many of you. For me, regular in person structures provided comfort and friendship, and I miss those. I have not hosted an in-person gathering, not even a playdate, since January 29th, 2020 when we discussed Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. (Anyone remember that feisty protagonist Mattie?)
And I have missed it more than I can say (without sounding melodramatic, that is, to say that not-hosting felt like a part of me had died).
I'm sorry I sort of ghosted this group in recent months, and I thank Abby and Corinne and others for taking charge. Thank you to Nadia for hosting the discussion of Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped. An incredible read, and I'm glad I was able to join you.
Since I haven't talked with many of you in a long time, I wanted to share three updates from my life, which will lead me to the reason for this mass(ive) email:
1. This year, I completed the Memoir Incubator at Grub Street, an MFA-level program that offers me no credentials but suggests I may be pseudo-qualified to teach writing to a group with moderate expectations.
2. I have fulfilled my dream of becoming a published writer, having published three essays since December.
3. My family is in the process of buying a house north of Chicago, near where I grew up. We plan to move there in July after the school year ends.
2. What is this book about?
3. Is there an intended audience?
4. Is any of this autobiographical?
5. Were there commentaries on our times that resonated with you -- either regarding relationships or the state of the world or the interaction between the two?
6. Did the sexual scenes take you into the story or remove you from it? How explicit should sex and violence be in books?
7. Alice and Eileen exchange long, detailed emails about their lives, almost as if they are writing diary entries. Have you ever exchanged emails like this with a
friend? What type of friend was it, and how often did you write to each other?
8. Is this a commentary on consent culture?
9. What does this book say about sex and intimacy?
10. Does Felix work at an Amazon factory?
11. The main characters are Alice, Eileen, Simon and Felix. Eileen's parents and sister, Simon's parents, and Felix's brother and friends appear at times. Why didn't we meet Alice's character? Did we need more about Lola or Damian at the end? Or more of any of the other secondary characters?
12. The last couple of chapters take place about a year into the pandemic. Was there a gap in Sally Rooney's writing and this was the result? Or was this intentional on part of the author?
13. What do you make of Eileen's thinking at the end as she wonders whether to have a baby:
"Even shelving that more immediate concern [of having a baby in a pandemic], neither you nor I have any confidence that human civilisation as we know it is going to persist beyond our lifetimes. But then again, no matter what I do, hundreds of thousands of babies will be born on the same day as this hypothetical baby of mine. Their futures are surely just as important as the future of my hypothetical baby, who is distinguished only by its relationship to me and also to the man I love. I suppose I mean that children are coming anyway, and in the grand scheme of things it won't matter much whether any of them are mine or his. We have to try either way to build a world they can live in. And I feel in a strange sense that I want to be on the children's side, and on the side of their mothers; to be with them, not just an observer, admiring them from a distance, speculating about their best interests, but one of them. I'm not saying, by the way, that I think that's important for everyone. I only think, and I can't explain why, that it's important for me. Also, I could not stomach the idea of having an abortion just because I'm afraid of climate change. For me (and maybe only for me) it would be a sort of sick, insane thing to do, a way of mutilating my real life as a gesture of submission to an imagined future. I don't want to belong to a political movement that makes me view my own body with suspicion and terror. No matter what we think or fear about the future of civilisation, women all over the world will go on having babies, and I belong with them, and any child I might have belongs with their children."
14. What do you make of Eileen's conclusion at the end:
"I suppose I think that having a child is simply the most ordinary thing I can imagine doing. And I want that -- to prove that the most ordinary thing about human beings is not violence or greed but love and care."
Thank you for stopping by last night to catch up...and to talk a little about the book. We had mixed feelings about this one. The structure was a bit collage-like (thanks to Clara for that term, which makes sense perhaps due to Rooney rewriting the book several times with different structures), and the tone was hard to pick up on at times (though Alisa tells us the audiobook is quite dramatic and guided her through the conversations very well). Mixed feelings about the ending -- which tied things up quite optimistically, which some readers felt perhaps unrealistic.
In any case, we hope you enjoy it if you aren't through yet and then move on to the next! Later this summer, we'll gather to discuss Chemistry by Weike Wang.
Hope to see you there!
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.