The first meeting of our new “Books and Brews” book club was held this past Tuesday, July 19. Not only was this our inaugural session, but also my first foray into the world of book clubs, so I thought I’d share my experience and impressions here for those of you who are book club pros and those who might be thinking of joining in! For our first session, we discussed Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road.
It’s not as intimidating as you think.
Full disclosure, I’ve shied away from book clubs in the past because I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but discovered that fear was unfounded – the other participants and our moderator created an environment where everyone’s opinions, no matter how varied, were welcomed. Our moderator, Museum Curator Kathleen Powell, had a good mix of discussion questions addressing “big picture” themes and connections to our own lives as well as specifics about individual characters; this gave us multiple entry points into discussing Three Day Road. Our participants’ diverse answers to these questions enriched my own understanding of the novel.
I was lucky to have had such a great group of participants for my first book club, all of whom were generous in sharing their thoughts, opinions and feelings about the book. Those of you who have read Three Day Road know that it deals with some heavy issues, including war and the soldier experience as well as the terrible treatment of Indigenous peoples and their cultures in our country. This made for a riveting, but sometimes emotional and challenging read and I found that sharing and talking about the book provided a cathartic experience. One of our participants described our book club as a “safe space” to discuss difficult and contentious issues and I couldn’t agree more!
Silence is ok.
On occasion, it took our group a minute or two to think on answers to a question – and that’s ok! Given the novel’s content and the enormity of the issues it addressed, sometimes we just needed a little time to synthesize the information and make connections. The little bit of silence we were afforded definitely enriched our later discussions.
Setting adds to the experience.
Three Day Road takes place in and around the Great War Years and tied into our exhibit, “Doing Our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front”, so much so that we held our book club discussion within the exhibition space. We started off the evening with a short Curator’s tour of the exhibit, which informed and deepened our discussion about the wartime experiences of our two main characters, Xavier and Elijah. Discussing the book in an amongst artifacts from the First World War was definitely a value-added experience!
Now, I’m looking forward to our August 23rd session, when we’ll discuss Wayne Grady’s Emancipation Day and explore more of St. Catharines’ history.
For more information about our book club check out this past blog post:https://stcatharinesmuseumblog.com/books-brews/ and if you’d like to join our book club, give us a call at the Museum – 905-984-8880.
Meredith Leonard is the Visitor Services Coordinator at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.