About two months ago, I received an email inviting me to take part in something called a Book Club in a Box. As you know, I routinely blog about the books I read, whether I received them in exchange for a review or I just decided to read them on my own. In this case, I was asked to share the book I received with 8 friends, thereby allowing even more people to read the book even before I posted about it.
The book that we received was The Missing Something Club by William Haylon. “Kate was an aging baby boomer fully entrenched in mid-life crisis. Educated, literary, kids off to college and beyond, newly divorced, and no longer affluent. Suddenly isolated after a lifetime of steadfastly playing a role that wasn’t her. So she reluctantly posted an invite on a social networking website in an attempt to find others who were also missing something out of life. Five strangers responded, and they began to gather each week at a bar in Harvard Square, eventually sharing the secrets of their dispirited lives and attempting to play therapist for one another. The Missing Something Club is their unusual story. An incredibly beautiful and confused mother of three young children who could not escape the guilt of having misled an unsuspecting husband she wasn’t certain she ever loved. A beguiling but adrift young man not much older than Kate’s own sons, who, as a result of so many unfortunate events in his brief life, lived to meaninglessly hook up with women he hardly knew. A too often disregarded pharmacist (a consequence of her large size), who yearned for her first real romance but who had little concept for how to attract or interact with men. A man they nicknamed Wallflower with a dysfunctional home life that would be nearly impossible to replicate. The root of the group’s eventual magic, however, was an eighty-two year old MIT engineer who peculiarly projected the number of days that remained his life. And who painted the women in the group nude to help them better understand who they really were. Who taught them that you can’t force relationships. And with whom Kate was trying so very hard not to fall in love. Together they established a set of rules for their gatherings and then proceeded over the next nine months to break them one by one. Emboldened by their unfamiliarity and too much alcohol, they contemplated relationships, sex, love, parenting, and mortality. Their collective evolution was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It was the most incredible experience of her life.”
What is interesting is that the theme of the book was a group of strangers getting together to discuss their lives. I didn’t share this book with strangers, but I did invite friends via my facebook page to read the book with me. I was able to fill the spots quickly and everyone got to reading! The Book Club in a Box also sent me a list of questions about the book to use as discussion points with my group.
The question that I hoped everyone would answer is which of the members of the club they most identified with. I’m not sure what my answer is because none of the characters are inherently relatable! I liked the fact that each character grew somehow through their relationships with the other group members.
Here are some of the questions and answers from the group:
1. How important is the heavy alcohol consumption to sustaining the group meetings?
“The alcohol is generally the starting point in helping everyone feel comfortable enough to share their story without filters. I think over time, as they get intertwined enough in each other’s lives, the alcohol consumption slows down a bit but the sharing doesn’t.” – CM
“I feel like it’s pretty dang important. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and I imagine none of the group would have been as honest or forthcoming, even with strangers, without the little (sometimes big) push.” – SA
2. Kate and Charlie, in particular, can be more than a little selfish. Is their selfishness justified given the confusion in their respective lives?
“I think everybody is a little selfish, but as a mother I do not understand Charlie’s selfishness at all. Her kids should come first. The end. At least Kate’s were grown up, she wasn’t messing up their lives.” – SA
3. Arthur / Medicare is repeatedly called the “sage” and “a stand up guy.” And yet he wasn’t in love with his wife, says he would have left her for his childhood sweetheart, and admits he has had an extramarital affair. Is he really as good a person as the others think? Is he really any better than Kate’s ex-husband?
“I don’t think you could say that Arthur was any better than the Evil Ex, but he seems to have a better understanding of relationships and is now more in touch with reality than anyone else in the group. He also has an amazing ability to read people and see where they truly stand!” – CM
4. Would Kate have been attracted to Medicare if he wasn’t wealthy?
“I think so. I think in their case it really was her being in love with his mind. Especially since he was old (pardon my bluntness), I doubt she was in love with his looks.” – SA
5. The sessions where Medicare paints Kate and Charlie nude are obviously central to their ability to begin to cope with their issues. It seems an odd setting for such conversations. Why do you think it works?
“I think once their inhibitions were down already, they felt more able to speak freely. The mentality seems to be that there’s not much more at that point that could shock the painter, giving a sense of security that the women so desperately needed.” – CM
“It’s much like the drinking. There’s nothing there to hide behind, quite literally.” – SA
6. David is far and away the youngest of the group. He has a long list of issues – a domineering mother, a twin who died tragically, a son whom he has never met, and no job or money. Still, he is the one of the original group who walks away for good. Is he in a better place?
“I think David may have taken the group as a warning and he left and moved on so he wouldn’t wind up like the others.” – SA
7. Kate’s sons were obviously the center of her life and the source of her joy for so many years. How do you think they felt seeing their mom’s nude painting and seeing her move in with an eighty year old man they had never before met?
“I imagine they might have viewed it as some kind of mid-life crisis, until they realized that she was truly happy.” – SA
8. Which man in the story has a great impact on Kate – Medicare, David, or Nick the bartender?
“I think all three men played such a strong part of Kate moving forward in life. It seemed like Nick was the tipping point, though, the one that pushed her to understand what the other men had taught her already.” – CM
Thoughts on the book:
“As a whole, I really enjoyed the book! Getting the different points of view with every few chapters really helped understand the characters and their histories that brought them to this point. I feel like everyone could learn something from this story, whether they seem to be ‘missing something’ or not!” – CM
I would have to say that overall the concept of this book is an interesting one. Take 6 strangers with completely different lives and let them get together once a week for drinking and talking and see where it leads. I think I would have liked more to differentiate each character from the other. For example, I got the younger guys confused with one another. However, I’m glad I read this book and I’m glad I got many of my friends to read it too!
Have you ever participated in a book group? Online or offline?