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March 26, 2008

The Storie delle Sorelle (Stories of the Sisters) Book Club

Posted by carol
Guest blogger Heather Johnson founded the Storie delle Sorelle book club in 2005 in the greater Baltimore/Annapolis, MD, area. After trying unsuccessfully to find an existing group to join, she contacted every woman in her address book and found five like-minded souls. The club has since more than doubled in size, and here Heather shares some of their reading adventures.

When I started my book club back in May of 2005, I had a grand plan in mind: I would gather a group of friends on a bi-weekly basis and together we would delve into the most intriguing books we could find. Everyone would love every book and raise lots of meaningful points during the discussions.

Well, as we all know, reality does not ever follow our grand plans. In reality, I have a dedicated group of friends who regularly attend meetings. We call ourselves Storie delle Sorelle, Italian for Stories of the Sisters. Rather than bi-weekly (was I crazy?!) we meet about once a month. Everyone does not love every book, but get this...that makes the meetings even better!

Our most controversial book was What Our Mother's Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman by Danielle Crittenden. The point of the book is that the feminist movement actually hurt women in a variety of ways. Boy, did this cause some discussion! Some of the ladies completely agreed with the author's points while others thought she was loony. One discussion centered on the age-old debate of the working mom vs. the stay-at-home mom --- what a touchy subject! Our meeting was intense and needed very little direction from me as the leader.

One good tip --- if your club plans to discuss a "heavy" book, have your meeting in a fun environment. We discussed this book at our annual pool party --- it's hard to get too tense while wearing a bathing suit and drinking lemonade!

One of our best meetings was for Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. In what seemed like a miracle for our club, everyone really loved this book. For our meeting we dressed in Japanese garb and had Asian food. We even had a special guest bring family heirlooms from WWII occupied Japan and an antique samurai sword. Because we all loved the book, our discussion was rather brief. When it seemed there was no more to say, I brought up the controversy and lawsuits that followed the novel's publication ... then we had a great deal to discuss. That new knowledge made us re-examine the novel with a more critical eye.

Another great discussion came from Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. This book is one of my all-time favorites, but with more than 800 pages it was a stretch for my group. To accommodate busy schedules and slower readers we decided to split the book into two meetings. Not everyone liked this book, but everyone got something out of it. Some said they appreciated the strong female characters. One member said reading about the rival kingdoms of King Arthur's day helped her understand the rivalry and wars between the small kingdoms in the Old Testament. A few were just proud that they had completed such a long and intense book.

My book club is nothing like what I imagined in my grand plan ... in reality it's a wonderfully eclectic, sometimes stressful but always enjoyable band of "sisters." Our taste in books varies wildly --- as does our reading speed --- and we try to accommodate everyone. We found what works for us and our excellent meetings are the evidence. It's not what I would have imagined, but reality can be better than fiction!

---Heather Johnson