Skip to main content


April 2, 2008

Bliss at the Cheesecake Factory, Part II: The Book Group's Perspective

Posted by carol
Yesterday Amanda Eyre Ward reminisced about meeting The Bookies, a book club in Springboro, Ohio, near Dayton. She first made their acquaintance during a telephone chat several years ago for her debut novel, Sleep Toward Heaven, and recently met up with them in person as she toured promoting her most recent book, Forgive Me. Now Bookies member Jane Schreier Jones shares her perspective about their blissfully bookish encounter.

Okay, I admit, we are mighty proud of our little book club. The same six women --- Barb, Joan, Ann, Joanne, Kate and myself --- have gotten together once a month in Springboro, Ohio, since 1991, way before Oprah launched her book club. When I would mention I was in a book club, people didn't know what it was. One lady asked me, "What? You shop together for books?" That's what an odd concept it was back then.

Over the past 17 years, using various ways of selection, we have read marvelous books (A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Namesake, Swimming to Antarctica), disappointing books (The Memory Keeper's Daughter) and even some disgusting books (Paris Trout). We have read nearly 200 books as a group --- and said goodbye to even more bottles of wine. But through the thousands of pages, we have talked and laughed and shared and had babies, saw kids go away to college, suffered through funerals, kept the same husbands, and through it all, feel blessed with our book club, one of our great joys.

Joanne is the one who brought the delicious idea of us talking to an author, made possible with arrangements with a publisher and a trusty speakerphone. "What?!? We can actually talk to Amanda Eyre Ward?" We were thrilled with the idea, and made Amanda's Sleep Toward Heaven our pick of April 2004. We fretted about the possibility that we would not like her book ("What in the world do we do then?"), but happily, we easily fell in love with this moving and thought-provoking novel. When the big night came, we were extremely nervous about our blind date, but Amanda zapped worries away in 30 seconds. We had 101 questions about the book so conversation bubbled around the round table we sat at, staring at the speakerphone. We were actually talking to the author! "How cool is this!" we kept saying.

We ended the phone conversation with an invitation to Amanda: "If you ever ever ever do a book signing in Dayton, we'd love to take you to dinner!" (And we took a photo of ourselves with the speakerphone to mark the evening.)

Fast forward to February 28, 2008, when that scene actually played itself out. Amanda did indeed come to Books & Company in Dayton and said "Yes!" to our dinner invitation. Following her book signing, we walked across the street to the Cheesecake Factory and, over platters of appetizers and tall glasses of margaritas, we got to know Amanda even more. Of course, we had questions about the two extraordinary novels she's written since our first chat, How to Be Lost and Forgive Me. We asked many details and she wanted to know about our lives, so words tumbled over each other and talk flowed non-stop. We were "Amanda groupies" before that night, thinking she was terribly bright and so gifted with the pen --- but during the dinner, we felt she became a friend. We talked about life and friendship and motherhood and funny occurrences and books books books -- isn't that what friends do? Bliss indeed!

We were dismayed to hear Amanda is not surrounded in her hometown by out-of-control readers like us. There's only one solution: she must move to Springboro, Ohio. She would make an ideal seventh member.

---Jane Schreier Jones