Skip to main content


July 8, 2008

Patti Callahan Henry: What Book Clubs Offer Authors

Posted by carol
Today's guest blogger is Patti Callahan Henry, who offers an author's perspective on book club gatherings --- and how a novel can speak to each reader in a different way. Patti is the author of Between the Tides, When Light Breaks, Where the River Runs, Losing the Moon and, most recently, The Art of Keeping Secrets.

There is a mysterious magic in writing, in the final work of the art and craft in forming a story. Book clubs are essential in this magic --- the magic of a book speaking about something more than the author had originally intended.

Talking to book clubs offers alchemy to the book I wrote, the book I thought I knew frontward and backward (I mean, I wrote it after all --- and rewrote it, and rewrote it, etc....). Then I sit with a group and they ask me a question, or offer a comment and I am stunned --- I didn't see that about the story; I missed that theme completely. And then I am humbled, once again, by the process and art of writing.

For a group to get together and commit to meeting at a regular time is a small miracle in today's hectic world of to-do lists and driven success. This time is meant as a separate space in time to talk about books, stories, and personal lives --- how each affects the other. How beautiful and sacred.

I spoke to a book club on the phone last year and a woman told me that she had lost her father and then found out things about him that she never knew. In a sweet, broken voice she then told me that my novel Between the Tides helped her to understand that he was a separate man with his own struggles and heroic deeds, not just the man she had formed in her mind.

Now maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this was a "message" in my novel, but really I had been writing about my own themes (how untold secrets influence lives), and this woman had taken, through the combination of word and story, a completely different message to her heart.

This, right here, is magic.

Book clubs are magic in that beautiful way.

---Patti Callahan Henry