One of the most enjoyable parts of promoting Modern Persuasion is connecting with new people and talking with them. One way I have done that has been going to book clubs. My own book club session doesn’t really count. These are women I know and love. They helped me prepare for other book clubs and helped me write the discussion guide. At the end of July I got to visit my first book club in Hull, Massachusetts.
There is a back story to this book club. I spent the first three and a half years of my life in Hull. My parents lived there while my father was in graduate school. We lived in the basement of a candy story/beauty parlor. Some day I will share my memories of that period of my life. My mother remains friends with a lot of the people she knew when we lived there. Even I am friends with them on Facebook, but I rarely see them in real life. Even though I live about 90 minutes away from Hull, it is not a place I visit. The last time I was there was about nine or ten years ago for a family Fourth of July beach weekend.
When I was invited to visit this book club, I quickly said yes. My mother, who was already planning a trip to visit that weekend, got an earlier flight so she could come with me. For my mother, it was a trip to see friends she hadn’t seen in years. It was also her first book club experience. We had a nice hour before the book club to catch up with one of her closest friends. As per usual, when I spend time with my mother’s friends from her childhood and young adult years, I learn a lot more about her than I ever have before. If you ever want to know your parents as people, talk to the people they were friends with before they had to pretend to be mature adults, especially their friends from the college years. These people are always happy to share the stories of bad behavior.
The book club meeting was fantastic. We spent a lot of time talking about the writing and publishing process, because there is such a story there. We spent a lot of time eating because there was tons of food! It was fun and what I expected from a book club.
There was also a surreal experience about going to this book club. Most of the people in the club weren’t people my parents had known when we lived there. Most of them had never met me and had no memories of me as a toddler. At the same time, there is so much of who I am tied to this place. Most of why I wanted to come back to Boston, as a teenager and younger adult, was tied to what I remembered about living in Hull. Not all the memories are accurate or even make sense. I have learned, as an adult, that I often connected the wrong people or place to a memory. I would tie the emotion to the wrong person or place and feel disconnected when I learned the truth. It’s more than seeing things through the eyes of an adult. It’s clearing the emotional romanticism of your childhood.
Hull has a complicated history. It was a beach town for the Jewish families of Boston. It was a lobster town that had economy tied to that industry. It was a place that reinvented its identity through my own lifetime. The modern Hull is nothing like anything in my memory not only because my memory is flawed, but because it has changed. We drove a trip my mother must have taken often in her lifetime. We were both able to identify landmarks from the past and those that are missing. We talked about past versions of this trip.
In the end, this book club visit was just as much about my growth over the years as it was about the book. Other family friends are inviting me to their book clubs. It is going to be interesting to explore my connection to these people and their locations. It is all a little different than I expected.