Keep reading

Last night’s book club discussion of Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout.   Of the seventeen women present, probably half had a hard time getting into the book.

“I don’t like these people.”

“It was so depressing.”

“This was the time I grew up in.” (1959)

“I hurt for Katherine.”

But we soldiered on.  This was the book selection of the month and somewhere along the line each of us committed to finishing it.

And because we did keep reading, we had additional comments.

“It had great character development.”

“I loved the catharsis.”

“The most powerful part was when Charlie met Tyler at the front of the sanctuary.”  (You’ll have to read the book to feel the power.)

“I felt better about Katherine.”

In the words of the author herself,  “As a storyteller, I don’t think it’s my job to pass judgment on the people whose lives I imagine and record, but I expect that readers may very well have opinions about the characters’ actions–as they should.  A book, once finished, belongs to the reader, and each reader will bring to it his or her own life’s experiences…But still, there has to be some core of authenticity–some stream of emotion that is true and universal…It is my job to push forward the tales of people who feel absolutely real.”

Because we kept reading the book, we allowed the experience of that “core of authenticity,” that “stream of emotion that is true and universal.”

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