I live in a reasonably small community. We are lucky to have a great library system in our area and I enjoy knowing my librarian (yes, I get quite possessive of my library and my librarian, or as I like to call her “She Who Controls the Flow of Books”) quite well; I have been visiting her, at our local branch, at least once a week for eight years now! Each branch in our system runs a monthly book club meeting. I attended the one at my branch, once. It was a bad, bad fit and I never returned; no matter how much Penny (my intrepid librarian) pleaded or attempted to cajole me. Now way! No how!
A couple of Saturday’s ago, out of curiosity, I inquired as to how the club was doing? Penny informed me that the group had imploded and was, alas, no more. It was a club that had really struggled for a number of years and finally expired. “A-ha!” I thought, “Here is an opportunity.” and filed the information away in my mind.
Fast forward one week and I am out to lunch (ha-ha, I know!) with my friend Janet. She tells me she was talking with Penny (yep, the town is that small, we all know each other!) and wondered, since the library book club was dead, if I would consider reviving the thing? Well, talk about great minds thinking alike! By the end of our meal we were quite excited about the prospect of pumping a little life into the library book club. I asked Penny if this was okay and she was thrilled. So the wheels are in motion and the group shall carry on, although slightly differently than before.
The library has already determined the books through until August so we will just be picking up where things were left off. We are, however, working on a list of suggested reads for the Fall of 2010 and into 2011. I am hopeful the person who is responsible for this, for the library, is amenable to the ideas we come up with.
The first book we are doing is called The History of Love, written by Nicole Krauss.
I read this novel when it first came out, in 2005, and the last words of this haunting novel still resonate like a pealing bell. “He fell in love. It was his life.” This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. When he leaves his tiny apartment, he deliberately draws attention to himself to be sure he exists. What’s really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn’t know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man’s name. Another family in New York has also been truncated by loss.
Teenager Alma Singer, who was named after the heroine of The History of Love, is trying to ease the loneliness of her widowed mother, Charlotte. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries deepen.
Krauss ties these and other plot strands together with surprising twists and turns, chronicling the survival of the human spirit against all odds. Writing with tenderness about eccentric characters, she uses earthy humor to mask pain and to question the universe. Her distinctive voice is both plangent and wry, and her imagination encompasses many worlds.
I look forward to re-reading this book and for leading a book club discussion about it on April 15th.