If I had to pick one thing that is saving my life right now, it would be my book club.
I realize book clubs are nothing new or revolutionary, but mine has one unique twist that sets it apart: it is intergenerational.
It didn’t set out to be that way. Several years ago, a good friend of mine who is a book club aficionado, offered to help me start a book club for my friends and me. She invited a few friends from her age group and I invited a few friends from mine. Her friends said they were just going to teach us their book club best practices, and then they would leave us to it.
Five years later, we still won’t let them leave. We have now named ourselves “The Gals and Golden Gals.”
I dearly love my peers, the Gals, in the book club, but I want to say a few things about the Goldens.
They have lived a little more life than my peers and I have, and their wisdom and humor is unmatched. They are comfortable in their own skin. They aren’t easily offended. They tell inappropriate stories and sometimes drink a little too much. They live in this same world and have their share of struggle and sadness, and they are honest about it. We aspire to be them when we grow up.
There is something extra special I get from book club with these gals. The books we read (and yes we actually read the books and discuss them!) lend themselves to important conversations. Not all of it is heavy. I’ve learned that fluffy books can be some of the best discussions!
Here are three things I am consistently learning from our Goldens:
1. This too shall pass.
The phrase might not be said very often, but it’s a feeling I come away with frequently. We read a lot of historical fiction. Walking through a period of time that isn’t your present experience—and usually it’s set in a challenging time—gives you an appreciation for your situation. It teaches you grit and strength. Especially now in 2020 when we are literally living in a dystopian novel, I know that people have walked harder times before. This too shall pass.
To be clear, our Goldens have not lived through historical times! They only have a few decades on me. But every passing decade brings more self-confidence, faith in a merciful God, and wisdom that there is nothing new under the sun. Whatever hardship one of us may be going through, we know it is a storm we can weather.
Books that lend to this kind of discussion: All the Light We Cannot See, Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, A Gentleman in Moscow, The Kitchen House, The Underground Railroad, 11/22/63, News of the World, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen. The list of great historical fiction is endless.
2. Be friends with people who disagree with you.
Our book club is made up of women who are like-minded about the important things: wanting to challenge and stretch our minds, seeking the good for all people, and appreciative of good wine and chocolate. But we are diverse in politics, theology, education for our children, and much more. This lends itself to conversations that in other settings could be tense, but in ours, they are engaging and interesting. We value the practice of listening. We try not to ever dominate the conversation, but make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. And we care about each other.
Here are some books that have provided these kinds of discussions: Becoming, Sisters First, Hillbilly Elegy, Small Great Things, A Spark of Light.
3. We are good parents and good people.
Who doesn’t need to hear this message? I don’t know if they do this on purpose, but our Goldens are so generous with their compliments to us younger gals in the throes of parenting. I suspect it’s not always warranted. But they know it is something we need to hear. Many of them have “been there, done that,” when it comes to raising children, or making tough life choices.
They regularly tell us something like, “You all give me so much hope for future generations.”
Some of it comes, I’m sure, from nostalgia. In letting us talk about our young marriages, our friends and our families, they remember their own similar stories. But I am always left feeling encouraged and capable, for motherhood and for life.
Not all the books in this category are of the highest literary quality, but I like them! You might grab these for a page-turning beach read. They all ended up providing great discussions. The Gifted School, Big Little Lies, The Last Mrs. Parrish, Before We Were Yours, The Secret Life of Violet Grant.
I would also recommend the following memoirs for this kind of discussion: The Glass Castle, Educated, and two by local authors, We Are All Shipwrecks (by Trinity professor, Kelly Carlisle), and The Con-Man’s Daughter (by Candice Curry).
Book clubs aren’t the only place to form these relationships. Churches and faith communities offer that kind of rare connection between generations. Neighborhood women’s clubs are a good setting too. Wherever it is that you find opportunities for intergenerational friendship, take them! You will find yourself feeling more confident, smarter and prepared for whatever the world throws at you.