The Book Club

Maribeth Covington arrived early, as usual, and opened the door of the large library conference room. She frowned as she observed the furniture left in disarray from the last occupants. Probably the youth book club, she thought and she set about walking around the large oval table and repositioning the cushioned chairs – evenly spaced, pushed in.

Taking her usual position at the short end of the oval, Maribeth took the book club selection out of her designer bag and placed it on the table before her. She then pulled out her small, bound journal with matching pen and placed them carefully beside the book, straightening them so they were parallel to each other. Just as she sighed and looked at her watch, the second member of the Ladies’ Library Guild Book Club entered the room and took her place.

Ten minutes later, the business of the meeting dealt with and discussion of the book begun, Maribeth was startled when the door opened and another woman, a stranger, stuck her head in, smiling.

“Is this the book club?” she asked eagerly. Greeted only by surprised silence at an unexpected interruption, she went on, stepping into the room, “I heard you were doing the book, Captured by Curious and thought I might join you. Sorry I’m late.” She sidled over to a chair at the short end of the table, opposite Maribeth, and sat down, folding her hands in front of her and smiling around the table.

After an awkward silence, the discussion continued. Amanda Peterson had just commented on the author’s effective use of imagery, and Grace Abernathy agreed, expressing how vivid the picture in her head was of the scenes described in the book. There was a general murmuring of agreement, then Phillipa Johnston mentioned how disappointed she was with the ending, which set off a maelstrom of comments of agreement until Maribeth rapped her knuckles on the table for order.

“It is apparent that none of us liked the ending of the story,” she said, “now-“

“I liked it.” It was the newcomer.

Maribeth looked at her. “Fine, so not all of us-“

“But why didn’t you like it?” the newcomer asked. “What was wrong with it?”

Constance Watson looked shocked. “Why? It was so very anticlimactic! We are built up to believe she was going to reunite with her family, then nothing happened at all!”
The woman cleared her throat. “Perhaps you missed something in the story? I mean, it seems to me that the author was playing with our minds a little bit. Twisting real and fantasy, you know? What about the symbolism, the –“

“Posh.” It was Maribeth. “Symbolism. I think not. You’re reading too much into it. It’s a story – no hidden meaning. If the author of a book wants us to see something, they have to show us, not just expect us to see what’s not there.”

The woman frowned slightly. “But fiction is often rife with symbolism and hidden meaning and innuendo. That’s what makes it so rich. My feelings are affected by it differently from yours because of what I bring into it.”

Maribeth smiled her best condescending smile. “Young lady,” she said, “I think perhaps you’re in the wrong group. We like to read stories and then discuss what we read. Not,” she added, her eyes smiling with pleasure over her own comment, “make up things that aren’t there.”

“The family is dead.” The woman’s expression was steady.

There were sounds of surprise from around the table.

“The family in the story is dead,” she said again. “If you read through it, you’ll see many proofs of it. She is living in a state of total denial. That’s why there appears to be no ending – because the ending already happened. If you go back and read the first chapter-“

There was a general explosion of disapproval from around the table, women shaking their heads, exclaiming loudly and with obvious disdain for such ideas.

Maribeth rapped the table again and smiled with just her mouth at the visitor. “I’m sorry, miss, but I think your ideas would be better suited for a…less traditional book club. We just read good, solid, novels in here. Perhaps you should find a group that reads more…obscure texts. But we thank you for coming, Miss…?” She let the question drift off.

“Campbell. Sharon Campbell.” The woman smiled as she stood from the table. She looked around the group once, then turned and quietly left the room.

“Well,” Beatrice Loving muttered, “I’m glad she’s gone. And furthermore, I don’t intend to ever read another book by…” She glanced down at the book club selection in front of her. “…Sharon Campbell,” she finished, her voice catching just a bit.

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