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Family book club fosters closeness

Book clubs come in all sizes as you’ll see from the group we’re featuring this week.

“The Little Women Book Club” consists of a mother and her four daughters, and it’s all about promoting family togetherness.

“We named the club after one of mom’s favorite books, ‘Little Women’,” explains MarySue Cromwell, who lives in Kettering. In addition to MarySue, the members of the group include mom — Peg Huston — and siblings Beth Hamman, Carol Kibler and Joanie Huston.

“My sister Beth came up with the idea,” MarySue explains. ” We all love to read, so she thought why not get together and discuss books and share different ideas about the books and different types of books?”

She said family members view reading as an enjoyable way to learn different things and escape to another life.

“I’m sure our mother read to us as children, I do remember seeing her read all the time,” says Mary Sue, who didn’t become an avid reader until she was a teenager.

“It’s been a great way for just us girls to get together and share what we all love,” says MarySue. “We’ve read a wide variety of books over the last 12 years.”

How It Works

The format is simple.

“We have a list of our names on a magnet that tells us the order of who picks the book, then hosts the party,” MarySue explains. ” I say ‘party’ and not ‘meeting’ because it’s always a good time.”

The special evenings always include dinner, discussion, dessert and “lots of laughs.” Dinners are mostly themed to the book that’s being read. Dad (Robert Huston) is invited for the meal, then excused from the table before the discussion gets underway.

The group has read classics, fiction including thrillers, nonfiction including biographies. Members prefer books that provoke discussion such as “Lizzie Borden: The Legend, the Truth, the Final Chapter” by Arnold Brown.

“That was probably the most memorable discussion,” says MarySue, about the book that deals with the woman accused — and acquitted — of murdering her parents with an ax in 1892. “It’s such a gruesome tale and we talked about whether she did it or not.”

Sometimes the group creates a game based on the book — the women came up with a Bingo game at one point, and have also played their own version of Family Feud and the HedBanz brain teaser game.

They’ve also attended book signings together.

“We met Richard Paul Evans who wrote “The Last Promise” a couple of times at book signings, and that was cool,” says MarySue. “The book is set in Italy and we made Italian country chicken and vegetables (spaghetti alla carbonara), focaccia (Italian bread), grape pie.” The recipes were taken from the author’s website.

Don’t expect perfection

Not all of the women consider themselves voracious readers, and they admit there are occasionally books they have trouble finishing or don’t like. But they still always love getting together.

“Several times there would be one still reading while we were preparing dinner,” says MarySue.

They advise other book groups to keep things going by trying to get together every month.

“Sometimes we’ve let time lapse between meetings, life gets busy with our own families and jobs,” says MarySue. “One time we had a meeting in a hospital waiting room while our dad was having surgery.”

It’s natural, she adds, to get side-tracked occasionally and begin talking about family matters or reminiscence about old times. But, she says, but that’s part of what makes meetings fun.

Family tradition

The daughters come by their love of reading naturally. Their mom loved looking at books as a young child even before she could read.

“Even if it was the National Geographic magazine or the Sears catalog, the pictures were interesting,” Peg says. “I loved getting books as gifts and still treasure some of them. When in school it was great to have access to the school library and if homework was not too heavy, I would read three or four books a week.”

Some of her childhood favorites: “A Land That Time Forgot” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne, “Follow the River” by James Alexander Phom, “The Shack” by William P. Young and “River Jordan” by H. Burke & D. Croy.

“When choosing children’s books I always looked for those that were well illustrated,” she said. Examples include “A Mother Goose Book” illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa, and “John Denver’s Sunshine On My Shoulders,” adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon.

The members of the “Little Women Book Club” group encourage others to consider forming a family book club.

“Our girls always liked having someone read to them,” Peg concludes.” It soothes the soul, stretches the mind and comforts the heart.”

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