Last night I shared a meal with eleven incredible women who have made my world a better place just by being in it. We are an eclectic mix of ravenous readers and hard-core book critics who devour all manner of books from the classics, to ‘who-done-it’ mystery, to delicious and provocative fiction and gritty memoirs. Each month for the past 18 years we have come together to discuss, praise, or critique a book that forced us to ask tough questions, or moved us in some profound way. During that time we watched one another become families, raise kids, and let them go. We have shared our worries and burdens while helping one another walk through some of life’s most difficult times.
This month we discussed an early copy of my memoir (It comes out APRIL 4th!!), The Chicken Who Saved Us: The Remarkable Story of Andrew and Frightful—a story about my young son who fell in love with a chicken and told her his most terrifying secret:
“I think my body is trying to kill me,” my eight-year-old son said to his little bird.
Many of the women didn’t know the whole truth about what went on in our home during the ten tumultuous years my husband and I desperately searched for a cure to our son’s mysterious disease. Yet, they faithfully came to book club, asking questions, offering support, and showing up in remarkable ways.
One woman sent her husband to the hospital on Valentine’s Day to sit with Andrew for a few hours so Jon and I could escape for a hot meal. Another arrived with her son’s Boy Scout troop in the middle of a rain storm to decorate our house with Christmas lights. Still others filled our refrigerator and did our laundry.
As these women sat in my living room with dog-eared and underlined copies of my book, I wondered what they thought after reading my story. Had I told it well? Did my writing keep their interest? Could they relate?
“Why didn’t you tell us?” was the first question, quickly followed by, “We would have done so much more to help.”
“I don’t know,” I answered, shrinking in my chair. “I guess I didn’t want to burden you.”
To my surprise, each woman in the room nodded with understanding, agreeing that they too, keep parts of their lives hidden, things they are too afraid to share for fear of being exposed.
During our discussion I began to understand how essential it is for us to share our stories with one another. The books we read each month are merely vehicles for discussion about the bigger story: Our lives. Books offer us a segue into the meaty stories of our lives—the ones that affect our hearts, our minds, and our souls in a deep and meaningful way.
Over the course of the evening I marveled at my tribe of friends who built a village around my family. They were there when we weren’t sure we would make it to the other side. And when I wasn’t willing to ask for help, they showed up anyway—arms out stretched, offering kindness and hope in an impossible situation.
Meet my amazing book club: (back row) Marcia Bean, Anne Holmdahl, Tami Bean, Hedi Carpenter, Lindsay Asmussen, Doreen Blanding, (front row) Sarah Morlidge, Me, Beth Puryear, Jodi Bean, Monica Bishopp, Esther Hansen.