Friday, July 22, 2016

Book review: The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

I read a review of this book and realized that even though I owned it, I had no idea what it was about. and the review really intrigued me, so I decided that night when I got home, to dive into it immediately. and I lost myself in this book. that first night, after midnight, I sat for a moment considering if I wanted to maybe just stay up until 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. and finish the whole thing. I didn't. But just thinking that thought made me happy. 

Ava has had a rough year. Her husband has left her for an old girlfriend, a "yarn bomber" who lives up the street. Both her children are abroad, her son studying elephants and pursuing his life's dream, while her daughter if in Florence, hopefully away from all the bad influences that have lead her to make some really unfortunate decisions. But her best friend's book club has finally had an opening after years of no openings, and Ava needs the camaraderie. Not to mention, she remembers how, when she was a child and her sister died in an accident, followed a year later by her mother's suicide, a book meant everything to her and got her through that year. She hasn't read much since and wants desperately to get back to reading, which might help save her again.

The first night at book club, Ava realizes she wasn't paying attention to the theme of the coming year, which is "The Book That Matters Most." Each member is to pick their most important book and that's what the book club will read for the year. Unprepared, Ava blurts out the name of that book from her childhood, even though it is out of print and no one has heard of it. To convince the other book club members to go with it, Ava says she'll get the author to come speak at the meeting, even though she has no idea how she's going to do that. 

Obviously, books are a vital and consistent theme throughout this book (although the discussions aren't like any book club I've ever been in--more like a college seminar.) Narrators shift throughout, giving us the story from the perspectives of Ava's daughter, her mother, even the cop who investigated Ava's sister's death all those years ago. While Ava's husband's cheating and desertion brings up those old feelings of loss and abandonment and fear from decades ago, it also means that Ava finally has the time and space to process what happened. And hopefully her healing will not be the only healing in her family. More than one person in this book is in need of understanding and forgiveness. 

The book is a little light, and the book club reads nothing unpredictable (I understand the author, Ms. Hood, polled friends and acquaintances for a couple of years on this topic, what book matters most to you, and went with those books, but she wasn't forced to use those. she could have thrown in one book that was more interesting, more obscure.) The ending, while twisty, was also in some ways predictable. But that doesn't mean this wasn't an enjoyable book. It was emotional with moments of tension and worry, interspersed with refreshingly intelligent discussions of great fiction. Any book lover will love this book. Should be a must-read for book clubs. 

I got this copy, provided free by the publisher, at Winter Institute.

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