I observed the monthly book club at my local library, this month they read The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. I did not participate; group discussion really isn’t my thing. The group was made up of mostly older people (think 60’s plus).The leader, a librarian, started the meeting and gave a brief summary about the book. There weren’t any provided snacks or beverages, but several people brought their own beverages. When the meeting started, the leader was the one asking the questions. The questions were all discussion questions to facilitate group discussion. Eventually the discussion took hold, and the group began to lead the discussion themselves. There were one or two who tended to monopolize the conversation, but that’s not unusual for older people who live alone. All of the attendees participated, and it was a friendly and open atmosphere.
The library system has a whole collection of book club kits: 10 copies of the book, and a list of discussion questions—the Central group doesn’t use the book club kits. The group typically reads narrative non-fiction, 90% history based, and all are Americana. The librarian creates a list of questions to begin the discussion, and incase conversation lags. The librarian also typically chooses the book, but he brings several selections for the group to decide on—he always makes sure that the book chosen has numerous copies throughout the system so that members have no problem accessing the book. The selection for next month is American Childhood by Annie Dillard.
Summary of The Orphan Train:
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude? As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship. (Amazon).