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Roberts book club quietly builds connections

Tucked away in the Hazel Mackin Community Library for an hour every month is their little book club.

Library Director Brenda Hackman said it's a small town book club. Attendance rarely, if ever, hits 10 participants.

Even though there aren't always a lot of them, the attendants rave about the experiences and discussions they have in the book club.

Marjie Stone said, "Reading a book is much more fun when I know I get to talk about it. I like being able to share."

Stone added that everyone's ideas about books are different. By discussing the books with others, it's possible to see an entirely different story.

Hackman, library director and book club participant, said it's nice to take the time to do something for yourself, both while reading the book and discussing it. "It takes away the pressures in daily life," she said.

Four women made it to the library this month to discuss the selection, "Eat, Pray, Love," by Elizabeth Gilbert. Along with Stone and Hackman, Natalie Hoppe and Kristy Olson-Boyd attend frequently.

Stone, a regular face at the club, is actually its founder as well. She said the club has been around for about four years. In those four years, people have come and gone but there has always been just enough interest to keep it going.

Maintaining an interest level has been a challenge throughout the years, Stone said, along with finding a time that works for everyone's schedule.

Hoppe concurred about time issues. She originally signed up to be in the club back when Stone was starting it. However, because of scheduling problems she didn't make it for a few years.

The books discussed each month are as varied as how they are chosen. This month's book, "Eat, Pray, Love" was a suggestion by another member of the book club.

Next month's book, "Al Capone Does My Shirts," was actually a book Stone's granddaughter read for fifth grade.

Beyond being good books, Stone said young adult fiction sometimes has different messages than traditional adult fiction. The club likes to vary the discussions they have by going into the genre targeted for the younger audience sometimes.

Other books being considered as choices in the coming months were suggested by daughters, phone calls from authors and suggestions from library patrons.

September's book, though, was Hoppe's suggestion. She said she's always wanted to read it but was never motivated enough to do it. Now that it's the choice for the month, she'll get started on it.

All members of the club are quick to point out both verbally and by their bookmark placement that it's not required to finish the books before attending. Although Stone and Hackman have teaching experience, neither will scold or send away those who haven't finished.

In fact, neither of them finished this month's book yet. Stone vowed she'll get through this one sometime. "I will finish this now. I want to finish this now," she promised.

"Eat, Pray, Love" is a memoir by Gilbert. In it, Gilbert recounts her difficult divorce and the life changing journey she undertakes because of it. Throughout the story, she travels to Italy, India and Indonesia, meeting people and learning about herself.

This book came from Oprah's Book Club so Hackman had a list of discussion questions from Oprah's Web site. However, the dialog did not limit itself to answering those questions. It wasn't even limited to the book itself.

The discussion travelled around to different topics like families, kids, traveling experiences and life's lessons. At each conversation point, the women learned a little something about themselves or each other, much like Gilbert's own book.

The book isn't for everyone, the attendees point out.

Stone admitted she tried to read the book before but stopped because she couldn't relate to what Gilbert was talking about. She picked it up again for the book club.

However, Hoppe said her traveling experiences in Italy made her feel more connected to the book. Her adventures added fuel to the discussion and gave the others a little background themselves.

After an hour of lively discussion, the club wound up for the month. Hackman said they try to hold tight to the hour timeframe so people can plan for it more easily.

Stone said they welcome everyone from the area, not just Roberts. She added, "We're a diverse group, from old ladies to young beauties."

The book club will meet next on Aug. 21 at the Hazel Mackin Library in Roberts from 6:30-7:30 p.m. To reserve a copy of the book, stop by the Hazel Mackin Library or call 749-3849.