From author events, plot twists, support and shared camaraderie, the T@T book club has been inspiring and connecting members for 15 years
Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
For 15 years, 14 women from Pictou County have had a standing date with intrigue, drama, suspense and surprise on the last Tuesday of every month. While together, they open their lives to scores of good books and each other.
It’s been wonderful, say members of “Tuesdays at Two,” or T@T book club, whose name derives from their meeting time.
“I love this book club,” says Corinne Cameron, who echoes fellow members’ sentiments of how inspired they are by the quality of books, the love of reading, thoughtful discussion and friendships that have followed suit.
“It is a real book club. By that I mean everyone reads the book and contributes to the discussion,” says Corinne. “Unlike some book clubs that are known to use the club as a guise for a ‘social’ gathering, we meet to share meaningful, thoughtful responses to whatever book has been selected. And the books selected cover a wide variety of genres.
“Although we may not all have the same reaction to a book, I admire the respect we have for each opinion and each other. We are good listeners as well as good talkers. We are friends.”
They didn’t even let COVID-19 lockdowns disturb their meetings.
During that time, they turned to Zoom.
“We’re pretty serious about this,” jokes Shirley MacIntosh. “We’re not going to let a pandemic stop us from reading.”
THICK AND THIN
“It’s been a pleasure through thick and thin, COVID and Zoom,” says Heather Coll. “I think that our greatest assets have been our sense of humour and genuine support and care for one another.”
Tuesdays at Two has been a most varied, interesting time through the years, she says. The choices of books, venues, special events, and planning have been accomplished with thought, discussion and in an agreeable manner.
The club currently has 14 members: Olive Corning, Catherine Freeborn, Joan Wallace, Jane Williams, Claire Osgood, Lily DeYoung, Pat Lord, Lynne Sheridan, Shirley MacIntosh, Corinne Cameron, Vivian Farrell, Heather Coll, Jill Skinner and Celine Papillon.
Members range in age from 65 to 85 and the group typically take turns hosting.
They host several annual special events, such as inviting an author for an afternoon get-together, a Christmas party, and a full-day adventure at a member’s place on Pictou Island. October is usually a book-movie combo, where they read the book and then watch the movie (always in that order).
From the opening pages of An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark in June 2007 (their first book) to the last chapter of Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larsen (their latest read at interview time), the books have provided stimulating discussion.
BRING YOURSELF TO THE CONVERSATION
“Over time, I think we developed real trust with each,” says Lynne Sheridan, who notes how members have tackled serious and touchy themes in a variety of books over the years. Indeed, a member could pick a subject without knowing someone else may be sensitive about the issue.
“You bring yourself to the conversation, you have to have that trust to talk of some of life’s challenges,” she says. “As a group of women of similar age and often similar life experience, we’ve been around the block… We’ve brushed up against life’s challenges over the years. We bring that to the table, and we like that about ourselves.”
While they didn’t all know each other when the club started, a real camaraderie exists today.
“Friendship is big for me,” says Pat Lord, who notes the group’s strong bond.
Also appealing? The really good books they read says Olive Corning. “It’s stimulating and we like that challenge.”
Lily DeYoung notes there’s rigour to the club — you can’t fake it. Members need to be committed and this keeps people cohesive.
Their collective love of books is an appealing feature, plus having
a hard deadline to finish a book provides motivation.
Lynne, who’d been in a book club in London, On. and started ones in Halifax and Bangkok, first broached the idea after she moved to Pictou County and became friends with Claire Osgood. Claire knew a lot of people and thought it could work.
Around the same time, Pat spoke with Lynne about starting a book club, and when she learned of their thoughts, she was on board too.
The group started with 12 members and took a few months to get its mojo, they say. Today, membership is split almost evenly between original members and those who’ve joined over the years.
Every year, Tuesdays at Two invite authors for an afternoon event. This past July, they enjoyed “a wonderful afternoon” with cookbook author and Cape Breton native Mary Janet MacDonald, who made chocolate sundae pudding and bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce.
Over the years, they’ve welcomed the likes of George Elliott Clarke, Sheree Fitch, Sheldon Currie and Linda Little. They went to see Linden MacIntyre at an event, and have attended events like Read by the Sea, where they saw Vincent Lam.
Pat says one reason they host an author event is it’s a great chance to learn the author’s point of view. “We’ve talked about their book, and we’re curious… What was their perspective?”
“We’re not afraid to be bold in asking people to come,” says Lynne.
About 90 percent of what they read is fiction.
The Rose Code was a huge success. As was Three Cups of Tea, A Gentleman in Moscow, Being Mortal, and Bridge of Clay. “That was a challenging book,” says Olive. The author said you’d feel like you’d be run over by a truck at the end, and that’s how we felt, she says. “It prompted a lot of discussion.”
Some read hard copies of the books, some listen to audio, and some do both.
“I say all the time we have the best book club in the world,” says Lynne.
“Self-esteem is not an issue,” jokes Lily.
AUTHOR WISH LIST
What author would they like most to meet?
“Amor Towles,” the group says, almost in unison, on the creative force behind
A Gentleman in Moscow and The Lincoln Highway.
“And Isabel Allende. She’s of our generation,” someone says. “And somewhat outrageous,” adds another. “And irreverent. She’d stay all night.”
Club members have had varied careers, from education to health care to real estate. “We have a lot of different qualities,” says Jane Williams.
“Everyone is so respectful,” adds Joan Wallace.
Claire says one thing she likes about the book club is that members read books they might never have picked on their own. Plus, the discussion always brings a new way to look at the book.
“You don’t have to like every book,” says Olive.
“We didn’t like every book,” adds Pat. “But I never regret that I read them.”