Around 8 p.m. on the third Monday of August, the front porch of Eva K. Bowlby Library had almost no empty seats. The sun wasn’t out, but the sky was still a light gray color, indicating the night would take a while to arrive.
One of the library’s two book clubs began and six members were present – a relatively low number compared to the average. Members said summer hours and events were some of reasons people hadn’t been showing up during the past months.
One of the present members, Deshirl Yesenosky, is one of the original members. She remembered when the first book club took place: April of 1998. A few months before that meeting, she had gone into the library asking if a book club existed. The answer was negative, but she wasn’t the only one interested, so staff started writing down names. Needless to say, they had a quorum.
Determined to make the project work, Yesenosky asked for everybody’s phone number and, month after month, would call the members to remind them of the meetings.
“People were excited about it and they came, I probably called them longer than I needed to. I don’t think I needed to, I just wanted to make sure,” she said.
There is one person Yesenosky still makes reminder calls to: Cheryl McCready, even though she became a member soon after the first meeting and has been showing up since.
“I think I started because I was reading the same kinds of books, it was always romance, it was always science fiction, and I was like, ‘a book club will make me read things that I wouldn’t experience, I wouldn’t necessarily pick,’” McCready said.
For August, the group read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The meeting began with each talking about how they felt about the story. Some had watched the Hulu show based on the book, as well. Some thought aspects of the plot could be applied to the current social climate.
They talked about religion, politics and policies. Some complemented each other’s thoughts, some respectfully disagreed. The book wasn’t necessarily forgotten, but plot details were put in the background. Instead, they favored topics and themes. The conversation flowed, time passed.
Some members have been attending the book club for 21 years, it begs the question: what is their favorite aspect of the group?
“I would say the camaraderie of being with all these people,” Yesenosky said. “It’s just you know every month you get to see these same people and they almost always all come, whether they have read the book or not.”
There is also the joy of talking about the books with someone else, turning the act of reading into a collective experience.
“I think that this book, if I talk to my family, they just wouldn’t get it,” McCready said of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “I don’t get as much chance to talk in depth with them, other than to say, ‘I got this really cool book you need to read it, it’s about this’ and then they’re like, ‘Ok, let’s talk about something else.’”
A variety of backgrounds also means different opinions.
“There are more varied beliefs in this group then there would be just in my family, so I get more different points of view, which I like,” said club member Lisa Lewis.
The book club meets every second Monday of the month, January through December, at 6 p.m. at Eva K. Bowlby Library in Waynesburg. According to Yesenosky, new members are welcome – even if they haven’t read that month’s book – as long as they are fun people.