Jessica Wolf, the editor of New Jersey Life & Leisure, periodically runs a book column in the magazine. Here is what I contributed for the September/October issue.
Who’s Reading What?
Laura Zinn Fromm talks about her book group.
How long has your group been together?
How did it start?
We’ve been together about a year. We are all
refugees from other book groups. The three of us
meet in secret because we live in a small town and
we don’t want anyone to know we have started
a book group on the sly. Originally, we called
ourselves “Bunker Books” because we thought we
might meet in a bunker.
How do you pick books?
Like good mothers, we take turns. This month,
we decided on Meg Wolitzer’s The Ten Year Nap
because one of us had read a story about her in
the NY Times that made her sound like she could
be one of our friends. We thought that if she lived
in town, she would make a good addition to our
book group – not that she’d have us.
What if you don’t read a particular book,
do you attend?
If we don’t like a book, we email each other and
say, “I can’t stand this book and I have no desire
to get together and discuss why I can’t stand it,
so can we please choose another book?” This
happened with The Road. I loved it, but the others
did not, so we just abandoned our discussion of it
and moved on.
How would you describe or characterize
Three dark-haired suburban women, all mothers
of two boys, all bred in New Jersey, all big readers,
all semi-employed, all on our first marriages. We
are all fully capable of the gossip that goes in other
book groups but we try to stick to discussing the
Do you feel like you fit right in?
Absolutely, though I have been in two other book
groups where I felt like I was the only one who had
actually said the words “mental illness” and “antidepressants”
What made you decide to join a book
group, and why this one?
My first book group was in New York and though
it was terrific, once I moved out of New York, I
thought I should find a new book group and try
to make new friends that way. We met in our
living rooms, and discussed the renovations of our
kitchens. At our last meeting, one of our members
said she wanted to stop reading books and go back
to reading catalogs. The second book club I joined
was filled with highly intelligent women, most of
whom wanted to read books but did not want to
actually discuss them. Two of us from that group
snuck off and started a new book group with a
third person from another book group. We chose
each other, sort of like Madonna chose Malawi.
Is there food?
We meet in coffee shops, so we drink lattes.
What have you just read?
The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perotta.
Why was that book selected?
We had all read Little Children by the same author
and loved it.
What did the group think of it?
We liked it, though I can’t say we loved it. The
writing was excellent, but the plot sort of fell apart
at the end. That said, we had a lively discussion
about why we thought parts of the book were
weak. I did end up passing the book along to my
What kind of books do you usually
like to read?
We read a wide range. We recently read Jeannette
Walls’ The Glass Castle, which was so good
I assigned the first chapter of it to a class I
am teaching; Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
(awesome, frightening, beautifully written,
intense and memorable); Stephen King’s Lissey’s
Story (surprisingly good and, not surprisingly,
scary). I tried to persuade the other members to
read Slash’s memoir, but only one was interested
(even though it was fantastic and hugely readable
and you didn’t have to be a Guns N Roses fan to
Do you remember any exceptionally
interesting or moving discussion?
We talked for a long time about The Glass Castle.
We were all struck by how careless and neglectful
Walls’ parents were–and yet how restrained she
was in her assessment of them. She let their
actions speak louder than any judgment she could
make–and she wrote beautifully and vividly about