Our team of contributors and founders are avid readers and writers. A book club seems like a necessity, right? We can all choose a book, read it, discuss it, and share ideas with one another. But for our group, this is a bit more difficult.
We are not a city blog but an international one – all 41 of us are spread throughout the world! Nevertheless, we have not let geographical location stop this blog or stop us from starting a book club — for our team AND for you!
So allow me to present the MilMB Book Club!
How MilMB Book Club Works:
Among our contributing team, each month we choose a book and virtually discuss it in whatever format is best (Facebook, Zoom video, Skype, etc). But, moving forward, we want you to join in on the fun!
At the end of each month, we will let you know what we will be reading for the following month, then a week before our book club “meets,” we will post discussion questions for you, your own book club, you and your spouse, or whoever wants to join in. Sometimes, in addition to discussion questions, we will post some food and drink recipes that you might want to try at your meeting or that we think are fun and go along with the book. Then, after we virtually “meet” to discuss the book, we will post a summary of our discussion and hope that you will add your own thoughts in the comments.
Last month, we chose The Mothers by Brit Bennett:
WHAT is this book about?
This novel is set mainly in California and is a tale of two friends navigating through young adulthood and adulthood. The main characters, Nadia and Aubrey, become unlikely friends in high school and both maintain and lose that friendship throughout their young lives. The girls are living in the looming presence of their church and “the mothers,” a group of female church elders who are unofficial watchers and mothers of the congregation. Their voice is present in the background as Nadia and Aubrey experience high school, heartache, college, adulthood, loss, and life.
What I found so wonderful about this book and also what made it so difficult to read was that the characters – their choices, their failures, their successes, and everything in between – were so relatable. This felt like reading about people I could actually know and love.
When Nadia chooses to withhold a life-changing secret from Aubrey, I felt anguished for both of them. When Aubrey must choose if she can stay with her husband despite what she knows about him and herself, I wanted to hug her and tell her it would be all right. These stories and experiences felt so real, and perhaps this is the true point and success of this novel.
I highly recommend The Mothers and was so anxious to see how everyone else in our book club felt about it!
WHO is Brit Bennett?
Brit was born and raised in Southern California, much like her characters in her debut novel above. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she also won several literary awards. She has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel; this novel was her first but not her last!
We had some great discussions about this book, and I would like to share a few of our book club discussion questions here:
– What did you think of “the mothers” at the church? Were they influential or important to the main characters or more of a moral voice to guide the story?
Our consensus was that the mothers were influential to the characters but not in an obvious way. They provided a voice of women and/or mothers throughout the story. As one of our members wrote, “I liked how ‘the mothers’ worked as a group narrator. I think they grounded the story as well as providing the moral framework without being too judgemental.”
– Although the pastor is crucial to the story, he is only present minimally in the book. Why do you think Brit Bennett made this choice?
This was one of the things easily overlooked by the reader but was important to the novel – the women are the key voices. While men are present in the novel and even important pieces to the stories of Nadia, Aubrey, and the others, their voices and opinions are often presented as secondary. The pastor is important to the church and the community, but he is a submissive man who does not lend much authority to any situation. Bennett was trying to highlight the importance of the women and their lives in the novel.
– Why do you think Nadia didn’t tell Aubrey about her history with Luke? Do you think her timing or if she had shared it earlier would have been better?
I think we all agreed on this – Nadia was afraid to be honest with her friend about her past. We can all relate to making a bad decision, having a bad relationship and even a bad haircut (sort of) that we are reluctant to share with others. Without giving too much away, the omitting of her past becomes a key part of the friendship between the women. Whether the truth was given earlier or later, the damage from that truth would still have negative effects. Maybe when the truth will hurt, no matter what, it is more challenging to tell to those we care about. Again, so relatable!
For our first book club selection, I felt The Mothers was a good choice. We are all women and mothers, and it is refreshing to read about others who are dealing with life, love, loss, and grief as we all do. Brit Bennett wrote an excellent debut novel, and I look forward to seeing more from this new author.
Our next book ….When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
Look for our discussion questions on November 12 and our discussion summary on November 26.