I really hope some of you had a chance to read our last book club pick. We read I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes (aka Suzanne Palmieri) and Loretta Nyhan. It was amazing! Let me give you a roundup of the food first and then I’ll get into the group’s impressions of the book.
Since we’ve gotten the smoker we’ve found that sometimes it’s the simple things that are the best. I smoked some salmon on Thursday so it would be ready for an appetizer on Friday while we waited for our hamburgers and mac and cheese to cook. We’ve also discovered we are more fans of the fruit flavor smokes (apple, cherry) than the traditional mesquite or hickory. So we used apple that day. We also had some sharp cheddar that Herb had smoked a couple of weeks ago that I served along with the salmon and for the appetizer. Liz brought a wonderful fruit salad…she even went through the trouble of adding pomegranate! Jen brought a veggie tray and some hummus and garlic sauce. Even though Sharon was bringing dessert, she also brought some crab bite thingies and a great bean salad with avocado. She’s a vegetarian and new to the group so wasn’t sure if I’d be prepared for her. Of course I was since we have a few vegetarians in our group, spicy black bean burgers! As for dessert, my mom brought cheesecake and Sharon brought little tarts with either lemon curd or cannoli filling. Yummy!
I may have mentioned in an earlier post that there was a possible surprise for book club this month, too. It was my beautiful sister Gina! We actually all knew she was going to be there accept for Jen. It’s Jen’s 40th birthday this month and her hubby was planning a surprise party. They decided it would be even better if Gina was there to surprise her extra. Since that was planned for Saturday we weren’t sure if Gina would be able to join us for book club without giving it away. Unfortunately, there was a scheduling conflict with a softball tournament for Jen’s daughter and her surprise party got moved up a weekend so my sister didn’t make it for that. But she was here for book club! Yay!
On to the book. Wow! One of the things that every single person liked about this book was the format of letters. There was no other dialogue but for letters…mostly between the main characters Glory and Rita. At first it was scary…how is this going to work? Will the characters seem too one-dimensional? Is this going to be a “tell” book instead of a “show” book? Let me assure you, all of those worries were put to rest pretty quickly. What could have been a detriment turned into a plus because you could pick the book up at any time and read a chapter in no time since each 1-4 page letter acted as a chapter. It made it a quick read even for our slow readers.
Before I get too much further, here’s the GoodReads description of the book:
It’s January 1943 when Rita Vincenzo receives her first letter from Glory Whitehall. Glory is an effervescent young mother, impulsive and free as a bird. Rita is a sensible professor’s wife with a love of gardening and a generous, old soul. Glory comes from New England society; Rita lives in Iowa, trying to make ends meet. They have nothing in common except one powerful bond: the men they love are fighting in a war a world away from home. Brought together by an unlikely twist of fate, Glory and Rita begin a remarkable correspondence. The friendship forged by their letters allows them to survive the loneliness and uncertainty of waiting on the home front, and gives them the courage to face the battles raging in their very own backyards. Connected across the country by the lifeline of the written word, each woman finds her life profoundly altered by the other’s unwavering support. A collaboration of two authors whose own beautiful story mirrors that on the page, I’ll Be Seeing You is a deeply moving union of style and charm. Filled with unforgettable characters and grace, it is a timeless celebration of friendship and the strength and solidarity of women.
As usual, I don’t like giving spoilers so I will be careful in what I say.
It was wonderful to actually read the inner thoughts/fears/hopes/joys of these women. I know I wasn’t the only one in book club that could identify with one or both of these women on at least some level. I laughed and cried and prayed along with them both. While reading these letters you actually witness Glory maturing and Rita becoming more open and accepting of her son’s decisions. Just like Glory wanted to meet Rita’s neighbor lady, an older German woman who was doing all she could to prove she was American through and through, so did I.
If you weren’t reading this book along with us and decide to read it for a book club, I want you to know there are a bunch of recipes in this book. In hindsight, we all agreed it would have been really fun to each make one of the wartime recipes for our meal. In fact, we’re discussing doing that for next book club because these recipes intrigued us enough. Most of the recipes were such to capitalize on the rations (honey instead of sugar, etc.) that were available at that time. So you may want to plan ahead to do a dinner centered around these recipes.
At the end of most of our books was a bit of information on the authors. We all agreed that learning what we did about how this book came to be made us like it all the more. Turns out these authors had never actually met in person. They met online through a blog and struck up a friendship through email, texts and phone calls. They eventually had the idea to do a book together and decided on a letter format set in World War II. One day, Suzanne Hayes sent a letter via email to Loretta Nyhan in the voice of Glory; that first email is the first letter in the book. How cool is that? So Hayes was the voice of Glory and her friends and family while Nyhan was the voice of Rita and her friends and family. I absolutely love the story of how this book came to be.
I strongly recommend this book, especially for a book club of women. Although it would be interesting to get a man’s percpective on some of the things Rita and Glory did along the way.
Next book club is Sunday, July 27 and we are reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I won’t be able to attend that meeting as I’ll be in Orlando with my husband, but I believe I’ll pop in at some point to give my opinion on the book since I’ve had it on my “to read” list for a while anyway.
Have you read or seen the movie Divergent yet?