My mother and I both have Kindles. She, a beautiful woman of a certain age, loves that she can adjust the size of the text and avoid reading glasses. I love that it fits into almost any of my pocketbooks and allows me to pick and choose what I read. My parents bought me my first Kindle as a birthday present some years back. I was skeptical at first: not only am I novelist prone to disliking anything that could disadvantage bookstores, I enjoy the feel of a book in my hands and the satisfaction of turning a starchy page. But after rave reviews of the device from Mom, I decided to give it a try. Instantly, I was hooked.
I still buy real books—my monthly credit card bill lists one bookseller after another. Many of my friends are writers, and seeing their spines on my bookshelves makes me swoon with pride. And to me, books are like art. They give character to a home as much as any painting, perhaps more. After some initial hesitation, I now subscribe to the theory that anything that promotes reading simply can’t be bad.
My mother and I speak on the phone every day and always have—sometimes for just a minute or two, other times for well over an hour. Occasionally we’d speak about what we were each reading, but not often. We typically read different books at different times, so it wasn’t particularly interesting to delve into discussion about books the other hadn’t read. At most, we’d make a recommendation to the other.
That all changed one day when my mother called with some information she’d picked up at one of her weekly card games.
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“Elyssa, we can link our Kindle accounts and share books. It’ll be much more cost effective,” she said. I readily agreed. We’re both voracious readers and the habit can get expensive, especially because we both want to read the latest books and not wait for discounts.
“Great, let’s do it,” I said, and contacted Kindle customer service to link our accounts.
Little did I know that this would lead to a mother-daughter book club of two, the most special club I’ve ever belonged to. My purchases show up on her Kindle, and mine on hers. We text each other frequently when something new pops up.
Now that we share books in real time, we often read the same book simultaneously, asking each other: “Did you get to the part where… no… okay fine …no spoilers…” And then, when we’re both done, the really good times begin.
We discuss everything, from the coherence of the plot to the depth of the characters to what themes stood out to us the most. We each bring our own life experience to our interpretation of the book, and it’s been a way to get to know each other better. Are there times when we disagree about who was more at fault in the book, the mother or the daughter? Absolutely. (And you can guess whose side we’re unfailingly on each time.) But I’d rather be in a book club with someone who brings to bear a different perspective than I do, even if at times our discussions can get heated.
Mom and I don’t always see the world through the same lens. We simply can’t on account of our age difference. Social media is a constant presence in my life; I haven’t picked up the phone to call anyone but my mother in years. Mom, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a Facebook account. She finds texting annoying, though admits it’s useful at times. She’s lived through 13 presidents; I’ve lived through six. Her parents were immigrants who settled in Brooklyn, refugees from World War II. I grew up American-style, eating at the diner and shopping at my local suburban mall, privilege robust around me. All of these differences lead to discussions that are a lot more complex than I might have with, say, a group of my 30-something peers who live within a mile of me and have similarly aged children.
And we are still saving money—which is yet another thing to bond over. My mother taught me the value of a dollar and to always look for a bargain. Why should that be any different when it comes to buying books? Though I know I can count on her to buy at least 20 copies of my latest novel to proudly line her bookshelves…
Featured Image: Matt McCarty; Author Photo: Lucia Engstrom