Living

Book club keeps readers active and engaged

Avid readers, from left, Terry "T.O." Ouellette, James Chasse, Jackie Ayotte and Maine Humanities Council scholar Jan Grieco discuss the "Let's Talk About it" book club offering, Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Long Lake Public Library in St. Agatha. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

Avid readers, from left, Terry “T.O.” Ouellette, James Chasse, Jackie Ayotte and Maine Humanities Council scholar Jan Grieco discuss the “Let’s Talk About it” book club offering, Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Long Lake Public Library in St. Agatha. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

ST. AGATHA, Maine — Long winter nights allow readers to tackle new and perhaps challenging books. Long Lake Public Library director Sister Jackie Ayotte has combined that with a love of literary discussion and, for the last eight years, offered the “Let’s Talk About It” program at the library.

“We have been very fortunate to have this,” the retired nun and community activist said recently during a meeting of the book club.

The reading and discussion program is offered in collaboration the Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book, in cooperation with the Maine State Library.

“This group is terrific,” said Maine Humanities Council scholar Jan Grieco of Perham. “I wish more libraries would do this.”

Grieco has been joining the group this winter, to help facilitate discussion at the club’s monthly meetings. Members recently met to discuss “Letters of a Woman Homesteader” by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, the second of four books participants are reading this winter as part of the program.

The nine people gathered Feb. 11 talked about the author’s narrative style and the ways it evokes an authentic sense of what life was like in the early 1900s.

“It’s different than reading a novel,” commented Carolyn Bouchard of Fort Kent.

“The best part about these groups is the give and take,” Grieco commented. “Sharing the different perspectives of each reader.”

Although James Chasse of St. Agatha, who lives across the street from the library, is an avid reader, this was his first time joining the group for a discussion. Reading the books has been “phenomenal,” he said.

I came to get a woman’s perspective,” Chasse said, which elicited a laugh from the others, who were all women. Ayotte said that, while the reading club is mainly made up of women, she regularly has one or two men take part each year.

“The group is very nice,” said Jean Cobb of Frenchville. “Jackie has been dedicated to finding things we all enjoy.”

“I love to read,” said Alice Carpenter of Frenchville, who added the exchange among readers is particularly interesting. “I learn things I never would have thought of. It makes you think.”

“It reminds of my college days,” said Terry “T.O.” Ouellette of St. Agatha. “We had seminars and I was never ready,” she joked. “Now, it’s stress free homework.”

Natalie Cofsky was only at her second meeting of the book club, but she had already found value in it, she said. “It helps stimulate my mind, and gets me out of the house.”

Ayotte said she regularly orders 20 copies of the books to be read each winter. She has at least 10 people attend each discussion group and usually more than that. The program is partly funded through government grants, something that worries Ayotte in this climate of budget cutbacks.

The winter’s program theme is “The Journey Inward: Women’s Autobiography.” The group started meeting Jan. 14 in the library in St. Agatha. The last meeting will be April 8, and each session starts at 12:30 p.m.

Books to be read and discussed in this winter’s series include, “One Writer’s Beginnings” by Eudora Welty, “Letters of a Woman Homesteader” by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, “Dust Tracks on the Road” by Zora Neale Hurston and “Redefining Realness” by Janet Mock.

Books for the program are available for loan at the library. To register, contact Ayotte at 543-9395 or come in to pick up the books. The library is open 1-4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

For more information about “Let’s Talk About It” and the the Maine Humanities Council, see www.mainehumanities.org or call the office in Portland at 207-773-5051.

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