This month’s RCM Virtual Book Club title is I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott. Join us virtually on Thursday, August 29 at 8:30 PM CST. If you can’t make it at THAT time, check back in throughout the week to keep the discussion going. Big thanks to The Snail On the Wall Books for sponsoring our title selections!
A “Find Yourself” Memoir for the Rest of Us
I have a confession to make; I have read this book two times. This Spring, I attended Huntsville’s Women’s Economic Development Council Luncheon when they hosted Mary Laura Philpott. I Miss You When I Blink: Essays is a memoir for us regular folks, discussing how Mary Laura slowly made a better life for herself and her family. Not all of us can go and Eat, Pray, Love our way to a better life like Elizabeth Gilbert, or Wild our way up the Pacific Coast Trail, as Cheryl Strayed did.
Mary Laura read two excerpts from the book, one of which, “A Letter to the Type A Person in Distress”, had me wiping a tear from my eye while observing that there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I decided right then that I would nominate it as a Rocket City Mom Book Club pick.
I read it the first time on a plane. And it was not “relentlessly funny, self-effacing, [or] charming…[and it didn’t make] me laugh, it [didn’t] make me cry” as best-selling author Ann Patchett said that it would. Rather, I found it rather frustrating, a bit entitled, and full of first-world problems. I wondered why. I had looked forward to this book so much. It’s idea had resonated so much I had shed a literal tear. Why didn’t I like it?
What Shapes How You Experience a Book?
Here’s the thing: the current experiences and situations in which you find yourself when reading a book, shape how you feel about the book. And reading a book again under another set of circumstances may give you a completely different experience. My friend, who has no kids, had an entirely different view of this book.
When I read it the first time, I was on my way to visit a family member who was in the middle of one of the most traumatic events that we have ever experienced. My world had been tilted on its axis in a way I couldn’t yet begin to understand. I was tired and hanging on by my fingernails. So reading about Mary Laura wanting to live in a separate home, a la Diane Von Furstenburg, made me roll my eyes in exasperation.
However, I reread it again this past month to refresh my memory in anticipation of Book Club and to write this review. My second experience was very different from my first. Removed by months from that trauma, I was in a better place. I remembered how I had wanted to escape my family also, or more truthfully, myself, when my son was born and how even though it hadn’t entered my mind at the time, two separate apartments wouldn’t have been such an idiotic idea then. I realized that Mary Laura got the concept of “first-world problems” because somehow, the first time, I had missed the whole essay entitled “Ungrateful Bitch”.
Additionally, so what if I can’t relate to every single story in a book? I also read to understand the truth of another’s experience. And that’s something else that I loved about Blink. It took a look at everyday life annoyances, gave my frustrations a voice while sprinkling words of wisdom throughout those vignettes. Including this one:
Maybe we walk around assuming everyone is interpreting the world the same way we are, and being surprised when they are, and that’s the loneliness and confusion of the human experience in a nutshell.
The second time, I did laugh. A lot. And I cried. Again.
Meeting the Author Can Shape How One Feels About a Book
By this time, Mary Laura and I had connected to make plans for her to participate in a special Author Event for the book club. We talked about some of the questions that might be asked, discussed how she is Mary Laura, not just Mary, and I am Shannan, with two A’s. (What were our mothers thinking?) By the time the plan was in place, I really liked her. I really liked her book. And I think you might as well.
Join us on the RCM Virtual Book Club Facebook Page on Thursday, August 29th at 8:30 PM CST to ask questions of Mary Laura – she will be participating in our live Q&A! And then let’s meet the following Thursday, September 5th at the same time to discuss the book on our own. See you there.
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