‘Tale’ readers hear a ‘Calling’

Saturday, February 11, 2012 
By Ben Beagle bbeagle@batavianews.com

Call: Book discussions for the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project.

Action: Read Yannick Murphy’s “The Call,” and the attend one of the 18 book discussions at libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties where you will meet others who have done the same.

Result: Expect a lively evening filled with enjoyable conversations about an unusual book. You may also find yourself more prepared — and excited — to meet the author when she visits each county March 22 to 24 for a series of talks and book signings.

What you might be thinking: I don’t usually read books like this. I won’t have anything to say.

What the librarian will tell you: Stop in, we’d love for you to join us. Give the book a chance, and then share what you’re thinking. Whatever you think of the book, we always hae a good time. We don’t think you will be disappointed.

The first of 18 book discussions featuring “The Call” by Yannick Murphy begins Monday, with a gathering scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Yates Community Library, Lyndonville.

During the next six weeks readers will gather at libraries across Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties to share their impressions and ask questions about the events in Murphy’s book. Discussions are scheduled through March 21, and include four sessions at Genesee Community College, Batavia, and two at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia.

It’s easy to participate: all you have to do is read the book. Readers may attend any discussion they wish.

“The Call,” told in an inventive log format, explores a family’s struggle after its eldest son is injured and left comatose from a hunting accident. The log is maintained by a small-town veterinarian who reveals where he went, what he did, and also what he is doing to understand what is happening to his family. But the story is not overwhelmed by melancholy, even as the vet struggles with finding out who injured his son, he also reveals moments of warmth and humor.

“I hope that anyone who has read the book will think about attending a discussion, even if — or maybe, especially because — they are puzzled by the format or other aspects of the book. Even if they are not sure that this is their ‘type’ of book. It’s so much fun to hear readers’ reactions,” says Leslie DeLooze, the Richmond librarian who started the Tale project 10 years ago.

The discussions are a staple of “A Tale for Three Counties,” which is celebrating its 10th book selection this year.

Tale encourages community members to read the same book, and then share their impressions at discussions, through a writing contest, and with the author. Murphy is scheduled to visit March 22 to 24 for talks and booksignings in each county. The author is not a participant in the discussions.

Typically, a discussion leader will open the informal gathering — it could be a handful of readers, or a couple dozen — by providing a question or two about the book. Soon, the readers take over; the discussion becomes a conversation that follows whatever questions are asked among the group. While readers may be passionate about their opinions, the mood is light, lively and non-threatening.

“We learn from each other and often look at the book from an angle not previously considered,” says Peggy Parker, director of Perry Public Library, which will discuss the Tale book on Feb. 28.

Adds Mary Conable, who will lead a Feb. 28 discussion at Warsaw Public Library: “My experience with the Tale discussion has been that generally the program brings more people in to the discussion. The book discussions before the author visits expose people to ideas about the book that might not have immediately occurred to them on their first reading. They do contribute to a feeling of being part of a larger community of readers.”

And with the program established in its communities, readers will often reference previous selections to compare and contrast their perceptions of the latest book.

“Ten years ago, discussing a book might have intimidated some of our patrons,” said Sue Border, director of Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy. “Today, as more and more patrons become involved in disucssion, the fear has greatly diminished. Patrons know when they come to a discussion, there are not right or wrong answers. They can come and express their opinions without being judged.”

Patrons, said Border, “find it fun and enlightening to hear what others think about a book that they have read. They come away with new ideas and points of view.”

“Sometimes I find that a book discussion member who disliked the book and had trouble finishing it, will take it out again and read it with a fresh perspective after listening to what other readers thought about the book,” Border said.

Catherine Cooper of Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Medina, said the Tale book discussions are an intrinsic and invaluable part of the Tale experience.

“Discussing a book when you know that you are going to meet hte author in person just adds a whole new dimension and intensity to the experience,” Cooper said.

Tale librarians said the program’s book discussions have helped to expand the whole book discussion “scene” in the area. Libraries that did not have book discussions before Tale have started discussions. And from those initial Tale-specific discussions have grown groups of library patrons who meet monthly or quarterly and even the region’s smallest libraries.

Perry Public Library started its book discussion group in 2003, the year Tale debuted.

“The month we discuss the Tale selection always brings a spike in the number of attendees, which includes both regulars and newcomers,” says Parker, the Perry library director. “Sometimes the new ones are there because of an interest in that particular title or sometimes interest in the Tale program every year.”

Nancy Bailey, director of Byron-Bergen Public Library, says she has had new readers join her library’s book discussions since Tale started.

“There is more of a buzz about town,” she says. “I have more patrons talking about the Tale for Three Counties book selection. Patrons are recognizing that there is a one-book program that has great book selections.”

If you’re unable to attend a book discussion, but still eager to talk about the book, librarians are willing to talk.

“We find that we have many impromptu book discussions with library patrons,” says Lee-Whedon’s Cooper. “It is gratifying to see that the community trusts our choices and that our readers are willing to try something different each year.”

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5 Questions for Your Book Discussion

Book discussions begin Monday for the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project. Here are five questions to consider:

1. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story in a journal format? Did you like this format?

2. What are some of the coping mechanisms the characters use when facing death and mortality?

3. How does this book answer the question of what “family” really means?

4. Can you give examples of “calls” in your own life? What rhythms can you identify?

5. On page 6, the father says, “I could have been an engineer or a fighter pilot.” Do you think the father is happy with his choice of career? Why or why not?

A discussion guide for “The Call” is available on the Tale for Three Counties website that includes everything from recipes related to the book and additional questions for discussion. Go to: http://tinyurl.com/6wsusks or download the guide at left.

Online:

Tale for Three Counties website: www.taleforthreecounties.org

Tale for Three Counties blog: http://thedailynewsonline.com/blogs/tale_for_three_counties/

Tale for Three Counties on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ATaleforThreeCounties

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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