As discussions begin, readers appreciate risky ‘Tale’ pick

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2014 
By Ben Beagle, Special to The Daily News

Any hesitancy about how readers would respond to this year’s “A Tale for Three Counties” title was eased at the community reading project’s first book discussion.

“Even the title leads to discussion,” said Emily Cebula, director of Yates Community Library, Lyndonville, which hosted the first of 17 discussions of Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Age of Miracles.”

Discussions continue through March 19 at libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Walker’s debut novel, a kind of apocalyptic Young Adult story, is Tale’s first selection to feature a strong science fiction angle.

But the novel is also a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a world experiencing an utterly unexpected change: Julia and her family awake one morning to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. As Julia struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, she is also coping with the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the anguish of first love and the bizarre behavior of her grandfather.

The book was well appreciated by readers, Cebula said, including one who contributed by text message from Florida and another by email earlier in the day.

Seven people attended the discussion, including a couple who had not yet read the book but were able to actively participate in the discussion; a tribute to the universal, thought-provoking nature of the selection, Cebula said.

“Which would I be: a ‘real-timer’ and live by the sun and moon, or a ‘clock-timer’ and continue with a 24-hour cycle to my life?” was the conflict essential to the story and a question on the minds of discussion participants.

The most commons answer was: “I would go with whatever most people were doing for the sake of convenience,” Cebula said.

One would-be reader found the whole premise to be too close to natural disasters occurring today to be comfortable reading the book.

Meanwhile, the coming-of-age theme won the hearts of those not drawn to this particular example of speculative fiction, Cebula said.

Readers felt the book spoke to humans’ ability to adapt and most did not feel let down at the end, though one reader was left “looking for the miracle,” Cebula said.

Lyndonville Central School Superintendent Jason Smith emailed comments for the discussion as he had a board of education meeting the evening of the book talk. To summarize, he “enjoyed the book … and appreciated the committee’s decision to take a risk with this interesting genre selection.”

Upcoming discussions

Book discussions are scheduled through March 5 at public libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties and Genesee Community College, Batavia. Here’s a selection of upcoming discussions (find a full schedule at the Tale for Three Counties website):

This week’s book discussion include:

Tuesday:  Warsaw Public Library, 7 p.m.

Thursday: Woodward Memorial Library, 6 p.m

Thursday:  Corfu Free Library, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: Hoag Library, Albion, 7 p.m.

Discussion question

As readers, why do you think we are drawn to stories about the end of the world?

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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