“Did Nadya really love, Pavlo?”
“No, she loved Andrij. She never loved Pavlo.”
“But what about Stephan?”
“Oh, she didn’t love him–”
“Yes, she did! He was her first love!”
It’s a surreal experience to sit among a group of well-read women passionately discussing a book that I wrote. It’s flattering, humbling, exciting, and a little scary.
Last week I was invited into the beautiful home of Olena Pryma, who was hostess to her book club’s monthly gathering in March. Generous appetizers and cocktails were served as the ladies arrived, introducing themselves and catching up with one another.
I didn’t know most of the women in attendance, but I recognized their names and faces. Several of them knew my parents or members of my mother or father’s families. On the flip-side, I knew (or knew of) several of their children.
I sipped my red wine, a little nervous about what these women would think of The Silence of Trees. Like my protagonist, Nadya, many of their mothers had lived through WWII and emigrated to the United States. These women were part of the Ukrainian community in Chicago, most of them grew up in the Ukrainian Village, and their opinions would carry a great deal of weight with me.
We sat down for a delicious meal prepared and served by our hostess (and her husband). I briefly introduced myself and talked about my background, motivation, and process of writing. Olena then began the formal discussion of The Silence of Trees, touching upon such issues as Nadya’s character and her issues of regret and guilt, authenticity and acceptance.
Their discussion was thoughtful and lively. They asked provocative questions and spoke about how parts of the book resonated with them. (Part of me wished that I had my little notebook beside me to jot down notes from the evening’s discussion, but I focused instead on their impressions.)
We remember our firsts: first love, first job, first best friend. Though others many follow, the first creates an impression.
The ladies of Olena Pryma’s book club and their generosity and thoughtfulness will forever be remembered as my first book club as a visiting author. They will be reading their 100th book in May. The Silence of Trees was their 98th book. From what I heard, my novel was in some good company. I know that I certainly was in excellent company.
Thank you, ladies. Dyakuyu!***