By John Horchner
For about 14 years, Nancy Healy has been part of a book club I belong to in St Anthony Park, serving as its organizer and convener.
The club started at Micawber’s Books in St Anthony Park where it met monthly until the store closed in 2019.
Now, the book club meets on Zoom. Since its inception, the book club has read more than 150 titles, mostly fiction and some non-fiction.
I heard about the club when I moved to St Paul five years ago. I used the Nexdoor app to contact Nancy, who got right back to me with the title for the month: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng.
During in-person meetings, Nancy helped everyone find chairs and name tags and when necessary, led the discussion back to safe ground. For Nancy, a professional writer and copy editor, leading the Sunday Book Club has been a hobby of love.
For example, I’d suggested the title “Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.” About 20 people showed up, some new. The conversation grew heated over a variety of topics like Social Security. Luckily, Nancy was there to steer us back on track.
Until a month ago, Nancy has also been the collector of our reading suggestions.
I don’t recall when I first saw it or how I remembered it, but I knew that American novelist Jonathan Franzen had once called Jane Smiley’s “The Greenlanders” one of the best novels ever written. I noticed it was 800 pages long but I didn’t let that sway me and the group voted to accept the title.
I was on a family vacation to the Grand Teton National Park marveling at the ice caps one morning when I read an email from Nancy. In essence she wrote, “Are you sure about ‘The Greenlanders’? I don’t get it.”
“Let me try the first 20 pages . . .” I wrote back, “I’ll get back to you.”
That night, I began to flip pages of my Kindle. Even surrounded by scenery that could easily evoke images of Greenland, I couldn’t get into the reading. I found the description good, but dull, and if you didn’t know the characters, the names were meaningless and nearly impossible to follow. Characters in the same family could have different last names, as last names are often based on the father’s or in some cases, mother’s first name, as was and continues to be the case in Iceland.
I thought of the 800 pages to follow. However, changing a title selection in midstream would be unprecedented and could lead to an endless round of emails. We had to stick with “The Greenlanders.” Nancy agreed.
It was with a great deal of trepidation that I entered the Sunday Zoom meeting, wondering if anyone would be there. There were fewer than usual, but of course Nancy was there, smiling. She’d finished the book early. Another person said it was among the best books she ever read.
“It has all the issues of the day: climate change, racial justice and the pandemic.”
Another member said if it wasn’t for the book club, she would never have read it, but she was very glad she did. That happens a lot in our book club.
I know Nancy has been involved with writing and editing throughout her career. That’s included co-owner, writer and copy editor at Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax with her husband Dave, a former Park Bugle editor. Now Nancy is stepping back a bit from some things, including her organizing role with the Sunday Book Club.
But the Sunday Book Club is still important to her – and to me and many others. New members can request a Zoom link by clicking on “next meeting” at http://SundayBook.club.
John Horchner is a writer and publishing professional who lives in St. Anthony Park.