Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

Pride and Prejudice. Anna Karenina. To Kill a Mockingbird. Ann Hood's fictional book club discusses these and seven more titles in her latest novel, The Book That Matters Most. But, it's a book from childhood that mattered the most to the the protagonist, a story that Hood created for this book. And, it's a statement from a young woman that rang true to me.

After Ava Tucker's husband left her for a younger woman, she begged her friend, Cate, head librarian at The Atheneum, to allow her to join the book club that met there. She was desperate to talk to others. Once she finally attends, she realizes she wasn't prepared for the December meeting when they picked books for the next year. This year's theme? The book that mattered most to you. While the other members picked books such as The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye, Ava picked a book that got her through a rough time. After her sister died and her mother killed herself a year later, someone dropped off a book for Ava, From Clare to Here by Rosalind Arden.

While Ava is dealing with her own day-to-day problems at home, she has no idea what her daughter, Maggie, is dealing with in Paris. Maggie, angry at her father, is supposed to be in school in Florence during her year abroad. Instead, the troubled young woman has fallen back into old patterns of drugs and sex. Like her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she's trying to cope with loss and life.

For all the women in Ava's family, books are saviors. She remembers her mother quoting Proust, "There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book." And, it's Ava's remembered book, From Clare to Here, that leads her down a strange path that provides answers. As she searches for the mysterious author, she discovers stories and truths she had either forgotten, or never known.

Some readers may be slightly disappointed there isn't more discussion of the books themselves. There are some interesting discussions, but the author is covering a year in the lives of two women, and a year in the book club.  It's a young woman who sums up those books, the club, and life itself when she says there is no one book that matters most. What matters is the book that comes along when you need it in life, and, in may be a different book at different times. For some people, such as Ava, there really is The Book That Matters Most. For most readers, books matter.

Hood has given us a story about family, desperation, life, and the power of books.

Ann Hood's website is

The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood. W.W. Norton & Company. 2016. ISBN 9780393241655 (hardcover), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher gave me a copy of the book, hoping I would discuss or review it, either at BEA or on my blog, with no guarantee of a review or positive comments.

No comments: