Cover to Cover
17 Years of a Book Club
The club meets The Last Mrs Parrish authors. From left, Tracy Holleran, Heather Lajeunesse, Chris Nightingale, Lynne & Valerie Constantine, Mary Cannon, Jessica Gerber, Milissa Schramm, & Ruta Leonard.
When I first moved to Fairfield from New York City in the fall of 2000, my husband and I did not know a soul in Connecticut. We did not yet have children, and were both commuting to work. There was little opportunity, and little time, to make new friends. Our realtor suggested we join the Welcome Club of Fairfield (now defunct), but as former Manhattanites we thought it sounded far too “suburban” for us. Skeptical, we joined anyway, and to our surprise, it proved to be one of our best decisions.
The first official Welcome Club “activity” I joined was a book club. Carolyn Gill, the first person I met through a mutual friend, was also new to town and agreed to lead the club, which we named The Cover to Cover Book Club. As an avid reader, I was eager to meet some other women with a shared interest. The inaugural meeting was held at Carolyn’s house in January 2001, and we discussed our first selection, River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clark. The group of about ten women lived in all different areas of town, and was a mix of both working professionals and stay-at-home moms. Few of us knew each other prior to that first meeting. “We were a random assortment of women who liked to read,” recalls member Ruta Leonard. Nearly 200 books later, Cover to Cover is still together. Moves and jobs forced a few members to leave the group, and some newer members have joined since the club’s inception, but the core is still intact. “I never could have anticipated that when I moved to a Fairfield and joined a book club that we would still be meeting monthly, 17 years later,” says Mary Cannon. “This is such a special group of women.”
Each month, the meeting host presents three book suggestions, and the members vote on which will become the next month’s selection. “Our choice in books goes in waves,” Leonard says, “from fiction to non-fiction with themes like queens, WWII, and even mountain climbing.” Everyone has their favorite titles, authors, and genres. Books from Cutting for Stone to Hillbilly Elegy, and authors from Khalid Houssini to Anne Tyler all make their way onto the list. “We have really enjoyed a mix of contemporary and classic novels,” says Gill.
Over the years, the club has also established some annual traditions. Most popular is our December holiday dinner, and participation in the Fairfield Public Library’s “One Book, One Town” event runs a close second. “It’s always fun to attend the One Book, One Town celebration and have the book selection done for us,” says Gill. In October, the group was selected to receive advance copies of the new Harper Collins thriller The Last Mrs. Parrish written by “Liv” Constantine, the co-writing sister-duo, Lynne and Valerie Constantine. For our meeting that month, we met with the authors at the Fairfield University Bookstore for wine and cake, and to discuss the writing process, character development, and how the book could be optioned for a feature film. “Having the opportunity to read the advance copy of the book and to meet the authors, was a special treat,” says Cannon. “This book has such a unique and unexpected twist that I know it will be a popular book club pick for years to come.” Member Jessica Gerber also attended the event. “I really enjoyed the interplay between the sisters,” she says. “In this age of computers and smartphones I loved hearing about their writing and editing process—a lot of hard work that resulted in what I imagine will be a very popular book, and perhaps movie!”
Over the years, we have celebrated new babies, mourned family deaths, and been there for each other during illnesses, surgeries, divorces, moves, and life transitions. “We have supported each other throughout it all,” Gill says. “I think the reason we have stayed together all these years is that it was always about enjoying each other’s company first, and literary discussions came second.” Leonard adds, “and of course, there’s wine!”
Today, all the members have children, ranging in age from elementary school up through college, and many have gone back to school or taken on new jobs and responsibilities. While it is not always easy to find time to read, or to get out on a weeknight, the group still looks forward to the third Wednesday of each month to catch up and discuss our latest pick. This unlikely group of women, initially bound only by our love of books, has become a treasured group of friends whom I count among my oldest in Fairfield.