The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood
20106 W.W. Norton
Finished on February 22, 2017
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)
An enthralling novel about love, loss, secrets, friendship, and the healing power of literature, by the bestselling author of The Knitting Circle.
Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood—one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.
I really enjoyed this book! I was quickly drawn into the story and was happy that the author had her characters actually discuss the books they chose for their book club rather than just use the meetings as a device to establish and develop their relationships. One of the character's unwise decisions made me feel frustrated and impatient with her immaturity, and the plot was somewhat predictable, but overall I savored the story, enjoying my time reading, drawing out the finale until I could no longer keep from finishing.
Ava glanced around the room, at John wearing his befuddled expression; and Monique nodding enthusiastically; and Ruth standing there gripping her index cards, flustered; and Honor lecturing them; and Diana with her dramatically made up eyes and dark red lips; and Kiki taking notes in her Moleskine; and Cate, such a good friend for letting her come here in the first place, sitting back and listening to their voices rise in their love of books. The sight of them all filled Ava with a warmth and comfort she had not felt in a long time.
What reader doesn't enjoy a book about bookstores or book groups? I am such a sucker for this sub-genre and have read quite a few entertaining novels and thought-provoking memoirs in this category, many of which that have expanded my TBR shelves with even more to read. The following are the books that Hood mentions in her story:
Pride and Prejudice
Like Water for Chocolate
The Great Gatsby
One Hundred Years of Solitude
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Lord of The Rings
The Golden Notebook
Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The House of Mirth
As You Like It
Ever since I finished reading The Book That Matters Most, I've been pondering the title, wondering what one book matters most to me. What an impossible question! It's like asking me what is my favorite book. Or who is my favorite author. It's futile to try to narrow it down to a single answer because so much depends on when I read the book and what was going on in my life. So many books have touched me in one way or another for a variety of reasons. And yet, if I had to give one answer I would pick Neil Peart's memoir, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. (Yes, that Neil Peart, the drummer for Canadian rock band, Rush.) I read it shortly after we lost our daughter and it was the first book about grief that had me nodding my head in complete agreement. All my thoughts and feelings were echoed in Peart's own words. He had not only lost his daughter, but ten months later his wife died, as well. He knew grief. And he was able to convey to me, through his own stories, that I would not only survive this unbelievable pain and suffering, but ultimately come to enjoy life once more. He was right.
I have since read Ann Hood's latest book, Morningstar: Growing Up With Books and in the final pages she says,
This is why we all read, isn't it? To know the world and ourselves better. To find our place in that world. Even if you did have access to readers and guidance on what to read, even if you grew up in a family that loved to read and owned shelves of books, still, still, one day a book falls into your hands -- perhaps it's Beloved or A Wrinkle in Time or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; perhaps it's Great Expectations or Pride and Prejudice -- whatever book it is, it falls into your hands at just the right moment when you need to read it. It transforms you. Perhaps it lifts you up when you are at your lowest; perhaps it shows you what love is, or what it feels like to lose love; perhaps it brings you places far away or shows you how to stay put when you need to.Yes.