June, 2018: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

(Book #98) Chris hosted The Stone Diaries and this was her invitation: 

TO: All Members in Good Standing of the Bloomington Garden Club—

Petunia Anderson, Aster Alderton, Calla Lily Kelley, Marigold Mabus, Begonia Buckley, Bougainvillea Bernsten, Rose Riegle, Rose of Sharon Gonzalez, Dahlia Andrews, Wisteria Wood

RE: Upcoming Meeting, 6/12/2018,

Due to the obligations of ordinary life, the garden club luncheon will start late, at 6:30 p.m.

Topics of discussion will include the surprising turns and transformations that can come from a sudden bold life decision, the ways that ordinary lives are pretty extraordinary, and the importance of having friends you can laugh your butt off with until the end of your life.

Questions about the cultivation of plants and the design and maintenance of gardens will be fielded by those in attendance since most members are more knowledgeable on this subject than your host.

RSVP so that refreshments may be planned accordingly.


Mrs. Not-So-Green Thumb (Daisy)

After the event, my attempt to emulate one of the chapters in the book was entitled Hostess, 2018:

Despite political unrest, or perhaps because of the political unrest, 2018 was the year Mrs. Benton fell, no, dove into a profound consummation of her culinary and hostessing skills.It happened overnight more or less. Her book club friends stood by in awe and watched helplessly while her self-composed, capable nature, doubled, then tripled until it exceeded all previously charted gastronomical experience.
The arousal of her aliment acumen, the impressive control of her heart, head and herb chopper, the uptick in her personal health and appearance — all these stem from some mysterious esculent core which those around her can only register and weigh (though not right after the meal) and speculate about.
Mary’s Theory  Because the Ashland bus only goes to Irving Park, Mary chose to walk the rest of the way to Chris’ home. Mary likes to walk, she says it’s good for her. She believes that a big part of Chris’ success came from the outdoor setting, the perfect lights from Crate and Barrel and the cat who corresponds with Archie from the building next door.
Sharon’s Theory  Sharon hadn’t had a glass of wine in three or four days. She considered that this was perhaps a mistake, that she should have a glass of wine before book club in order to temper the effect of the wine consumed while there. She attributes the success of the evening to the fine selection of wines proffered by the hostess. Those in her car on the way home can attest to Sharon’s sincere appreciation of said wines.
Marcia’s Theory Though Marcia was nursing a sprained ankle or torn ligament or some as yet undiagnosed condition in her leg, she was happy to put her leg below her heart when the array of cheeses and crackers were presented. Marcia is convinced that the spectacular nature of the evening was achieved by a cheese board that could span the short gap between tables and the gap between wine and an empty stomach. Marcia also theorized that Sharon should have had more crackers.
Karen’s Theory Karen speculated that the overwhelming success of the evening was due at least, in part, to the camaraderie from this hand picked group of women. She suggested that this was no Glencoe book club with women arguing over the Iliad.
Linda’s Theory Linda proposed that she didn’t like the book as much as others because her life is very linear and the book’s narrative was not at all linear. When the main course was presented, however, Linda proposed that the root of Chris’ hostessing prowess was the asparagus — something to which Linda could fully relate — fixed, determinate and precise.
Ro’s Theory As Ro repeatedly advised Linda, LIFE is not linear.  Sometimes life is about making asparagus with hollandaise sauce when you have to make the hollandaise over a campfire as Ro did when she hosted Lonesome Dove. Ro opined that the success of the evening was in the hollandaise sauce.
Melissa’s Theory Because Melissa recently hosted a Royal Wedding, she put forward the position that the success of any event is in food well prepared, in this case salmon well poached. Also due to her connections to royalty, she briefly worried whether the salmon had been poached from crown land, a territorial area where the water and its contents belong to the monarch.
Teresa’s Theory Teresa considered a number of theories to explain the evening’s success. First Teresa/Petunia considered the charm granted the evening by the assigned flower names in the lovely garden setting, then she considered the theory of relativity, but discarded that because no one in book club can strictly be considered a relative. Finally she concluded that the cumin/dill and all those other things sauce for the salmon was the force that pushed the evening’s rating from Incroyable to You’ve Got to be F**king Kidding Me. Please excuse the French rating scale.
Geri’s Theory It’s possible that Geri’s conjecture was not so much a theory as it was a ploy to have remainder of the Greek Watermelon salad sent home with her, but she put her money on the salad as the source of the evening’s triumph and it worked for her.
Susan’s Theory Susan was politely supportive of others’ theories, but felt that the kitchen glass ceiling had clearly been shattered by the cheese pie and strawberry dessert. Her second helping though tiny was her testimonial. 
Archie the dog’s Theory No one mentioned the bread. That looked great. I’ll have the rest of that.

OK gals, it’s late, that’s all I’ve got. Thank you so much, Chris, it was all delish!!!
Next month’s meeting, set so that all are able to attend is July 24 at Marcia’s in Tennessee.  Please be advised the book will be sad as it warns us there is A Death in the Family. We can hope it was a distant cousin, like the one who annoys us so terribly on Facebook.
Fondly, Teresa

This was my response to the book:  This is one of the books that makes me wish I had better writing skills in order to discuss my reaction to it. First, I love the way the narrative is shaped, the writing is exquisite, and there were so many little thought discoveries along the way. At the conclusion, however, I wasn’t sure where it had taken me. I took a vacation, I had a lovely time, I’m not sure where I went.
One moment that I found so resonant was Mrs. Flett’s theory regarding her depression/nervous breakdown:
“You think she’d be scared to death by the state she’s in, but she’s not. Her hair’s matted, her fingernails broken, her house plants withered, her day-to-day life smashed, but sleeping inside her like a small burrowing creature is the certainty that she’ll recover.”
I’m not sure that during my serious bouts with anxiety, that I was always certain I’d recover, but there was a well of some kind that could be tapped often enough to keep pushing on. With all the tragic events in the news of persons choosing to end their own lives, one wishes they could have felt their problems temporary and surmountable.