December, 2018: Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

(Book #104) In a quick and easy change of plans, I hosted the December meeting. As is tradition, everyone brought cookies to swap, but this year each of the girls brought an appetizer or wine or BOTH and we ate small bites while balancing little Christmas plates in our lap in the living room by the glow of the tree. We filled our plates once, got cozy, talked, then paused our discussion to fill the plates a second time.

Though the book was overshadowed by the appetizers and the cookies, we did find time to talk about it. Most of us agreed that we loved the book’s opening — the telling and retelling of how the parents met — what a lovely story it is and how dear it is that all the children take part in retelling it. Another aspect on which we seemed to agree was that the book began to lose our interest once in Europe and it wasn’t because of (SPOILER ALERT) what happens to the family on the flight over. That was beautifully written for quite significant impact. The sad circumstance of the new hotel and its occupants knocked previous optimism out of the story, but we did appreciate the way in which the characters rose up to a level of heroism at the end of their time in Vienna. We discussed Irving’s recurring motifs and how It would seem that some of those subjects might be limited to one appearance only: the dressmaker’s dummy in A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Hotel New Hampshire; the bear in Last Night in Twisted River and The Hotel New Hampshire; and vehicular fellatio in The World According to Garp and Last Night in Twisted River.  

After discussing Hotel New Hampshire each of us talked about our top three faves of the books we read this year. High on most of our lists, to our great surprise, was Lonesome Dove. Rosalie didn’t even want to read it but had to because she was hosting and found that she was thoroughly taken in. We joked about how our enjoyment ended after April because the other books on our lists of favorites were January’s To The Bright Edge of the World, February’s Housekeeping and March’s Animal Dreams. Honorable mentions went to The Stone Diaries, True North and John Henry Days. (I’m going to be better about taking notes this year because I’m trying to remember this from a distance of two months!)

I gave the girls their 2018 Christmas ornaments — maps of our paths across the US with rhinestones for each of our stops and a silver star for the state in which we hosted. It’s packed in the bin of Christmas ornaments in the cold, cold garage, so no picture of it today.

We traded our dozens and dozens of cookies and went on our way to our own holiday festivities. What wonderful appetizers, cookies, books, and friends! Aren’t we lucky? Merry Christmas, Teresa