The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

(Book 145) This meeting had a rough time trying to happen. It was Marcia’s first time to host in her new home and as time grew closer to the date, fewer and fewer girls were able to attend. I was the one, in fact, who topped it off by getting Covid after two years and two months of trying not to. I called the three ladies who were left to attend because we all knew Marcia was hoping for an opportunity to entertain all of us in her new place. We knew we didn’t want to discuss May’s book at the same meeting as the June book (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) so it was decided we’d just have two meetings in June — one at the beginning and one at the end. The weather agreed completely and we had a lovely, very handsome (I’ll get to that later) evening in Marcia’s backyard.

I was privy to information prior to the meeting (I mistakenly drove up the night before) that because the book title suggests a mother’s hand is usually the first hand to hold yours, one of Marcia’s appetizers was an homage to her mother’s entertaining in the 60’s. It was crab dip with crackers. The other was a favorite of Marcia’s and her daughters — a tray of cheese, paté and toasts. The appetizers were served with a lovely selection of wines and non-alcoholic coolers. The main course was a quiche that Marcia made gluten-free by using thin ham slices as the crust. It was served with a delicious green salad. Always the best course, in my opinion, was dessert — a flourless chocolate cake topped with a variety of berries and whipped cream — a big beautiful bowl of it!

As we had hoped with the rescheduling, there was a large group of us, only Rosalie and Sharon were missing and that was partially made up for by Melissa bringing a guest, Deanne. When Melissa last visited Deanne, Melissa attended her book club meeting and our schedule rearrangement made it possible for Melissa to return the favor. Our discussion started with the characters. Karen said that she had mixed feelings about Elina because she couldn’t quite buy that Elina’s reaction to motherhood. Both Susan and I, having experienced a form of postpartum felt that Elina’s behavior was easily relatable. Chris added that even without postpartum, Elina’s psychological state was attributable to how close she came to dying after the delivery. Deanne mentioned that as a new mother she often found herself accomplishing the first errand of the day at 4:00! With regard to other characters, Chris felt that Gloria and Margot were too cartoonish: “Gloria was nuts and taught her daughter to be nuts.” Deanne liked Robert and most of us would have chosen Lexie as our favorite character. Marcia felt for Ted after she realized that he had lost a mother suddenly and then almost lost a wife as suddenly.

That brought us to the next topic of when we realized the connection between the two story lines. Both Linda and Susan thought it was going to have something to do with the house Elina and Ted were living in. Many of us said we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the connection and Marcia said she was slow to realize that Ted was Lexie’s and others of us admitted we were slower to realize that Margot was the stepmother.

Linda mentioned that she always wondered about the age that you start to store memories and Melissa added that she’d read it has to do with language acquisition. I always thought my earliest memories were tied to emotions such as my Dad charging into our home and saying “Get down on your knees and pray, your Grandma’s dying.” So it worked for me that Ted started having flashes of memory about his childhood that were likely due to the connection between the loss of his mother and almost losing his wife. Chris told us that while she didn’t care for much of the characterization and had difficulty believing that there could be invaluable paintings stuck in a closet, but she did appreciate O’Farrell’s writing. I agreed with the nod to the writing and added that I’ve enjoyed several of her books. We discussed that she has a new book coming out later this year: The Marriage Portrait.

The Stars: Susan, Marcia and I gave the book 4 stars, Linda and Mary gave it 3.5, Geri, Melissa, Deanne and Karen gave it 3 stars, and the only Russian judge in attendance, Chris gave it 2.5, giving it an average of 3.35.

Now to get to the hand-some part of the evening. I’ve been trying to give a treat of some kind that matches up to the body part in the book title. When I bought the treats for this evening, I had no idea I was buying the very thing that would make Susan’s life make sense. Geri and Susan were both entertaining us with their hands-on reaction to the favor bag contents, but Susan’s comment: “I didn’t know that this was what I’d been waiting for — it took me 67 years!” had me doubled over! Below we have some photo evidence of how the girls delighted me and made Linda a little bit squeamish.

Then the next day I had a communication from Geri’s office:

Susan was at home working on portraits and power settings.

Don’t worry Linda, it will be OK.

Our next meeting will be Thursday, June 30 at Melissa’s to discuss however many pages we were able to read of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Good Luck, Girls!

2 Replies to “The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell”

  1. The photos were darling and the menu sounded absolutely scrumptious! Sorry to miss it but enjoying my Michigan summer

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