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The Grimes Public Library Book Club met this month to discuss the book Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy . The book is a memoir of Lucy as a child, when she was diagnosed with cancer in her jaw, and the following years of surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and reconstructive surgeries.
Reviews of the book among the book club members varied wildly. Some thought it was a, “really big downer of a book.” While others came in with detailed notes exclaiming, “WOW!” Part of the reason for the wide range of opinions might have to do with the subject matter of the book itself. It is difficult to pass judgment on whether something is “good” or “bad” when the writing is about someone with cancer. Remaining objective about the author’s writing proved challenging for the group who had to look past the trauma of the book as well as personal experiences on the topic.
There were several highlights during the discussion as the group reviewed the book. One such point was when the author was in the hospital before her first surgery. There was a dollhouse in the playroom encased in glass, intricate in detail, and large in scale. No one was ever allowed to play with it, nor did anyone besides the newest child to the hospital ever pay attention to it. We discussed what this dollhouse and everyone’s relationship to it might mean to the author. Other highlights included Lucy’s relationship with her parents, and how much of the memoir should be taken as what truly happened.
In the afterword, written by a friend, it is expressed that Lucy wanted to be taken seriously as an author. She wanted readers to be less concerned about the number of surgeries she had and instead focus on her talent as a writer. Lucy wanted her writing to be taken seriously. By taking into account the author’s wishes to be seen as a serious writer and trying to look at the book in this way, the group paid homage to Lucy’s wishes.
Please join us for our next book, July 5 at 6pm. We will be discussing The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, about the American Olympic rowing team of 1936. Book club members who have already read it, have said, “It is a great book, trust me!” We hope to see you there!