`A Woman in Amber' is the choice

Book club

October 11, 2001

An interview with Donna Lyman, a member of Whetstone Women's Book Group.

Where does the title "Whetstone" come from? It's the name of our street. It's an old street in Columbia, and the neighborhood is old, and it has a mixture of new and old residents. ... For Christmas, the women get together and have a cookie exchange, and the book club grew out of a conversation at the cookie exchange.

What book are members reading this month? This month, we're reading Agate Nesaule's book, A Woman in Amber.

How did you pick that book? We chose that because one of the women from the club is from Latvia, and this is about a woman who is exiled in America after World War II. She is a Latvian woman who is in exile ... and this is, I think, about the third woman's biography that we have read. We read Katherine Graham's autobiography [Personal History] and Adeline Yen Mah's Falling Leaves. ... It sounds sexist, but these are books that appeal to women. We like to read about our own lives. We like to share things about our own lives, and these are women that are sharing their lives on paper. ...

Personally, I like a book that has a particular insight into life. But we all read for different reasons. We have a woman who reads more for enjoyment. She likes books with more hope, more uplifting characters.

How many members are in your club? We have around eight to 10 who usually come. We've had as few as five and as many as 20, and the one that was 20 was Angela's Ashes [by Frank McCourt]. That seemed to bring people out of the woodwork.

Do you know why? It seemed that the timing was good ... and that anybody who ever read that book has an emotional response, whether it was that [the author's] humor could carry him through such a dark time, or the disbelief that a child could remember all the details he remembered [from his childhood]. It was very distressful.

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