Having just seen the film “Book Club” with my book club last night, I remain lost in the reminiscence of the company of good friends. This reminds me that the best book clubs do more than challenge us to stretch ourselves as readers (who hasn’t persevered through a tome we are most definitely NOT enjoying, or experienced the joy of a book we would never have selected had it not been assigned at book club?). One of my book clubs has fallen happenstance into field trips. My imagination running away, I began to curate a list of places we have or will have visited by the time you, dear reader, pick up your newspaper to see what the Westerly Library reference staff is up to.
Read any (or all!) of Mark Twain’s masterpieces, and then head off to Hartford, Conn., for a tour of his magnificent American High Gothic style home. You could continue to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Home to see where the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” lived. She was also a supporter of the Wadsworth Athenaeum, a premier gem of American art museums.
Fans of historical fiction will be mesmerized by Caroline Ferriday’s lilacs at the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden. Miss Ferriday worked tirelessly during World War II providing assistance to French war orphans, and then to provide medical help and restitution for the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp survivors. Martha Hall Kelly’s novel “Lilac Girls” chronicles her efforts. Tours of this Bethlehem, Conn, home and garden are available May through October!
Head off to New York state for a visit to Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown New York after reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” by Washington Irving, or any other text by this prolific American author. You can visit his grave and homestead, perhaps during this spooky Halloween season!
Move on south to New York City. While there are so many options regarding books set in the Big Apple, consider these more recent efforts by contemporary authors: Stop into the dysfunctional Plumb family’s favorite lunch haunt, The Oyster Bar, described by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney in “The Nest.” Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view “Christiana’s World,” a lovely painting by Andrew Wyeth (her story is told by Christina Baker Kline in “A Piece of the World”). You might just pass by the former Barbizon Hotel or The Dakota (John Lennon’s former residence), the settings of Fiona Davis’s “The Doll House” and “The Address,” respectively.
After reading “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer, spend an afternoon paying homage to those lost in one of America’s greatest catastrophes at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. For me, the most moving part is the art installation of blue tiles, each one a different shade for every life lost in both the 1993 and 2001 attacks.
Just as every novel begins with a real or imagined event, person, or thing, so too can our field trips enrich our friendships while cultivating our intellectual and artistic palates.
Marilyn Russo is a reference associate at the Westerly Library.