—E. M. Forster, in the epigraph to A Room with a View
When the quarantine arrived, I—like many others—worried about the implications.
I have been facilitating book groups for more than 20 years, including the past 3 years for the Maine Humanities Council’s “Let’s Talk About It” program at the Boothbay Harbor Public Library. In 2018, we started with mysteries set in diverse cultures; last year it was a series about Cuba. This year: “Re-Imagining the American Family,” with five different books including graphic novels, poetry, and memoir.
When you bring a group of people together to discuss literature, magic happens: perspectives are shared, worldviews are expanded, friends are made. The willingness to share—and listen—are the hallmarks of a successful book group.
We have had a core group of devoted participants at the Boothbay Harbor Public Library since year one. Subsequently, new people have joined; we have a range of 8 to 15 attendees at any given gathering. Everyone has been unfailingly generous, enthusiastic, and kind. Add the cozy library setting and its topnotch staff, and it is little wonder I love our Boothbay Harbor Public Library reading and discussion program.
That is why—when the shutdown arrived and our program was disrupted—I was crushed. We had only discussed two of the five books! What would become of the community we had built? How could we continue on lockdown?
As it turned out, I need not have worried.
Soon, group members were asking to carry on via Zoom. While not as intimate as being together in the library, our remote sessions have allowed us to continue making connections in the readings and with each other. It seems continuing with our group is vital—as one participant put it, “especially under these current societal limitations.”
We need books and our conversations about them now more than ever. They foster something fundamental to our humanity: to only connect.
—Larissa Vigue Picard
Larissa Vigue Picard has been executive director of Brunswick’s Pejepscot History Center since 2015.