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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Local Book Club Marks 27 Years, 200 Meetings

“Between the Wines” book club members at their 200th meeting. Front row, from left: Nancy Fire, Stephanie Marra, and Emily Ellen. Back row, from left: Eileen Stetter, Tracy O’Leary, Elaine Lannigan, Elaine Mason, and Elaine McCarthy. Missing: Joan Reale.

By Grace Allen
A Norfolk-based book club marked a significant anniversary in May: the group held its 200th meeting. 
The “Between the Wines” book club has been gathering for 27 years now, a tribute to a love of books and friendship. Formed in 1997, the club has continued through the ups and down of life, a world-wide pandemic, and even members moving out of town. 
According to Nancy Fire, one of the founders of the club, a love of reading is just one of the commonalities that drew the members together.
“We have raised our children together, we have lived our lives together, and we know so much about one another and we’re so close at this point,” said Fire. “When my children were young, unless someone’s arm was hanging off, they knew I was going to book club. Because I was a stay-at-home mother at the time, and the one thing I was bound and determined to make sure I went to was book club.”
Reading, however, is the primary purpose of the group, emphasizes Fire.
“This is a group of readers,” she said. “One of the great things about book club is that it really prompts you to read books you wouldn’t normally select on your own. Most of us have a favorite genre, but a book club encourages you to read outside that comfort zone. Even if some of us might not love a book, we still tend to have really great discussions about it.”
Eileen Stetter, a member since 2005, serves as the club’s informal president and helps keep track of all the books the club members have read. While the list is helpful, it’s often the discussions around a book that help cement it in the members’ minds. 
“I love being able to talk to people about a book I’ve read,” said Stetter. “Because otherwise you close the book when you’re done with it and you move on.”
The first book the club ever read was “Midwives” by Chris Bohjalian. Both Fire and Stetter agree the club’s favorite book was “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant because it often comes up in group discussions, even years later. “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson has the dubious distinction of being the club’s least favorite book, say the women.
The 200th book was “The Frozen River” by Ariel Lawhon.
The club, which currently has nine members, has few rules. The meetings rotate between members’ homes, and the hostess, who picks the book under discussion, provides food and drink. The hostess raises discussion points, but the night generally evolves organically, said Stetter.
“The first hour may be socializing and catching up, because we genuinely like each other,” she said. “But then we launch into talking about the book. It’s both a celebration of friendship and intellectual curiosity.”
In 1997, the book club numbered around 12 women, some of whom have moved away yet still return for book club, at least occasionally. Even the women who no longer are part of the group are acknowledged for helping establish the club, noted Fire.
“There were people who were members for 20 years,” she said. “They were an integral part of this group, and we all look fondly upon every former member.”
An appreciation of others’ opinions, and a willingness to respectfully listen as to why members connect or don’t connect to a book, is often the key to success for a book club. Because many of them do fail or fade away. It seems Norfolk’s “Between the Wines” book club has found the secret sauce to success. 
“The longevity is because of the relationships,” said Fire. “This is the most incredibly supportive, wonderful group of women. Everybody cares about one another. When we started, one member was pregnant with her first child. And now we’ve evolved to members with grandchildren. It’s just a testament to time, as well as a love of books.”