West Milford book worms

| 26 Jul 2012 | 12:31

WEST MILFORD — The club started 25 years ago after West Milford resident Madonna Hayes paid a visit to her daughter’s home in Buffalo, N.Y. It so happened that her daughter’s book club met during her visit and Hayes enjoyed it so much she brought the idea home. From there all it took was a few phone calls to friends and neighbors. A quarter of a century and approximately 300 books later, “Broader Horizons” book club is still going strong. The group is currently maxed out at 14 members, a comfortable amount of readers to keep the discussions lively and manageable. Each member takes a turn hosting the meeting and selecting the book of the month. While the member who chooses the book is charged with preparing some talking points – in case the discussion falters – the hostess of the month takes care of the refreshments. Some of the ladies have become creative, electing to serve foods that tie in to the location or era of the book they are currently reading. While most members are in their 50s and 60s, Hayes has the distinction of being the oldest member of the club at 71 years of age. She values the time the ladies spend together. “I met women that normally I may never have known,” Hayes said. She made the point that once a mother’s children are grown, a women’s ability to meet new people and make new friends decreases significantly. This group enjoys the camaraderie so much that they now take long weekends together in Vermont and Williamsburg, Va. Shopping, touring and enjoying the great outdoors together, there’s also a lot of conversation over the weekend. That’s just a nice way of saying “gabbing.” Seriously, put 14 women friends together and, book club or not, it’s not going to sound like the library. Hayes, who has been an avid reader since childhood, feels the club has surely broadened her horizons, challenging her to read books she never would have chosen herself. They read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, from medieval novels to spy dramas, history and classics to an occasional love story. The club has also altered the way she reads a book. “Years ago, I’d pick up a book, enjoy it then pick up another. Now I’m more in tune with the characters and the author’s development of the story and sometimes I make notes on something I want to bring up at the meeting,” Hayes said. While the discussion at club meetings is free-flowing, the person who chose the book comes armed with author information, positive and negative reviews of the book and a list of questions, should they be needed. Sometimes one person may get more out of a book than others. “We read one book that I didn’t get at all. Another woman got into all the symbolism and different messages. I thought ‘wow, that went right over my head’,” Hayes said. What happens if a member just couldn’t get the book finished during the month? “That has happened. We just tell them to go out in the kitchen because we’re going to discuss the ending,” Hayes said. It seems the club has very few rules other than to just enjoy yourself and don’t choose a best seller because it may not be readily available at the library for all the members, although many of the ladies now take advantage of advancing technology and use electronic readers. How creative the hostess wants to be is up to her. At the meeting following the reading of “The Language of Flowers,” the hostess filled her home with wild flowers she had picked along the roadside. After the reading of “Memoirs of a Geisha,” well, of course there were egg rolls. Reading, learning, enjoying each other’s company, the ladies of “Broader Horizons” look forward to celebrating their 25th anniversary in September. They’ll be going out for a pleasant dinner, they have some discussions planned and just may play an insightful game they learned on one of their weekends away. It’s called “Two Truths and a Lie.” Each person writes down a lie and two truths not widely known about them and the players have to guess who it is. “I have a tattoo. The oldest one in the book club – they never guessed,” Hayes said. Happy anniversary to the members of “Broader Horizons” – keep turning those pages.