In the pocket of secrets that fill our lives, threads fray. While most sew them right up, an unusual few take certain strands and pull them in just the right way that they make what is normally private more public.
Such was the great luck of the Fiction Book Club yesterday when Roland Merullo visited us. That we were fortunate enough to have a few moments with Amanda, wife of, and Alexandra and Juliana, daughters of, was its own gift.
In preparation for our special Saturday session, we read Breakfast with Buddha, the novel of Roland's that's been nominated for the Dublin International Literary Award (and which he's discussing today as the book chosen for its first "Wayland Reads" program). As a bonus book, we also agreed to read his latest, Fidel's Last Days, which most in the group also read and loved.
We asked a lot of questions: Why did he write the book? How did he write it? Does he plot out his novels in advance? Why did the characters do this or that? When did he start writing? What did he do before he wrote and/or when he was waiting for his books to be published? What is he working on now? What in Buddha is real, what imagined?
While I could do a very long post now, jotting down all that Roland said, commenting on it and suchnot, instead I'm just going to report what everyone agreed:
"This is the best book club we've ever had."
And how the two-and-a-half hours with Roland affected us:
It was another four hours before everyone left, during which time we had perhaps our most profound conversation as a group about where we are in our lives and where we're thinking of going.
I doubt that was Roland's intention as he is hardly a person who tries to get others to do things or influence them in ways that seem right to him.
What caused this to happen, I think, is his openness, his "straightforward" way, as one book club member said.
I count myself as extremely fortunate to have met Roland when I did, at a point in my writing career when I needed someone to stand behind me and point in different directions, which is precisely what he's done. Unexpected has been his unstinting generosity, which I've been the beneficiary of in so many ways, including his taking time yesterday to sit with our book club and open us further to possibilities.