THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST, by Ann Hood, crept up on me. I snuck it in between books. Glad I did.
Book clubs. They truly are ubiquitous nowadays. And that’s such a good thing. The book club in this novel consists of twelve readers.
Ava has been having a bad year. Her husband of 25 years has left her for a bimbo. She’s reeling from the blow. Meanwhile, her two adult kids are living and studying far away in foreign lands. Maggie is in Florence, Italy, “doing” the art thing. Will is in Africa doing his nature thing. That leaves Ava all alone with her angst. She is totally at loose ends. She is ecstatic when her librarian friend tells her there’s an opening in the book club. She joins thinking this is the answer. And because she’s truly desperate.
Ava lost both her mother and her younger sister when she was just a child. She’s been living with guilt since that tragic time. She’s not the only one. It seems several people have also been living with guilt over this incident. Who was to blame? Any of them?
Told in the alternating voices of Ava and her daughter Maggie, the novel moves from France to Providence, Rhode Island. We get a peek into Ava’s childhood, and then we dig deeply into Maggie’s descent into the horrifying world of drugs and alcohol. You see, Maggie is supposed to be studying in Florence, Italy. But she up and leaves there to follow a guy and goes to Paris. Then the downward spiral truly begins as she meets an older man who feeds her the drugs she so craves while keeping her ensconced in an apartment as his concubine. Oh boy.
Meanwhile, back in Providence, in the bookclub world, Ava chooses as the book that matters most to her a little book given to her after the death of her sister and mother: FROM CLARE TO HERE. She tells the bookclub that she is going to have the author come speak to them when it’s her month… But she is not able to find the author and wonders if the author has died.
The novel is filled with moments of love, tons of loss, and secrets galore. Always secrets. The scenes in Paris will quickly draw you into that world. And the quirky cluttered bookshop in the hip Marais section of the city with the purple sign will warm your heart. Even the crone-like woman who runs the place will endear. Ganymede’s Books will have you wanting to pack your bags and board the next plane to gay Paris.
Ann Hood is the best-selling author of THE KNITTING CIRCLE, THE RED THREAD, THE OBITUARY WRITER, and AN ITALIAN WIFE. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
I just happened to get this one from our local library so I am not indebted to a single soul:) I really enjoyed it.