For a couple years now, a group of friends in and around the little town of Springport, Indiana, just south of Muncie, gather monthly.
They discuss the book they just read and preview the next selection. Sometimes, they read classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or East of Eden. Other times, they choose a popular favorite, maybe Fried Green Tomatoes. They’ve also read The Longest Ride, The Midwife of Hope River, The Secret Keeper, The Forgotten Garden, and The Help.
Occasionally, they’ll enjoy a movie night when a film has been made from one of the books they’ve enjoyed. They’ve read many books, and I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the titles they rattled off at their discussion Monday night.
But I didn’t need to write down two of their titles: mine.
Reader leader is Nancy Richey, and she suggested my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast. Would I attend the discussion? And by the way, they were going to have a dinner featuring recipes from my new book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
If all that wasn’t enough, there was more. They would read my second book for July.
I could hardly wait to get there after my newspaper work day was done. I was not disappointed as I pulled up to Pat Yapp’s beautiful Victorian on Main Street. I could tell I had arrived when I spotted ladies carrying in food.
The roster includes, along with Nancy and Pat, members Rosalie Sampley, Susan Williamson, Janice Ritchie, Sue Jester, Sally Burch, Teresa Allen and Glenna Divine.
We gathered on the back deck and gazebo under towering trees and over a lawn filled with two fish ponds and multiple gardens, including a clever fairy garden. There, we dined from real china at beautiful place settings. The ladies had prepared the chicken and macaroni salads and the Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie from the new book.
It’s a unique situation, for sure, to be served the very recipes you selected and tested for your own book. What is proper etiquette for such a situation? Do I say everything is delicious and compliment the chefs and baker? Well, everything was delicious!
But my favorite part was yet to come. After I gave a brief overview of the first book and previewed the new one, I heard the readers’ impressions and fielded their questions. While that was fun, it still wasn’t the very best part. That would center on how these readers related to the topic of returning to their roots, because several of them had done just that. Some were originally from Springport, lived interesting lives elsewhere, and returned to the place of their roots.
We discussed the pull of those roots and how we are drawn to home, and when we are home, back in the communities where we began, all around we see scenes from our past, a continuous slide show of ourselves in our youth. Over there is the school. Look that way and it’s where you lived as a kid. Look up the street and there’s your church. Scenes from one’s life remain, ongoing, unchanged, memories looping through our minds.
I will never stop being fascinated with the idea of returning home. Is it odd to be homesick for the place of my own roots? Judging from these women, it is not odd. It is what inspired me to write both novels. I don’t know if it will ever become my reality, the residential home-going to that sweet land of Liberty, Indiana. But on Monday night, I watched as these ladies live out that dream in their own sweet place. And live it well.
Yes, it was a lovely Monday evening in Springport, Indiana.