The Name: The Memoir Club
The Writer: Laura Kalpakian
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2004
The Memoir Club starts off on a well-beaten literary path: several women from different walks of life each sign up for a class, in this case a Write Your Own Memoir night class. Their reasons are fairly atypical – they all want to write a memoir about their lives to try and answer a significant question about their lives and their identity. Despite their abrasive and unsympathetic teacher, once the class is over, the women each decide to continue with the class in their own time, and hence The Memoir Club is born.
Initially focusing on Caryn, who has survived an horrific tragedy, and her friend Nell who signs them both up to the club as a means of therapy for Caryn, Kalpakian widens the focus to four other women, Rusty, Sarah Jane, Francine and Jill as they read the chapters they have written each Wednesday night to the group. The audience is immersed in each woman’s story quickly as their day to day lives become intertwined with the other members of the club, and the story strongly echoes The Jane Austen Book Club, dealing with a particular character in each chapter of the novel.
The relationships forged by these women is not quite involved enough for the audience – while the characters in The Jane Austen Bookclub became fast friends, the women in this book seem to land in each other’s lives accidentally, and the inclusion of several sub characters seems almost too convenient for the plotline. Still, Kalpakian has made a valiant attempt at connecting the women for the purpose of supporting each other as they tackle the questions their Memoir Club teacher forces them to address and the book is a fairly engrossing, quick read. Fans of similarly styled chick lit novels will enjoy getting to know each of the women and watching the subsequent drama unfold as the characters get to know each other outside of the classroom.
In a word: Likeable