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An afternoon with the Bay Village Book Club

Posted by Laura Gomez  March 13, 2013 05:18 PM

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Alex Parker for Boston.com

Four of the members of the Bay Village Book Club — Barbara Gaffney, Judy Komarow, Mary-Beth Carney and Raeleen Yoon — at the group’s most recent meeting.

Not every neighborhood has its own book club. But after issuing a neighborhood activity survey, Mary-Beth Carney, the membership coordinator for the Bay Village Neighborhood Association, discovered that is exactly what her neighbors wanted. From this the Bay Village Book Club — and a neighborhood walking club — was born.

“We walk for beer, which means we don’t even walk,” Carney said the walking club takes walks for exercise and sometimes to go get a beer. “Occasionally,” she admitted, “we just walk to get beer.”

The Bay Village Book Club has since been going strong for about two years and meets one Tuesday each month to discuss its read of the month.

“What my brother really thought was interesting was how we choose our books based on nobody really knowing anything,” Carney said to the laughter of the group.

The group of five women gathered a few weeks ago around an intimate family style table at the Rustic Kitchen on Stuart Street, sharing drinks, a meal and talk about the book of their choice for the month, The Sun Also Rises.

The group’s reading selections range from the classics to contemporary best-sellers. Books are chosen by voting on selections provided by its members. “We sort of just throw it out there and then we kind of try to vote…we try not to pick a book that one of us has read,” said Raeleen Yoon, the club’s coordinator.

One book proposed for the next month was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a novel about the life of a sixteen 16-year-old cancer patient.

“I don’t want the cancer one — sounds a little too hokey for me. I need it more gutsy, more realistic,” said club member Barbara Gaffney.

“This is what usually happens,” Yoon said, chuckling. “You see the process — we usually pick a book, Barbara usually kills it. Nine times out of ten Barbara says no.”

“You can out-rule me,” Gaffney piped up. “You can easily say, ‘Barbara you have no idea what you’re talking about.’”

Carney, a resident of Bay Village for seven and half years, founded the book club. Through the use of the neighborhood survey, Carney has organized several activities for residents of the neighborhood.

“That’s been my big contribution,” Carney said. “I was trying to get a lot of things up and running, and I’ve done a few things and I needed to pass things on.”

Carney has since passed on the responsibilities of the book club to Yoon, who is a stay-at-home mom in the process of starting her own company, RaeFoods.

“It has been a lot of fun. I’ve gotten to know the neighbors through this,” said Yoon.

Gaffney said, “Most of the people here are readers. We all read a lot so this is only one book that I’ll be reading during the month, it’s the one book that I can discuss.”

The goals behind the group are really not in what they are reading, but the fun they have in the process.

“We read a lot of local things, really,” said club member Judy Komarow. Earlier, the group read historian Stephen Puleo’s A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850-1900.

About 10 to 12 Bay Village residents come to the book club’s monthly meetings, but the group is open to anyone. Meeting times are posted on the neighborhood’s website.

“For a long time we met at Erbaluce. We just wanted to just change it up a little bit…this is the first time we’re coming here” Yoon said of Rustic Kitchen.

“And we’ve met at a couple people’s houses, too,” Komarow said. “I think it’s the most regular, fun thing in the neighborhood.”

The book club has brought together long-time residents such as Laureen Schmitt, who has lived in Bay Village for 40 years, and Yoon, the group’s leader, who is the group’s newest neighborhood resident. The book club has even branched out into unofficial neighborhood outings.

“The other thing we kind of do is go to McCormick’s,” Carney said. “Almost every Friday night just about.”

“That has nothing to do with the book club though — it has to do with people drinking” Gaffney said to a round of laughter.

“You get closer to your neighbors and you get to know more people. And now when I go on vacation I can ask any of these women to keep an eyen on my house and give them a key,” said Yoon. “I think the book club has been very successful. I’ve gotten to know a lot of these women over the book club. It’s been fun.”

The Bay Village Book Club will be meeting on March 26, 2013 at the Rustic Kitchen to discuss Brad Meltzer’s Washington, D.C.-based thriller The Fifth Assassin.

We asked five members of the Bay Village Book Club for their recommendations on what to read. The member all chose novels.

Mary-Beth Carney: All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

Barbara Gaffney: No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

Judy Komarow: The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

Laureen Schmitt: The Winds of War, Herman Wouk

Raeleen Yoon: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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