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BookTalk October 2011
BookTalk: Virtual book group recommends "The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar
"The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar sparked a great discussion for Terri McNeil's virtual book group.

Terri McNeil's virtual book group started with her sister when they lived in different states as an intentional way to connect with each other. Soon McNeil's roommate and another friend joined in. They meet up every couple of months via Skype and phone, and sometimes, in person.

What makes your group work?
We already had friendships and all loved similar books. It actually began with a conversation about how much we loved "Cold Sassy Tree" by Olive Ann Burns, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee and "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. We had informally passed fiction to each other. Since we are all originally southerners, it seems like our favorites are set in the South.

When the Oprah/New Earth book phenomena started, we committed to watching the webcast and reading a chapter and then connecting via Skype. At one point everyone was in Minnesota so we met and connected deeply about our common experiences. It worked so well that we decided to have a more coordinated effort in reading fiction.

What book by a woman recently sparked a great discussion?
"The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar. We could relate to the pain, but it was also an opening to another culture and the clash in that culture. Set in Bombay (Mumbai), India, the story examines the distance and the intimacy between an upper-middle-class woman and her servant and their 20-year relationship. Most of us in the group had traveled quite a bit internationally, so it is interesting to share our own experiences, too.

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What questions have you discovered that incite the best discussion?
We really enjoy looking at why characters make the choices they do. What moves them to make changes or decide that what they are doing is good? Many times we talk about how women struggle in their relationships with their children and life partners and how that is similar or different from our own lives since we are all in the 55 to 65 age range.

How do you decide what to read?
We usually do a book list via email developed through word of mouth, Oprah, the Minnesota Women's Press and Minnesota Public Radio.

Tell us about your book group! 
For a list of questions to answer go to www.womenspress.com, choose AboutUs from the menu, then Writers' Guidelines, and then write to editor@womenspress.com.

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