What makes a good book-club book?
What kind of story makes women want to set down their wine and seven-layer dip to chew on character development and plot progression and maybe shed a tear or two?
Kathy Patterson of Palm Beach Gardens loves her group of 12 book-clubbers because each chooses books to reflect her personality.
“I love mysteries, some of them like more philosophical books, or books about women,” Patterson says.
Of course, the best book is one that takes them from sharing what’s on the page to sharing their own personal stories.
“A book club is as much about the camaraderie and friendship as the book,” says Patterson, whose favorite selection has been The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, an intrigue-filled story set in World War II.
Author Jacquelyn Mitchard knows something about book clubs. Her first book, The Deep End of the Ocean, was Oprah Winfrey’s first pick for her book club in 1996.
In a short video to promote her new book, Two If By Sea, Mitchard names four key elements that make a good book-club book: An international setting, a male hero who is sympathetic but not wimpy, a child in jeopardy, and sinister forces that can only be overcome by enormous acts of courage.
Two If By Sea happens to have all those elements, she says, in the Simon & Schuster video.
Mitchard will be at the Palm Beach Book Festival on Friday, discussing how women’s fiction has evolved from her early days as Oprah’s chosen author to today.
The editor who helps choose Oprah’s books, Leigh Haber, will appear at the Palm Beach Book Festival on Saturday. She’s moderating a panel about Southern fiction, with authors Kathleen Grissom and Margaret Bradham Thornton.
Grissom’s book The Kitchen House was such a hit with book-clubbers that her publisher, Simon & Schuster, has a special guide — “Everything you need to host the perfect book club meeting” — for the sequel, Glory Over Everything, which comes out today.
She wrote the sequel because fans of her 2010 The Kitchen House became so connected to the characters, she kept being asked, “what happens next?”
Glory Over Everything continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, who passes for white and has a “deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.”
“Any success of The Kitchen House is directly related to the many book clubs that have read and then championed it,” Grissom said. “That, alone, is reason enough for me to love them, but there is more. When speaking to book clubs, I am given the opportunity to discuss the beloved characters from The Kitchen House, something I never tire of. Indeed, many book club members appear to care for them as much as I do. You can imagine how that warms my heart.”
What is the Palm Beach Book Festival? Two days of panels with best-selling authors — including Molly Ringwald, Burt Reynolds, Jackie Mitchard and Gail Sheehy — and book signings and Q&As.
When: Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday panels are dedicated to women’s fiction and the theme of reinvention. Hear from actress and author Molly Ringwald and authors Jacquelyn Mitchard and Dorothea Benton Frank, among others.
Saturday panels include culture and criticism, with Gail Sheehy and other authors, and Burt Reynolds on his memoir of the year. Leigh Haber, book editor of Oprah’s O magazine, will moderate a panel on Southern fiction with authors Kathleen Grissom and Margaret Bradham Thornton.
Where: Friday sessions are at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach; Saturday sessions are at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.
Tickets: Range from $50 to $100 (for VIP perks). Go to palmbeachbookfestival.com