David versus Goliath

When I self-published The Gift of Samuel: Grey Dawn, I had put all of my emotions, dreams, ideas, philosophies, doubts, and opinions into a three-hundred-fifty-four-page fictional story for all to see. Surely, there was nothing I could do that would be more terrifying. Then I received a text message that showed me how wrong I was in that notion.

“Are you still coming to our book club meeting this Friday?” It was my friend and neighbor, Jen, who had graciously suggested The Gift of Samuel to her book club. “BTW, we read your book and another book, so we’ll be discussing both books on Friday.” I told Jen to count me in and asked her for the title of the other book so I could do some research, see what kind of competition I was up against.

“Never in my life have I read a book so well written,” was the first review I encountered. It was a New York Times bestseller, with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, with over sixty-seven-thousand reviews.  Suddenly, I regretted confirming I would go to the book club before investigating this other book. My competition was a Goliath, and I was petrified.

When I arrived at Jen’s book club, I was greeted by Christine, our evening’s friendly and generous hostess. As I walked into the kitchen where the other nine book club members were gathered, my attention turned to Jen and I bee-lined for the safety of a familiar face to calm my nerves.

Jen gave me a hug and, just then, I heard the unmistakable sound of hands clapping. It was short and my back was turned, so I have no idea if it was just one person or a few, but the sound was distinct. I never asked who clapped, but it was deeply appreciated; without saying a word, I knew I had at least one reader in the group who liked my book.

We gathered in the basement to discuss the two novels, my competition up first. Goliath came out strong, with many of the club members agreeing that it was an excellent book – a page turner, captivating. To my surprise, as the group got into deeper questions, the comments began to shift.

“It definitely kept my attention,” Jen’s sister, Kate, shared. “However, when I finish a book, I want to know what the author’s purpose was for writing it. I could not figure out the purpose of this book.” Curious. Goliath suddenly had a weakness.

“Would you recommend it?” I inquired.

“I would, but only because it’s disturbingly interesting. Whoever I was recommending the book to, I would let them know that it’s disturbingly interesting and that’s the only reason I’m recommending it.”

Given my motive for writing The Gift of Samuel, and Kate’s comment relating to the importance of knowing an author’s purpose for writing a book, I jumped right into the theme question when it was my book’s turn.

“What was the theme of The Gift of Samuel?” I humbly asked the group. The responses came fast and were plentiful.

“Life…Forgiveness…No judgment…No one is perfect…Hope!”

We were off to an excellent start. Might as well get the hard stuff out of the way now, I figured.

“What were the novel’s weaknesses? Please, be honest.” I said.

“You need to re-do the back cover. It doesn’t do the book justice,” Jen’s daughter, Maggie, replied. “This is a great book. You need a great back cover.” Christine voiced that the book was too spiritually driven at times, while Pat thought the ending was too abrupt; she felt there was more story to tell.

“What were the novel’s strengths?” I asked. The responses left me humbled.

“Extremely well written…fantastic story…excellent characters…felt hope at the end…great visual descriptions…unpredictable…engaging.”

From there, we launched into over an hour and a half of deep, nonjudgmental, and respectable conversation, on many sticky subjects, from politics to religion to race…all the things that I hope people will talk about after reading my book, without having to attack and insult each other.

When it was time to wrap things up, I asked my final question, “would you recommend The Gift of Samuel?” The response was a resounding and unanimous, “ABSOLUTELY!”

Driving home, I thought of the fear that had coursed through me before attending the meeting. It was all for nothing. Had I given into my fear and avoided the book club and Goliath, I never would have had such a wonderful experience.

Thank you, Jen, Maggie, Mary, Kate, Megan, Lireen, Joyce, Christine, Patty, and Pat, for an incredible evening. Thank you for reading my book with open minds and open hearts. Most of all, thank you for reminding me that you should never give in to your fears, because faith, hope and love always triumph in the end.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” – John Lennon