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The Binding by Bridget Collins

By Shawn Thrasher

If you are lucky enough to be in a book club, may I suggest you give The Binding by Bridget Collins a try? I think your club will find that this historical fantasy causes enthusiastic discussion.

A short synopsis: As his name suggests, Emmett Farmer thinks his life will be one of toil on the land. But after a bout of debilitating mental illness, a strange request comes:  he is to become apprentice to an old woman who some in their small rural community accuse of being a witch. Unwilling at first, Emmett comes to respect, appreciate, and finally relish his new life.  But then tragedy strikes, and Emmett is thrust into a world beyond farms and cottages, in which he must learn to trust both others and more importantly himself.

I don’t want to say much more about the plot because is there anyone a reader hates more than a spoiler?  (I will admit – when I was in seventh grade, I used to read the last page of Agatha Christie books, because I just couldn’t wait to see “whodunnit.”  As an adult, I still want to do this – but I’ve been able to fight this urge.) So don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil The Binding for you.  Read it yourself if you want to see what happens to Emmett Farmer. What I want to talk about  is your book club.

You are always looking for that next firecracker book, the book that sets off explosions of discussions. If your book club is like my book club, the worst books are the books everyone likes. Universal love sounds great on paper – but in reality, it makes for sort of a boring book club discussion; a few minutes gushing about the book, and then everyone turns to the latest  greatest Netflix show or Trump’s tweets.

Book clubbers need some meat to chew on, some points to get people talking over all that white wine and cheese. Not too much meat, of course; nobody wants a book that sparks a book club apocalypse. But a book that leads to impassioned exchanges of analysis and conversation – that’s the key to a particularly memorable afternoon of book clubbing.

The Binding could be one of those books for your book club. Collins’s characters, plot and setting are wellsprings for debate. Who is Emmett, and why does he act in these ways? What is meaningful about his relationships? Why did Collins create these particular settings?  Why bookbinding? I think, if you choose The Binding for your next pick, an hour or so of lively debate will be the result.

William Morrow/HarperCollins; 9780062838094; $26.99.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Shawn Thrasher is library director for Ontario (Calif.) City Library. He loves to read. It’s easier to list what he does not like to read: angsty fiction, books about abuse, anything too sappily romantic, and books that are full of themselves. He also dabbles in poetry and art.

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