Last night I went to dinner at a dear friend’s house for a book group meeting. It feels important to say out loud that I LOVE this book group. I love how curious and interesting and funny and engaged and smart as whips the women are. I love that we have hearty appetites–for food and conversation and human connection. These women are each spectacular in their own right, and we have individual relationships with each other, but part of what I love so much–what I value so much–is that it also feels like a collective, an entity with a life and history and future. I love that I still feel like a version of a newcomer over a decade and a half in because a version of this group started meeting something like three decades ago.
It was in the context of a discussion about the book we had gathered to discuss, James McBride’s The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, that I started to get a handle on this last bit about what I love about this group. McBride writes a fantastic read, generally, and this book is no exception. His characters, of which there are a huge colorful jumble, are vividly drawn and evocatively named. Everyone at the table enjoyed the book and found it delightful and easy to get drawn into. One observation was that the characters, while incredible, didn’t get developed much. Same thing with a fair number of plot points and plotlines which, instead of carrying through were just left, bits and pieces of details and stories scattered across the narrative landscape. There was a sense that maybe the project fell short in this respect; everyone loved the characters and storylines and wanted to know more and in general we expect fiction to take us deeply inside other people and their experience. It took me the course of the dinner to realize that this lack of fleshing out of individuals and storylines allowed the focus to be on what I most loved about the book. For me, it was a deeply affecting and inspiring portrayal of a community, filled with all sorts of humans and all sorts of stories messily bumping into each other, sometimes taking each other up, sometimes not but always in the process of texturing, both individual and collective landscapes.
To be awash in the varied humanity of community feels like a balm. I love it in my book group, I loved it in McBride’s book, and I love it in Urban Pharm. Sending so much gratitude and love to all of you who contribute the special sauce of you to Urban Pharm.