Posted by: Kaite Stover
Recently I was asked to guest facilitate at a workplace book group. Now, these book groups are not unusual in and of themselves. There are many coworkers who like to gather over lunch and discuss books. Sometimes they even all discuss the same book.
But the folks in the Social Workers Department of a local hospital thought they would make a book discussion the focus of an in-service meeting. They chose a title that had a subject matter everyone could identify with, created discussion topics and then invited a guest facilitator to lead the discussion so all the social workers could participate.
I was honored to be the facilitator for this insightful, witty, and caring group of professionals. The book they chose to discuss was Jennifer Haigh’s The Condition.
This novel follows a family from the mid-70s to the late 1990s. Their seemingly idyllic existence disintegrates when Frank, a devoted scientist and father (in that order) discovers his beloved only daughter, Gwen, has Turner Syndrome. Socially rigid mother, Paulette, refuses to allow this tragedy to disrupt appearances and older brother, Billy, tries desperately to attain the perfection he feels his parents need. Younger brother, Scotty, suffering from an undiagnosed condition of his own, acts out in order to garner the attention he is sorely lacking.
Participants enjoyed pointing out the various “conditions” of the family members and decided, in the end, that Gwen’s condition was the least of the family’s concerns and the only medical or health-related issue that was not interfering with the ability to live a normal and productive life.
The social workers paid particular attention to the social, economic, and clinical issues present in the book and had no trouble relating the behaviors of the novel’s family with the behaviors of families they interacted with on a daily basis.
It was very interesting for me to listen to many readers discuss a book in the context of their work. The participants enjoyed it as well and other titles they are considering for future discussions are Handle With Care and My Sisters’ Keeper, both by Jodi Picoult, and The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.