The newest book we are reading for the book club Book Beginnings and Bookends is Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. I do have to say that I was very excited that we were reading this book. At one point it looked like we were going with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I do want to read that book at some point, but I really wanted to read this book, so I am super excited it got picked.
This book is based on the story of 4 girls (Sally, Celia, Bree and April) who are all very different, but became very good friends while attending college together at Smith College (which is a real college by the way; a private liberal arts college for women located in Northampton, Massachusetts) The book is broken up into 2 sections: Spring 2006 and Spring 2007, and we split up the reading based on the 2 parts.
So the first set of questions will be based around part 1. This part bounces back and forth between what is currently happening in the Spring of 2006, which is 4 years from when they graduated, and the girls experiences while attending Smith College, beginning with the first day they met on campus.
Currently, Sally is getting married in the Quad on campus, and the other 3 girls are traveling to Northampton to attend the wedding. Each chapter is based on one of the girls, and you really get to know their personalities and their story. The book is great because it shows how these 4 completely different personalities really rely on each other and become each other’s families.
I haven’t started to read the 2nd section yet, so I really have no idea how the 2nd part is going to relate to the 1st part, but it looks like it is going to take place 1 year from Sally’s wedding. I totally don’t want to ruin the book for anyone, so I’ll leave my description on the book right there.
Questions to Part 1:
1. Which girl do you identify the most with?
It’s funny because I don’t believe I relate to just one character. I think I am a combination of Bree and Sally based on different times in my life. I totally do not relate to April, but I do respect what she is doing for women. I would say that when I went off to college (a long time ago..ha!) I would have totally related to Bree. She seemed to be very naive when she first went off to college, and completely and totally in love with her high school sweetheart, which she finds out later is not the one for her . I feel like that was kind of me at that point in time, naïve, young and stupidly in love.
Right now, I think I relate more to Sally as she is right now. She’s in a relationship, she’s happy and is looking forward to getting married. Her friends can’t relate because they are not in the same place, and Sally sometimes feels guilty that she is so happy. She also struggles between wanting to be a married woman vs what people think she should be which is a strong woman who is going to make a name for herself, not getting married and settling down. I am not getting married, but I am in a relationship, and have a career that is finally taking off. I do want to get married and have a family, but at the same time I do struggle with the decision of what may then happen to my career. Can I have it all? I also have some friends who over the years we have just grown apart and are totally in different places now. It’s hard because I am ready to settle down, and they are still trying to figure themselves out.
2. If you're a college student or graduate, what similarities or differences do you see between this story to your own college experience?
I went to a non-traditional college and lived in an apartment off campus on my own, so unfortunately I didn’t get the traditional college experience of living in dorms. I think I do see similarities of how naïve I was back then, and how much I grew up in college. I do enjoy reading about their college experience because it gives me a little taste of what I missed back then.
3. Which girl do you think has changed the most since her time in college? In what ways has she changed?
I think they have all changed somewhat. I think that Sally now knows what she wants out of life, which is to be married to the love of her life. I think she is starting to find peace also with what’s happened with her mother. April seems to be going down the same path that she was in college wanting to help less fortunate women, but she seems so much more extreme than she was in college. Celia seems to be a little lost to me. I feel like she needs to figure her life out and what she wants out of her career in NYC, and I would love for her to meet a nice guy. Bree seems to be trying to prove a point with her lesbian relationship and that she is a strong woman, but she doesn’t seem happy. I hope she figures out what will make her happy in her life, and that she mends the relationship with her family.