A book club just for two

I’ve always loved to read, just like my mother and father and brother. We had lots of books in the house when I was growing up, along with magazines and a couple of daily newspapers.

As a housewife with young children Mom joined a Great Books group, making her way through the Western canon from Aeschylus to Zola. We had a set of novels in fine bindings to which I turned after outgrowing our set of Junior Classics. There were library books galore and a scattering of paperbacks, including “Catch-22,” purchased when it first came out in the 1960s. Mom had it signed by Joseph Heller many years later when the author made a local appearance. That prized volume went missing during one of her moves, but we found it months later and it’s still on her shelves today.

When Mom first came to Milford, the two of us began sharing books—things we got from the library or volumes from our own collections. Our tastes differed, as I soon discovered when she started returning the books I loaned her with little notes inside containing thumbnail reviews. Of Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon Days” she said, “Much like ‘Seinfeld,’ this is a story about nothing.”

One thing we agreed on, however, was Stephanie Plum. We had separately discovered the comic mysteries by Janet Evanovich in the early 1990s and we had both read every numbered volume beginning with “One for the Money.” We were at No. 6 or 7 by the time Mom moved here. Since then we’ve read each release in tandem, gossiping about the characters afterward as if Stephanie and crew were friends of ours—which in a way, I suppose, they are.

Stephanie is a Jersey girl with big hair and great metabolism (she’s fond of donuts and fried chicken but only ever gained weight in one book) who works as a bond enforcement agent, aka bounty hunter, for her weasly cousin Vinny in Trenton. She’s somewhat inept. Her cars inevitably explode, she gets battered and handcuffed regularly, but somehow she always gets her man. There’s a sidekick named Lula, a pet hamster named Rex, an eccentric grandma and not one, but two, love interests.

At the threshold of 90, Mom has memory issues. But when I told her I would buy her the latest novel in the series, she immediately said, “That’s number 21.” Indeed, “Top-Secret Twenty-One” just came out. I devoured it and sent it off to Mom last week. I’ll be interested to hear what she thinks.

The one place where Mom and I disagree is about which man is right for Stephanie. When Mom asked my opinion, I thought for a moment and said Morelli, the handsome Trenton cop that Stephanie has been off-and-on with since high school. He seems like a solid choice for the long haul. Mom, on the other hand, picked Ranger, a buff Latino security specialist with a mysterious background that’s amplified just a bit in this latest book (think Special Ops). He’s more exciting.

The things you learn about your mother by reading!

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