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Connections | Magazine

My book club has been together through it all — child-rearing, divorce, grandkids, and now my cancer

When my cancer returned last fall — in the midst of the pandemic — I reached out to the Bodacious Bibliophiles again for support.

A collage of hands wearing a bracelet displaying support for the author's battle against cancer.
Photo collage by Kelly Burke

More than 20 years ago, I joined a weekly moms-and-toddlers play group organized by our local Newcomers Club. As our oldest children were about to start kindergarten, a couple of moms suggested we merge with another play group and create a book club. Eleven of us established the Bodacious Bibliophiles (a.k.a. BBs) with simple rules: We’d rotate houses each month, with the host choosing the book and providing the snacks.

Our friendship blossomed over time, stemming from our mutual respect as unique women. We are diverse in beliefs, some liberal and some conservative, so we dance around politics but never give it much airtime. Some have always worked outside the home while raising children, some have not. Some were strict in their parenting, others tended to be more lenient. These very differences have fueled thought-provoking book discussions.

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Together we’ve ridden the highs and lows of raising children, from the struggles of getting little ones to bed all the way to waiting for teenagers to come home so we could go to bed. We’ve been there for one another when kids went off to college and empty nests became real — but never for too long, as the kids often returned. We celebrated the births of the first two grandchildren last year, and put together baskets of books to give to the next generation.

Every year we’ve enjoyed girls’ weekends where we indulged in more wine than books, sharing our thoughts on everything from family dramas to town politics. Our annual holiday Yankee swap has become riotous, with gifts ranging from a caroling toilet paper holder to a female hiking urinal cup.

We’ve supported one another through major life events — a divorce, the passing of parents — and in sickness, especially when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At every stage, our monthly meetups have been a welcome source of comfort, humor, and connection. Through it all, we’ve kept on reading. An especially exciting evening was when favorite author Chris Bohjalian joined the Bodacious Bibliophiles to discuss his gripping novel The Double Bind. That was a night to remember.

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When my cancer returned last fall — in the midst of the pandemic — I reached out to the BBs again for support. Not long after sharing the news, I received a delicate bracelet beautifully crafted by a BB member. She had created one for each of us. Soon after, another BB sent me a collage with photos of each woman wearing her bracelet and holding a note of encouragement. This bracelet is a daily reminder that I’m not alone, especially during doctor appointments and treatments, which can be lonely experiences.

Each woman has contributed in some way, large or small, to offer me help and support. One friend mails a cheerful card with a lottery ticket every week to remind me that life is often filled with a little bit of luck. Another BB keeps me in her intentions during her daily yoga practice; yet another created a lovely quilt to keep me warm. They’ve delivered meals to my home and have given me rides into Boston for treatment. Totes filled with books, thoughtful gifts, and homemade soup have been left on my doorstep, contactless in this age of COVID-19. Every Friday, they send me a group text to get me through one more round of chemo.

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During this difficult time, I’m reminded of the power of community and the strength of friendship. I’m filled with gratitude for these incredible women who cheer me on every step of the way. The Bodacious Bibliophiles book club was born when 11 young moms came together in their love of reading, and to share in the frustrations and triumphs of motherhood. It has proven to be so much more. As Chris Bohjalian writes, “Supposedly, whatever we do that’s selfish goes with us to the grave; whatever we do that’s selfless lives on.” This much I know — the BBs will live on.


Diane Kelley lives in Hopkinton. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to connections@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.