Author pitches reading to audience

Author Chris Bohjalian signs copies of his book “Midwives” at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club. The book was chosen as Oprah’s book club selection in 1998.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Author Chris Bohjalian signs copies of his book “Midwives” at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club. The book was chosen as Oprah’s book club selection in 1998.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

The question began in Seattle with, “What if everyone in Seattle read the same book?”

Since 2003, this concept was adapted by Oak Harbor, said Committee Chair Pat Morse. Book clubs, college classes and community members each picked up the national best-seller “Midwives” this year: the story of a home birth gone wrong and a respected midwife on trial for murder.

Months after the book selection was announced, author Chris Bohjalian flew to Whidbey Island and stopped in Langley and at Oak Harbor’s Yacht Club Monday, May 19, on what he described as his “rock and roll, slime-dog of capitalism book tour.”

“Reading should be enjoyable,” he began, as he sipped from a Red Bull can.

Bohjalian said that in the 1980’s, 57 percent of Americans read at least one novel a year. By 2000, that number dropped to 46 percent. In a column he wrote in the Burlington Press about the lack of reading, he quipped that more people would read the back of a shampoo bottle before they went to bed, than would read a book.

The disgruntled mother of a shampoo bottle scribe sent him a letter that read, “I doubt you will write anything more interesting than lather, rinse, repeat.”

Though much of his speech promoted his new book, “Skeletons at the Feast,” a World War II love story, he gave attendees an insight to Midwives, including its origins. When Bohjalian and his wife had their daughter Grace, they drove over 32 miles to the hospital. A midwife later told him that if they had used her, they could have had Grace in their bedroom and he could have caught his daughter on the way out.

“I was intrigued by the word caught in relation to childbirth,” he said. “I asked her to lunch the next day and learned about some of the births she’d seen.”

Much of Bohjalian’s audience of about 50 that night was made up of students from the Skagit Valley College. One literature class received extra credit for summaries of the event.

“This was a good book for these students to read. Some of them, who haven’t read a book in years, read this book,” English teacher Gail Davern said.

Each year, a new author is chosen by the committee and then brought in to speak. Last year, Langley resident Elizabeth George, who is best-known for her crime novels, was chosen.

“We try to have an author and book that appeal to a wide variety of people,” Morse said.

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