By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor
The fireplace will be lit and readers will be able to sample a flavored coffee and other goodies mentioned in the book when they gather for discussions of In the Bleak Midwinter next week at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia.
”It’s more than just creating the atmosphere of the winter day outside and a warm day inside,” said Leslie DeLooze, reference and community services librarian at Richmond, where the discussions are scheduled for 7:45 a.m. Wednesday and 7 p.m. Thursday.
”I think it helps you remember the book more and makes it a more special event,” she said.
For the last several weeks, readers have been picking up Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mystery, In the Bleak Midwinter, as part of the third year of the ”A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project. The project, organized by public libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, encourages people to read the same book, then discuss it and meet the author.
Beginning Monday, readers can share their thoughts about the book at the first of 17 book discussions planned at libraries in the three counties. Discussions continue through March 8; Spencer-Fleming will visit March 10, 11 and 12.
In the Bleak Midwinter, Spencer-Fleming’s first novel, explores life in fictional Miller’s Kill, N.Y., where the new Episcopal priest has discovered a baby abandoned at her church. As Clare Fergusson and police chief Russ Van Alystne investigate they discover the baby’s mother has been brutally murdered.
Area librarians say the gatherings are valuable in creating interest.
”A lot of excitement is generated as part of the discussions,” said Mary Zangerle, director of Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina, where the first discussion is set for 1 p.m. Monday.
Some book discussions, such as the one in Medina and the Wednesday morning session in Batavia, are part of regular book groups. Other libraries have scheduled discussions specifically for the ”Tale” project.
Zangerle said members of her group have been preparing questions to bring to Monday’s program.
”Everyone has really been quite taken by the book. Interest is spreading more quickly” than previous ”Tale” books, Zangerle said. ”Once they’ve read the first book, everyone wants to read the next two.”
Discussions typically start off with a question to get people talking about the book. But from there, conversation can flow in any number of directions depending on the group’s interests and questions.
While most discussions are in the evening, Genesee Community College — which joined the project this year — is planning morning and afternoon sessions. Wednesday’s program at Richmond is the earliest, but the ”early morning doesn’t seem to scare any one off,” DeLooze said.
Between 16 and 20 people regularly attend the monthly session, a group that includes people on their way to work, retirees and a few Richmond staff members, DeLooze said.
The goal of ”A Tale for Three Counties” is to connect people in the community to the shared experience of literature.
”The reaction from the public has been rewarding,” said Peggy Parker, director of Perry Public Library, 70 North Main St., Perry, which is hosting a book discussion at 7 p.m. Feb. 22.
Readers have told Parker they’ve stayed up late to finish the book and many are moving on to A Fountain Filled With Blood, the second in Spencer-Fleming’s series.
”They want to know what develops with the main characters,” Parker said.
The Perry gathering is part of a regularly-scheduled book discussion. Attendance is usually about eight to 10 people, but a larger group is expected for the ”Tale” book talk.
”It’s very informal so newcomers need not feel intimidated,” Parker said.
Local libraries are stocking extra copies of In the Bleak Midwinter for loan or purchase.
More than 1,000 people have participated in some part of the ”Tale” project each of the last two years. Several small libraries have started book discussion programs as a result of the ”Tale” talks.
Mary Mann, director of the recently expanded Gainesville Public Library in Silver Springs, is hoping her facility’s additional room leads to patron interest in such a group.
”It would be nice to have a book discussion group,” she said. ”Maybe reading about it being done in other places may stir up some patron interest here.”
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation