Miller-Dickerson and Huey

Not (Just) Here for the Snacks

by Kiley Miller-Dickerson and Katie Huey

“That's the power of literature, you know, it can act like little love letters between two people who can only explain their feelings by pointing at other people's.” –Frederik Backman, Anxious People

As an introvert, making friends is hard. Keeping them in your late 20s as life continues to expand felt an even greater challenge. Sure, one is supposed to meet people in bars, wearing heels, sweeping moody bangs behind ears bedazzled with hoops and sparkles. That’s what Sex and the City reruns and Carrie Bradshaw taught us, right? 

But for me, I longed to crawl home and gather with a few choice people to discuss words. Books have been solace for me for a long time. Stories of other lands, other romances, other lives we could choose to live when the reality feels much less glamorous. 

I had tried to start a book club for over three years. I’d invite women I worked with at a small non-profit, friends from high school, and the few colleagues I’d met at networking events. Often, my invitations were rebuffed with comments like, “Oh, I don’t want to read for fun, but I’ll come for the snacks.”

This wasn’t my vision. I craved connection, story, themes and tropes, wanted to dig into what it means to be a woman coming of age today. I wanted a community of smart women who could encourage and support me, and normalize the many complex emotions I was going through in figuring out who I want to be in this world. And yes, I wanted snacks, but the snacks were tertiary.

In the fall of 2017, a group of three gathered in my basement den. We started with my mom, my best friend from middle school and myself. Eventually, my friend invited her mom. My old babysitter moved back to town and over coffee, I invited her to join us. She, too, invited her mom. We had the makings of an intergenerational community, forged over the love of words, and we created a place to use the stories of others to explore our own stories. We had deep conversations and some wine, and I began to rediscover what it means to become myself as an adult with women who have known me for most of my own life. 

Remember the old Girl Scouts song? “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other’s gold.” 

I was rediscovering the gold, but struggling to find the silver. Our small group isn’t exclusive and I extended an invitation to Kiley in December of 2018. 


“I have a book club. You should join us.”

It was a casual remark, but it was an invitation I’d been craving since moving across the country. Three years into a cross-country move, my boyfriend and I had weathered my graduate school stint and made some friends through work, sports, and friends of friends, but there are limitations to the conversations you can have with other teachers in the hall and on the sidelines of a soccer field. What about the meaningful late night talks over dinner parties and wine that adults were supposed to have? Weren’t girlfriends supposed to drop-in regularly, or meet-up for a standing happy hour every week? Not yet, for me at least.

Still, these chance encounters and friends of friends connections had led us to a quasi-Christmas party, getting ready to go out for karaoke when the women of the gathering found ourselves on the patio, snacking and chatting.

Some hemmed and hawed at the invitation, explaining they weren’t big readers, or didn’t like deadlines and required reading. But book clubs were my jam, and I was eager to carve out space for me and my friends — I loved our friends too, but my boyfriend and I had reached the stage in our relationship where we were always a “we.” Could I still define myself outside of our relationship? It was an identity crisis, so the all-women’s book club that Katie proposed seemed like a great chance to get back into my reading habits and branch out on my own, to have space to connect with other people over an extended period of time.

I wanted the kind of friends who would want to sit for hours and talk about books, yes, but who would feel something for fictional characters, to dive into another life and listen deeply, while enjoying each other’s company.


Anxious People by Frederick Backman was our September 2021 book club pick, and one I was most excited for, which is saying something considering the years of chats and dozens of selections. Talk about an intricate plot line: multiple points of view, red herrings galore, forcing a reader to confront any and every assumption, and more, this one literally left me sobbing, and then laughing through my tears.  In the novel, Backman talks about the connections his characters make, about found communities and what happens when we share our vulnerabilities and rely on each other for support. I owe my book club invitation to this same kindness and am thankful for the found community I’ve stumbled upon and been welcomed into with open arms.

I was so deeply excited to talk about it with my book club. I mean, I always look forward to gathering on cozy couches and flowering patios to share homemade goodies – this book club has the. best. bakers! — but it was the company I most looked forward to.

Three years later, book club offers several consistent monthly highlights: I scour local bookshops and the library for our selection, savor each page (or minute, when it’s an audiobook), plan (and usually fail) to prepare an elaborate snack, swing through the grocery with haste on the first Saturday morning of the month, snatch some cheeses and cheese-vehicles, and settle in with a group of women I didn’t know I’d come to love, respect, and trust so deeply.

Over the years, our conversations have taken thoughtful and meandering turns through joy and grief. After our two-hour meet-ups, my face regularly hurts from smiling.  I’ve started to think more carefully about my makeup selection since I’ve been brought to tears on more than a few occasions.

Simply put, we’re a group of women, of moms and daughters (plus me, an out-of-state transplant), who meet on the first Saturday morning of the month to talk about a book. But, it’s so much more than that, when you think about what we share. 

Joy and sorrow are building blocks of the human experience. Each month, we gather and explore the characters we get to know and love, or maybe despise, challenging their perspectives and wondering what would compel an author to do that to a person.

We’ve marked milestones of every variety together: engagements and marriages and publications  and first houses and several Mason jars worth of sourdough starters; we shared the loneliness of months of Zoom meetings, jobs and relationships lost and recovering, old wounds and losses that never really heal, and the strain of different relationships that we see in each other. We see each of these in the characters we read and the plotlines we anticipated, not because of any foreshadowing, but because we see our experiences reflected back to us.

More often than not, book club leads us to lay our own souls bare in our grief and hope, experiences that equally obscure what’s around the corner and paralyze a person with self-doubt. But when you have a community who gives you space to process, one who listens and smiles encouragingly, it lifts you. It keeps you coming back, hoping you can offer a similar reprieve or perspective.

It’s a chance to pick up another story and share in that experience, at least for a few hours on that first Saturday of the month.


Featured in our November 2021 issue, "Community"