Completed the final lap of my official book tour last week/weekend, beginning with a stop in South Hadley, home of Mt. Holyoke and the excellent Odyssey Bookshop. I'm in Odyssey's signed first editions program, so I spent a wrist-wilting hour signing 250 copies of Mudbound before the reading. (I did the math just now and I estimate I've autographed somewhere around 2,500 copies. You'd think I'd be heartily sick of it, but I'm not. There's something profoundly satisfying about the act of signing one's own book that defies description. I suppose that's my narcissism showing...) Afterward, I joined Odyssey's gracious owner Joan Grenier, events coordinator Emily Russo and some friends of theirs for an outstanding meal at Food 101 Bar & Bistro. Many thanks to them both for their hospitality and their enthusiastic embrace of Mudbound. Friday I drove to Wellesley for a few bucolic — if cold and rainy — days at the home of my old college pal Phyllis Spinale. It was an eye-opening glimpse into the life of a full-time mom. She has three kids age 9, 11, and 13, a recently-adopted dog, and a husband, all lovely, and all of whom she looks after and makes nutritious meals for and folds shirts for and drives to lacrosse practice and takes for walks and counsels and consoles with a serenity I found awe-inspiring, while also running five miles a day and, in her spare time, being a one-woman band for Mudbound — which, if every adult in greater Wellesley isn't already reading it, they soon will be or they'll have to answer to Phyllis. You amaze me, Phyl. Vive la différence.
Friday night I read at the First Church of Jamaica Plain, an event set up by my buddy Chuck Collins and hosted by the Jamaica Plain Forum. Chuck and I met last fall at the Blue Mountain Center, along with the indefatigable Susan Freireich, who also attended the reading. Both are excellent writers: Susan fiction, Chuck non. He's a liberal activist who has spent his adult life battling economic inequality (at BMC, Chuck taught us all to sing the union song "Solidarity Forever" to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" — which we all did, passionately if somewhat bemusedly, because it was Chuck leading the choir). We had a crowd of 25+ people at the church, and they actually asked me to read extra passages, which almost never happens. Doesn't get much better than that for an author on book tour. Thanks to Chuck and to Daniel Moss for setting up the event.
The final event of the weekend was a reading at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. Another unusually large crowd, swelled by lots of friends and friends of friends: Phyl, her sis-in-law Sue, Chuck, Susan, my friends Tom Alpern and birthday girl Charlotte Dixon. You'd think with all this support (and after being on book tour for two solid months) I would have felt completely at ease, but in fact I gave one of my worst readings of the tour, at least initially. Stammering, blushing, uh-ing — I could have been running for junior high school treasurer. I pulled out of my nose-dive eventually, but man, what a humbling and excruciating couple of minutes. Thanks to all those who didn't get up and leave, and to Nathan Hasson for coordinating the event.