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May 6, 2019

Wendy Wax: Passing Down a Love of Reading Through the Generations

Posted by tom

In Wendy Wax’s new novel, MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (which releases May 14th), a wedding dress passed down through generations unravels the tangled threads of three women's lives. Although Wendy can’t recall her mother ever reading bedtime stories to her, it’s clear that her mother (and the other women in her family) helped inspire her to read --- and her weekly trips to the library as a child gave her great joy. Wendy, in turn, has passed down that love of reading to her two now-grown sons, whose book choices are just as varied and eclectic as hers.


I can’t remember my mother reading me bedtime stories, but I do have a thousand memories of her and the other women in my family with books in their hands.

Don’t get me wrong --- when my mother and her sisters and cousins got together, they often played board and card games (especially the family favorite, Pounce). Most of their time together was filled with talk and laughter.

There were also long, comfortable silences with everyone stretched out around the living room --- or on lounge chairs in the backyard or around a pool or on a beach --- each woman buried in her own book. My sister and I have continued this tradition.

Family reading tastes varied. My mother read bestsellers. My aunt Lois, to whom MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING is dedicated, began reading her way alphabetically through the biographies in her local library when she moved to Richmond as a bride. (She’s also the person who ruined HEIDI for me by asking if a certain character had “died yet.”)

I remember the joy of weekly trips to the library as a child. The hush that made me feel as if I were in a house of worship. (I was!) The treasure hunt that led to a new stack of books I carried home and then devoured.

Those books took me places I had never been or even imagined. THE CAT IN THE HAT and CHARLOTTE’S WEB gave way to Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables, which led to REBECCA and GONE WITH THE WIND. To this day, although I read nonfiction for research, it’s fiction in all its forms that I read for pleasure: romance, historical fiction, mystery, paranormal, thrillers, suspense, urban fantasy. I am an eclectic reader; I don’t think I’ve met a Dewey Decimal I didn’t like.

I am a binge reader and proud of it. When left alone (and not on deadline), I can, and will, read a book a day. It’s no accident that both of the main characters in MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING are voracious readers who shared a childhood dream of becoming writers, and that one of them owns an independent bookstore.

When my sons were born, I wanted them to love reading too. Books were waiting for them when they were brought home from the hospital. Soft fabric ones that could be not only read, but safely gummed. Rubbery versions that floated in the bathtub, survived the pool and beach, and could be gummed. Board books with brightly colored images that resisted destruction even when they were gummed. Fold-out books and peek-a-boo books that revealed pictures of them.

Gumming ultimately gave way to avid listening and then to following along. Then one day they were reading on their own. 

They’re guys, so their book choices differ from mine. Neither of them read HEIDI or Nancy Drew or my all-time favorite, GONE WITH THE WIND (though my oldest attempted it because he knew how much I loved it). One of them reads mysteries, thrillers and sports titles, and prefers e-books. The other favors nonfiction with an emphasis on self-improvement and biographies, and prefers hardcovers. They aren’t my typical audience and won’t be reading MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, so they will never know that I slipped their names into the story. (Be on the lookout for cameos by Kevin and Drew.)

My sons are in their 20s now and live and work in other cities. We rarely read in each others’ company. I mostly know what they’re reading because we share an Amazon account.

As this Mother’s Day approaches, I’m thrilled that they’re readers. And even happier that they’ve grown up into such fine young men. I’m pretty sure they haven’t gummed a book in years.