Big Read Event Inspires Community Conversation About Life, Love, Loss



DRESDEN (July 30) — Weakley Countians, representing all cities and some communities in between, didn’t disappoint Thursday, July 30, 2020, when they gathered under the Terry Oliver pavilion in Dresden to promote the mission of inspiring conversation and discovery as part of the annual Big Read event.

Now in its ninth year in Weakley County, 27 books lovers donned their masks, book in hand and participated in a lively conversation centered around “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson. Described as a “walk through the deepest of our human experience” and “an amazing unveiling of truth,” the story seemed to reveal levels of deep human emotion as it recounted the life of the main character, John Ames.

For about 45 minutes, as rain and soft breezes surrounded the Dresden Farmers Market pavilion that morning, faces from Greenfield, Pisgah, Dresden, Martin, Sharon and Pillowville spoke of their experiences while reading the pages of “Gilead” with Anna Clark of Martin leading the discussion.

Clark, a retired University of Tennessee at Martin English professor, engaged the audience pausing in between the reading of passages to ask questions such as “What is the tone of this book?” and “What themes were found throughout it?”

“Gilead” readers were prompted to share their thoughts on the levels of emotion witnessed throughout the book’s chapterless 256 pages. One member of the audience touched on the mention of the character’s recollection of life during the Spanish flu and how it strangely related to the current global health pandemic.

The countywide attendees agreed with Clark’s sentiment the chosen book was a book that is “rich and worthy of attention and discussion.”

As to not spoil the book for those who haven’t read it, “Gilead” relates to a person’s journey throughout life with partners, family members, children and what comes after.

Many of the community members in attendance Thursday participate in West Tennessee’s Big Read event on a yearly basis. This year’s event was sponsored by the Ned Ray McWherter Public Library in Dresden and organized by director Candy McAdams. Tommy Moore helps facilitate the annual event designed to inspire literary discussion among community members.

In years past, the annual Big Read was held at the Obion River Regional Library in Martin. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was moved to an outdoor setting, but it didn’t seem to deter the 27 participants to contribute to the discussion. Simply Southern Catering of Gleason offered guests a lunch of chicken salad, pickle spears and strawberry cake that seemed fitting for an outdoor picnic lunch in the South.

After a hearty conversation centered around love, loss, faith and hope, guests bid one another farewell, until next year’s Big Read, or until they can meet again to share their thoughts about the next penned novel designated as a topic of conversation for the 10th annual Big Read event.

Twenty-seven members of the Weakley County community gathered under the Terry Oliver Plaza Dresden Farmers Market Pavilion Thursday morning as part of the 9th annual Big Read event for an inspiring discussion about the novel, “Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson.[/caption]