When my novel, THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB was published this past June, my ten year old son looked at the cover and said, “Who’s Meryl Streep?”
I explained that Meryl Streep is the gifted actress who voiced Mrs. Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, which we’d recently watched, and his face lit up. I wanted to tell him more, about what an impact Meryl Streep has had on me, on our family, but I left it at, “She’s been my favorite actress since I saw an important movie called Sophie’s Choice when I was sixteen with your grandmother and great grandmother.” Meryl Streep’s incredible performance in Sophie’s Choice stayed with me a long time.
But it was another movie night, years later, with my mother and grandmother that inspired THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB. One Thanksgiving, when my mother and grandmother weren’t getting along (they were arguing over whether to add garlic to the mashed potatoes and who said what twenty years ago), we sat down to watch The Bridges of Madison County after dinner. The discussion the movie led to changed everything that night: we talked openly about the film, how we felt about Meryl Streep’s character’s choices—and why. Instead of sniping and arguing, we were talking, revealing, sharing. The night ended in hugs instead of humphs and closed doors. A movie did this.
Flash forward to six years ago, when I was going through my divorce and had a Meryl Streep movie marathon on my couch with tissues and popcorn. Touching, funny Heartburn and Defending Your Life made me laugh for the first time in months. The Bridges of Madison County made me think and reminded me of that Thanksgiving years ago. After Out of Africa, my favorite Meryl Streep movie, I got up off the couch, went to my desk and wrote the words: Chapter One, and started a novel about a fractured family of women who reunite at an old family inn in Maine and how movie night in the parlor brings them back together through watching and discussing Meryl Streep films.
One day, when my son is much older, I’ll share all this (or maybe not). What he does know, even at ten, is how powerful movies—visual stories—are, how they move us, make us laugh, cry, think. My novel is a tribute to the power and magic of movies, to how movies bring people together, to the gift Meryl Streep has given us all these decades. If you have a chance to read The Meryl Streep Movie Club, I hope you enjoy it.