KENT—The Kent Memorial Library will revisit its One Book, One Town program between now and the end of March to engage local readers in reading Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town.
The library is providing free copies of Our Town to Kent residents and encourages everyone to read the play and remind themselves of what makes small town life special.
The play, considered to be an American classic, is full of plain-spoken lyricism reminding readers of the inevitability of lives passing swiftly by and of the need to value the pleasures and joys of everyday life.
In the play, the former denizens of Grover’s Corner, NH, look down from a graveyard on the scenes of their past lives and reflect on their joys and sorrows, successes and failures.
The community read concludes with a special Sharon Playhouse program March 24 at 3 p.m. at the Main Street library.
Participants will receive raffle tickets for reading the book and a drawing for tickets to a revival of Our Town on Broadway will be conducted March 24. Children and teens will have their own program and prizes.
“We haven’t done a One Book, One Town program for a long time,” said library Director Sarah Marshall. “
“We thought it was appropriate to bring the town together at a time of such division,” she said. “For me, it is a concept of everyone who is interested reading the same thing at the same time.”
“It gives people a chance to have conversations about a topic of mutual interest and gives us an opportunity to consider what it means to live in a small town in America right now,” she continued. “Why do people choose to stay, and why they decide to leave?”
The play was “thoughtfully chosen” for One Book, One Town. “It’s not a difficult read,” she said. “It can even be read by children, although they may not get into the deeper philosophical conversation.”
“In Our Town nothing happens, there is no story arc, but it brings you to understand that little day-to-day interactions make a meaningful life,” she related. “That’s what struck me when I read it. It’s real.”
There will be a conversation, like an interactive book discussion, during the concluding program.
Meanwhile, young people are being invited to write reviews of books that made them feel connected with their hometown.
“We’ll probably do something along those lines with adults, too, to provide an opportunity for people to think about what makes small-town life so special,” Marshall said.
For her, the decision to live in Kent brought a revelation about the inter-connectedness of a small community.
“When we bought a house, all of a sudden we had to deal with renovations,” she recalled. “It turned out that any local contractor has to be reliable because you can’t be a bum if you want future business. People have elephant memories and there are not enough people to buffer you if you do a bad job. It encourages the best behavior. We’re all kind of tied together.”
Kent has always been a cohesive community, but now there is a concerted effort in town to recover a sense of unity amidst the stresses of a polarized society.
“Sure, there are competing interests,” Marshall said, “especially when you consider development vs. preserving the rural nature of the town. But even if you disagree, you do feel people care and want the best for the town. Especially in a town this size, you have to be aware of treating each other kindly. Kent still feels sweet and kind and neighborly.”
She noted that local-boy-makes-good Seth McFarlane was in town last week during the winter’s first snowstorm. McFarlane made a short, eulogistic video of the town in the snow, commenting, “My hometown is like a Hallmark movie.”
“Everyone went bananas,” said Marshall. “How is this place possible!”