My friends, it’s that magical time of year. That season when we start making lists, checking them twice, and eagerly ticking off the days on the calendar…
Yup, Century Club Time. (Why, what did you think I was talking about?)
For the uninitiated, each year, for the last 9 years, I’ve challenged my BookLovers to read at least 25 books in a year to make the BookLovers Century Club.
Reading 25-49 books qualifies you for the Quarter Century Club; 50-99 makes the Half-Century Club; 100-199 makes the Century Club. (And yes, we have Double Century and Triple Century Club members in SouthCoast.)
But Lauren, how do I join? Simple: Just e-mail me. Send me a list of the books you read in 2021 by Jan. 2. Make sure to add your name, hometown, and total number.
Boom, done. With the click of a mouse, you join the Coolest Book Club in SouthCoast. Tell your neighbors, your friends, your family. Every person who e-mails me will be featured in this column.
We’ve grown each year by leaps and bounds, in both heart and number. Each year, the lists start rolling in by mid-December, along with your kind words, thoughts on books, remarks on authors — I love it all.
And now some news about one of our most popular local BookLover guests.
South Dartmouth’s Holly FitzGerald will speak at UMass-Dartmouth Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at the Claire T. Carney Library. A reception and book signing follows.
It’s hard to believe it was nearly five years ago that my jaw dropped reading an advanced copy of “Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios.” At the time I wrote:
I’ll be honest. I struggled with how to start this column…Holly FitzGerald of South Dartmouth has just written the best real-life survival tale since Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.”
I take pride in landing the first interview — probably first of many — that FitzGerald will give for her jaw-dropper of a memoir… This will be made into a movie, I'm calling it now… Preorder this now, BookLovers.
Lo and behold, the book released, SouthCoast devoured it, FitzGerald gave many talks and interviews -- and it was indeed optioned for a movie.
In fact, it’s one of the few local books that has, over the last years, consistently been on almost every Century Club list.
Holly tells me she’ll have a slide show of their adventure at the UMD event, so this should be fascinating.
It’s 1973. Holly FitzGerald and her husband Fitz — who later became a managing editor of The Standard-Times — set out on a yearlong honeymoon adventure, backpacking around the world.
But five months into the trip, their plane crashes in Peru — near a prison, no less— surrounded by thick dangerous jungle. Thus begins a terrifying nonstop labyrinth of escape and survival.
On the advice of a local villager, they build a raft to get downriver to their next destination.
But a lightning storm ravages the raft, leaving the couple adrift in waters loaded with piranhas and caiman— giant armored South American alligators.
The raft becomes their entire universe. Lost, they cling to it, despite the fire ants that swarm by day, the sounds of the encroaching jungle, and river predators at night. They’re shot at, they’re rained on with a pellet-like jungle rain, and slowly begin to starve.
With no one to hear their cries, and with hundreds of miles of piranha-infested river in front of them — Holly and Fitz have only each other, and hope…
Whether you’ve never read it, want to reread it, or just want to get your copy signed, you’ll want to see Holly's photos hear behind-the-scenes comments at this event.
You might remember I interviewed Holly for this page-turner when it released and asked her what had finally sparked her to share her odyssey.
“I couldn’t really write it [right afterwards] because it was too close. It took me a long time to get to that point,” she said at the time. “This event— being trapped in the jungle— would come in my head periodically. When I had breast cancer [in 2005] I had time to think about it. But I didn’t end up working on it until my daughter suggested I take a memoir class” in 2008.
I’d asked if it was difficult to relive.
Some parts “were quite painful,” she said at the time. “We were trapped…It was hard, but a good hard. It was a challenge.”
As for the scariest moment of the entire ordeal?
“It was one long scary part. We were trapped, it was scarier by the day. In the beginning, we thought, ‘Someone will fly overhead.’ As time went on, he was getting thinner and thinner, and I knew it was a matter of time,” she recalled. “There were scary times when we were swimming-- you don’t know what’s going to grab you. [But] Fitz and I both had the same desire to live and keep going. When one was down, the other would try to help find some hope.”
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. She tweets @laurendaley1. Read more at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer.
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: BookLovers: The Countdown is on to send your club list to Daley for the 9th Annual Century Club