‘Today Show’s’ Jenna Bush Hager Promises a ‘Great Escape’ with her April Book Club Pick

Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show continues to call into the morning news program via FaceTime during the coronavirus crisis. At home with her children – daughters Mila, 6, Poppy, 4, and son Henry ‘Hal,’ 7 months – the mom of three is staying on the job virtually while trying to help her kids keep up with their studies.

With the majority of people following the current quarantine guidelines, Hager is hoping to give readers a break from the recent pandemic with her April pick for Read With Jenna.

"Today Show's" Maria Shriver and Jenna Bush Hager
“Today Show’s” Maria Shriver and Jenna Bush Hager | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Reporting from the home front

Like most parents currently working from home to practice optimal self-distancing, Hager has been trying to balance her professional workload with her daily routine as a mom.

“We’ve been staying home, and I have to say, it’s been a journey,” Hager told her colleagues in a call last week, according to Prevention. “It really has because at the beginning, we weren’t used to seeing each other for this much time. Last night, Henry said, ‘We’re a team now,’ and I feel like that.”

Hager’s experience as a former teacher is coming in handy as she is trying to homeschool her daughters while schools are closed. Her renewed role as educator prompted Hager to share her gratitude for all teachers. “I emailed Poppy’s teacher, and I just said … ‘I don’t know how you did it, how you keep this child entertained,’” Hager said.

The Today star and her husband Henry are working together to keep their girls up to date on their studies and have even earned special names from Mila and Poppy.

“They call me Miss Jenna,” Hager revealed. “I’m Principal Lemon, too, and Henry’s Assistant Principal Lime, and we’re just hanging in there!”

‘Escape’ in April

Though she’s at home, Hager places a priority on her Read With Jenna picks and just shared her selection for April. Choosing Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, the book club founder is hoping to provide readers with a challenging yet uplifting getaway.

“For anybody looking for a great escape, this is a wonderful book where you will find yourself really engrossed in the stories of these women,” Hager said, as reported by Today.com. “Elizabeth really developed these characters that I felt like I knew. I found myself missing them when the story was over. The women are complicated. They are a lot of things at once.”

The debut novel for Wetmore, Valentine takes place in 1976 in Odessa, Texas. The story centers around the aftermath of an attack of 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez in an oil field, and is shared through various characters’ perspectives. Exploring the intersections of class and race within a secluded community that is on the brink of an oil boom, the plot showcases the strength of the female characters and brings forth a message of beauty and hope.

‘A novel of hope’

The author acknowledged that while her novel may deal with some challenging subjects, she purposely created the story with a hopeful foundation.

“It’s not an easy book, and in a lot of ways, it’s not a happy book, but ultimately I see it as a novel of hope in the midst of a terrible crisis and about the ferocity of these women’s spirits,” Wetmore shared.

Growing up in West Texas, Wetmore was inspired by stories from her own childhood that she incorporated into the novel.

“I spent a good portion of my childhood eavesdropping on my mother and her girlfriends as they sat out on the back porch after dinner, and I listened to them telling stories,” Wetmore told Today.com. “They would sit out there with their cigarettes and mix drinks because it was the ’70s, and I listened to them rehashing their days.”

Hager was told about the debut novel by a local Houston bookshop owner. “She knew I would love Valentine because I love West Texas,” Hager, a Texas native, shared. “She knew I would see glimpses of my grandma Jenna, a homemaker who never graduated but took geology classes at the local community college and taught me every constellation in the sky.”

Valentine is now available for purchase.