How often do you come across a book that changes the way you see the world?
When was the last time you gasped at a well-written sentence?
Looking back on my reading life, I can see that about every ten years I discover a new writer that I can’t get enough of. Probably the first was Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew series. My mother wanted to encourage my reading so she offered to buy me a new Nancy Drew book every month. I remember so well going to a bookstore in Northpark Mall in Dallas in the mid-sixties to get my book. (What store would that have been back then? Walden’s? B.Dalton? Doubleday?)
In the seventies I married, graduated from college and had two babies and it was Madeline L’Engle who kept me company and kept me calm. Not her A Wrinkle in Time series although that was the gateway book that got me into her writing. I was caught up in her other stories (The Arm of the Starfish and Dragons in the Waters) with characters like Poly O’Keefe. How can you not love a girl named Polyhymnia?
In 1982 Susan gave me a copy of The Color Purple which sent me off on an Alice Walker tangent. Most people don’t know it’s the first book of a sort-of trilogy. My favorite of them was Possessing the Secret of Joy where Carl Jung is a character. This is not an easy book to read, but I recommend it to women who have suffered and then struggled to heal.
The books I remember from the 1990s include Alice Hoffman’s Turtle Moon. Hoffman’s books give us magic realism in such a way that we believe a rose bush can grow ten feet overnight and there’s more to this life than we can see or touch in our everyday world.
And then comes the new millenium, and we meet a young boy named Harry Potter. What can I say that hasn’t already been written. I will tell you that I don’t think the HP books are demonic. I believe Harry is a Christ figure who has a job to do that he doesn’t really want but sacrifices himself to save his friends and loved ones. I was reluctant to start the books but when I did, I was relieved to discover that someone else out there named JK Rowling saw the world as I do. One full of mystery, magic and everyday mystics.
In the new decade I may have found the next author on my list: Tana French. I’m only a few pages into her book In the Woods, but her words take my breath away. I started out listening to the audiobook but quickly downloaded the ebook onto my nook so I can go back and reread the most captivating passages. Here’s one from the Prologue:
"This summer explodes on your tongue tasting of chewed blades of long grass, your own clean sweat, Marie biscuits with butter squirting through the holes and shaken bottles of red lemonade picnicked in tree houses. It tingles on your skin with BMX wind in your face, ladybug feet up your arm; it packs every breath full of mown grass and billowing wash lines; it chimes and fountains with birdcalls, bees, leaves and football-bounces and skipping-chants, One! Two! Three! This summer will never end.”
I recommend this book to all mystery lovers and those who just plain love to read. (However, I don’t recommend it to my book-loving friend Kim or other mothers of young children.)
And I’ll sign off with what I think needs to be said at this point:
Put down Facebook and pick up a real book.