I feel weepy tonight. After a very brief but intense relationship, a friend has turned her back on me. “That’s it — it’s over,” I’m almost sure I heard her whisper (probably so the kids couldn’t hear). And then, just like that, I was shut out. Poof! She just drew in and closed up, as if I’d never even existed.
Maybe you won’t feel so sorry for me when you find out my friend was…well, a book. Yeah, I know. Sorry. But I DO feel weepy. And, it IS almost like losing a friend when you finish a good book. Like any relationship, you start a book by opening the cover and taking a peek. If it seems you two have enough in common, if there’s enough there to capture your interest, you start probing to find out a little more…and a little more. At some point, you know whether it’s a match, and if it is, you know there’s no turning back: you’re properly hooked.
And so you find yourself entrenched in the latest read despite your hectic life. In fact, many people in your position say they’ve no time at all to read. But you must. You are hungry to engage with the world, and since you can’t be “out there” as much as you’d like, the world must come to you, and one of your favorite ways to bring it to your doorstep and into your home is through a good book.
As such, you find yourself rearranging your life slightly to make room for a few minutes more with your special, new “friend.” Normally, a wait in the dentist’s office with your child is drudgery, but with a good book in hand, it turns into an opportunity. You bring your new friend with you everywhere you might have to pause, in fact. You tote it along with your hairspray and change of clothes in your gym bag and read while you’re on the treadmill. You keep it on the floor of your van for those times you find yourself waiting on a friend who is late for a lunch date. You bring it inside your house later and make sure to keep it near the bathroom, just in case (why not?). Your life might be busy, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and you’ll find a way to make room for this new gem, which is really more like a compact, tote-able adventure.
The latest book that “caught me” in its delightful snare was Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. The work that spawned this one, To Kill a Mockingbird, has been heralded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. For years, it’s been the favorite of my father, a former English teacher and avid reader.
I was introduced to the work of Nelle “Harper” Lee in tenth grade through my English teacher, Miss Elliott. Of all the works we read that year, this one has left the most lasting impression. I’m but a tiny speck of sand in the ocean shores of people who have been similarly affected by this title, I know. Nevertheless, it had been a while since I’d thought of Atticus, Scout, Dill, Jem, “Boo” and the others. When my Mom said Dad had gotten this as a Christmas gift and wondered whether I’d like to read it, too, I was all over it. “Send it — absolutely!” What might have taken me weeks to get through took only days. Reading about the famed Southern writer, Ms. Lee, who has been something of a recluse in the years following her book’s success, had me completely captivated.
Tonight, I finished the last chapter after feeding the kids a simple frozen-pizza meal. Right there at the kitchen table with the five of them swirling around me…I read the last words of the book, smiled, then closed it up. At that moment, I was still vacillating between three worlds: NYC, where Lee penned much of the book; Monroeville, Alabama, where she grew up and wrote another portion of it; and Fargo, ND, the setting of my current life.
I suspect it’s going to take me another day or so to fully emerge from the “Mockingbird” fog, but I know I will in time. Real life will demand it, and I will acquiesce with only minimal resistance. But I will not step out the same person as the one who opened the cover to that first page a few days back. A good read settles itself into a small corner of your soul and takes up permanent residence, changing you in some small or large way forever.
I’ll admit it. I probably could have waited another day to take my son to the doctor yesterday, but the thought that I might have time to get through a chapter while in the waiting room proved too tempting (plus, he really did need to be seen).
What are the lengths you’ve gone to to finish an absorbing book? I’d love to hear your book-reading “confessions”!
In the meantime, I guess it’s on to the next book on my reading list. Before I crack open another story, however, I think I’ll let this one linger for a day or so more. I’m not quite ready to let go.