Thursday, April 5, 2012
Thursday's Talk About a Book
Every writer can tell you the story of a book that changed their lives. The one that made them take notice and say, "I think I can do that." The one that stirred all the stories inside, making them want nothing more than to come out from the head and land onto paper.
I have a few of those books.
The little town I grew up in had a small library but it was chock full of books. Our schools had libraries equally as plentiful and, several times a month, the Bookmobile came from the public library to our school, just in case there was something we were missing.
In my day, reading was a way of life. Families only had one television per household and that television was 1) complete with only three channels, 2) those channels had to be changed by getting up off the sofa, walking over and flipping a dial, 3) with the channel changed, the antenna had to be adjusted, and 4) pretty much left to the discretion of the parental units. In other words, we children watched what our parents wanted to watch.
So we read.
One such book that influenced me was titled A Lantern in Her Hand, by Bess Streeter Aldrich. I don't remember the first time I read it, but it was surely a long time after it was written,which was around 1928. A Lantern in Her Hand is one of those books with a story line that stays with you. I can only think of a handful of books that have been so well-written they've done that with me. Colony, by Anne Rivers Siddons is one. Mr. & Mrs. Bo Jo Jones by Ann Head is another. There was a book about a man who found a girl-dolphin but couldn't convince anyone of his find (no, this is not the Tom Hanks movie!), but I cannot remember the title of it. I just remember reading it when I was about 12 years old and being effected by the whole thing.
True story: I told my husband about the first book, A Lantern in Her Hand. He and I were out on a Saturday morning, going from estate sale to estate sale, yard sale to yard sale. At each sale we'd find a stack of books--typically old--and so, as we drove from one location to the next, I told him about reading this old book back when I was a child but I couldn't remember what it had been called. I told him how it had resonated within me and how I wish I could remember the title. I said, "It was something like A Light on Her Path or something like that. I'd try to buy a copy of it if I could remember the title and the author's name. It was a three-name-name, but I can't remember what it was."
Then I told him about the plot. Start to finish. That is how much it meant to me; after all those years, I could remember the story almost verbatim.
My husband parked the car in front of an sprawling old home--the kind where "old money" people live--which boasted an "Estate Sale" sign out front. We walked up the brick steps laid into the sloping front lawn, crossed the wide-board porch, and entered through the front door.
Directly in front of me was a large, antique dining room table stacked high with books. Old books. Dusty, musty books. My husband said, "Well, there's more books for you to dig through." He turned to the right, heading into what appeared to be, at one time, a parlor.
I picked up the first book my hand could reach as I peered at the handmade sign reading, "All Books 25 Cents." Then I looked at the cover of the book.
You guessed it. It was a copy of Bess Streeter Aldrich's A Lantern in Her Hand. I jumped up and down. I ran into the parlor in search of the man with a quarter. "This is it!" I said, though not too loudly so as not to drive the price up to, say, a half dollar. "I cannot believe I just told you about this book and this is it!"
Here's the best part. This book is a 1928 edition. It became the first book in my collection of "antique" books/novels. If you are ever a guest in my home, ask to see it. I'll gladly show it to you.
[What about you? What book changed your life? Answer and enter my weekly drawing for a book from my bookshelf!]