BOOKS LIKE OLD FRIENDS' HOUSES
I've been a reader for longer than I like to say (but what the heck, I'll say it anyway: at least 70 years), and I've been a re-reader for nearly as long. If a book is so good that I hate to reach the last page, then it's good enough to read again – not immediately, but after a year or two. Or five. Or twenty… And since Jana has suggested I might list some favorite books here, it seems like a good idea to list a few of my favorite "rereads."
These aren't classics, although some are close. They're just good stories with what feels to me like touches of magic that make me remember them with fondness, as if I'd stepped into an old friend's home and become reacquainted with all the familiar rooms. They're all nearly as old as I am, some even older. To me, though, they're full of life.
1. Desiree, by Annemarie Selinko, is the fictional diary of a historical Frenchwoman, begun when she's fourteen – about the same age I was when I first read it – and ending nearly forty years later, when her amazing life takes another amazing turn.
2. Island in the Sun, by Alec Waugh. This is a very 1950s-ish book, a psychological thriller, love story, and social statement, set in a fictional British colony in the West Indies that's about to achieve its freedom. I like to read it in the dark days of a Montana winter.
3. Raintree County, by Ross Lockridge, Jr. A strange, ambitious, haunting novel of American history, tracing the life of an Indiana man, his friends, loves, and family from the 1840s through '90s. I read it from start to finish once, and have dipped into it many, many times since.
4. Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster. Published in 1915, this novel of letters about a young society woman who finds herself superintending an orphanage was one of my mother's favorites, and she turned me on to it when I was about eleven. It's funny, moving, and surprisingly modern.
5. The Peaceable Kingdom, by Ardyth Kennelly, is about a Mormon woman, the second wife of a Salt Lake City tailor in the 1870s or so. Funny, touching, horrifying, and warmhearted. I've always loved it.
6. Young Bess, by Margaret Irwin. "Bess" is England's Queen Elizabeth I, whose childhood and teens were fraught with adventure – and danger. Irwin was a great writer and careful historian, and Elizabeth shines in this book, which I've been reading off and on for probably sixty years.
7. The Crystal Cave; The Hollow Hills; The Last Enchantment, by Mary Stewart. Stewart's "Arthurian Trilogy," whose central character is not King Arthur but Merlin, might as well be one book instead of three, because once I've started the first part I can't stop until I've come to the end of the third. The story is told by Merlin, who may be a magician but who is also a very human and appealing character.
BLURB – "INTO A DISTANT LIGHT"
When Lizzie and Robert married, she thought he'd had enough of adventure to last a lifetime. After all, his voyage above the Arctic Circle had been a near-fatal disaster, and he never talked about it at all. He'd never even written about it, except in a long letter to his sister. But someone, somehow, had found out. And now, given another chance, he couldn't resist that call.
When he came back, of course, she would share in his fame, glory, and wealth. But what would happen to her if he didn't come back?
EXCERPT FROM "INTO A DISTANT LIGHT"
"You said it was all behind him!" Lizzie wailed. "He's never talked about it, and I've never mentioned it. You said he didn't want to do anything like that again, but now he's all excited about his report, and what the Society will say, and what a grand thing it will be for us all. Oh, Maggie, how I wish they'd never found out about that voyage. I don't know how they ever did. Now they'll give him money to go back, and he'll go back, and what'll happen to the babies and me, I don't know!"
"Why, he'll be rich and famous, and you'll bask in his glow," Margaret said, lightly. She knew how they'd found out about her brother's voyage.
"A rich, famous widow, that's what I'll be! Rich, famous orphans!"
"Now, now, Lizzie. In the first place, they'll not choose him. They'll read the part about that German, Swiss, whatever he was, and his horrible creature, and they'll suppose Robert is, well, eccentric. Too eccentric for them to support." That, she almost said, was what her husband, trying to be helpful, hadn't told his friend in the Society. But then she remembered that Lizzie didn't know Seville's part in it.
"They won't read it because he isn't putting that part in. He says something about finding a man under extraordinary circumstances and trying to rescue him, but the man has a fever and eventually dies. Robert makes very little of it." She looked down at her hands. "He doesn't know I read his story, his letters to you, Margaret. I thought he'd tell it to me, himself, someday, but he never has. And now, when I tried to draw him out about the man, he wouldn't say anything really. He knows what the Society would make of it, of course."
Margaret thought for a moment. "Well, then, they shall read it," she said. "I shall send it to them, the story he gave to me. That will be the end of that, then."
But she did not send them the story.
Uncial Press: http://www.uncialpress.com/into-a-distant-light.html
B and N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/into-a-distant-light-mary-patterson-thornburg/1128085286?ean=2940159078056
Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California and has lived in Washington State, Indiana, and Montana, where she currently resides with her husband, poet and fellow novelist Thomas Thornburg. She has published fiction, literary criticism, and poetry. Thornburg's short fiction has appeared in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, ZAHIR, and CICADA, among other magazines, and in several anthologies. Two of her stories received honorable mention in THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR, and her young adult story "Niam's Tale," set in the world of THE KURA, and published in CICADA, won the 2011 Magazine Merit Honor Certificate from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
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