“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” (said by Juliet to Dawsey, two of my most favorite literary characters, in one of my most favorite books, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”)
Oh Juliet. Books do indeed find their perfect homes. Like when your best friend loans you a book when you live in Chattanooga and he lives in Chicago and then when you move to Portland, the book moves with you because you haven’t read it yet and then finally one day, probably more than a year since you’ve had it in your possession and he has asked you so many times if you’ve read it yet, you finally get around to opening “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and you pour yourself into it, staying up all night crying your eyes out, thinking about calling in sick to work to stay home and read, finally finishing it and asking him why he didn’t make you read it sooner, which gets followed up with something like “Are you kidding me????”
Or how your roommate suggests you try reading “Gilead” though you’ve never heard of Marilynne Robinson and you just immediately fall in love from page one and then seek out all of her other beautiful books and dream of one day growing up to be just like her.
Or you mention to a friend in passing how you loved the movie “Into the Wild” and the friend kind of growls at you and gets mad, and you ask why and get something along the lines of “Jon Krakauer is an amazing writer and the book is brilliant and the movie doesn’t do it justice” so then you read it, and you too just want to soak up every word Krakauer has ever written.
Books just have a way of landing in the hands of the perfect readers. “Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes is no exception. This one came from Alisha. Or rather, it came from Alisha’s now ex mother in law. This was many months ago, when everyone was already fairly certain that the “ex” part of that scenario was going to happen though it hadn’t quite yet, and we kind of looked at her funny when she said a book had arrived at her door all the way from England with a note that said she thought she would enjoy it.
Alisha started reading it and was soon telling me she was hooked. She thought I would like it. After she finished, she gave it to me without really telling me what it was about. Alisha knows my book tastes enough by now that I probably won’t question it when she makes a suggestion. And there’s just something to be said about sending a book to your soon to be ex daughter in a law, in another country. I had to see what this was about.
There’s a quote on the back of it that says it is “partner-ignoringly compulsive” and about 75 pages in, I knew that if I had a partner, I’d definitely be ignoring them. I looked for 5 or 10 minutes everywhere I could to sit and read. I sat in my car on my lunch break, crying my eyes out over a scene involving a pair of tights, texting Alisha that I didn’t know how to go back to my desk and think about work. I wanted to skip out on plans with friends just to keep reading. Four days after starting, I had finished. And balled like a baby. And re-read several parts. I started talking to a coworker, Lucie, about books and what we were reading and she decided to buy it and join my Literary Society. At the next meeting, Alisha and I both talked about it, about how fast we read it and how much we cried and how we just couldn’t stop thinking about it. But there’s little you can say about the actual story to someone who hasn’t read it, because you cannot give anything away. And so Alisha’s copy went to Amy, who read it quickly, and she then read half of it again before it went to Katie. Katie read it and showed up at the next Lit Society meeting furious because she had forgotten that when I say something is wonderful and beautiful, I mean tragic and I probably don’t at all mean happy. But still she gave it to her roommate. By this time there were enough of us that had read it and wanted to talk about it that we did what we have not otherwise done in Lit Society (and most likely won’t do again) and we made a rule: you have to read this book. We don’t care what you read otherwise (as long as you read). This one is the exception. Alisha’s copy made it around to Lindsay and then Brittany and then Rachelle, and Staci and Christa had managed to pick up copies elsewhere and finally, finally, finally, last week at our November meeting we were able to talk about it.
The overall opinion of the group is that most everyone loved it. There was one exception, someone who definitely broke out of her normal genre to read it just so we could all finally talk about it, and she had some issues with one of the main characters. Since we’re all entitled to our own opinions, we allow her to disagree with the group. Lindsay didn’t love it as much as others, because it had been a bit too built up for her. Katie was still mad that we’d made her read a sad book and told her it was great (um, because it is). But the rest of us…well, even when we could finally say what we thought, we had some trouble finding words to express how much it had meant to us. We talked about what character we related to the most, or who we disagreed with, and what lens we saw the story through. We discussed what we would have said if we had known that the author was at Powells a couple of months ago and we had been able to talk to her (“Whhhhhyyyyyyy” being what Christa wants to know, and Staci wants to thank her for breaking her heart in such a good way).
The point is, the book reached out and grabbed us all (except one), and at least for a period of time shook us up a little, and made us think just a bit about scenarios we don’t often dwell on, and left us a bit sad but also a bit hopeful, and struggling to find the next novel that would captivate us so much.
I’m often asked how I heard of a book or where it had come from, like there’s a magic formula to always know what to read next. After thinking about how so many books have stumbled into my path, and this one appearing in the most unusual of ways, I’ve decided that we should just stop questioning how we find books and realize that they simply come to us when and how they are supposed to.