All of these things do just belong. Funny how Sesame Street lyrics pop into your head in the odd moment, isn’t it? There are connections everywhere.
These three books might not seem to have anything stringing them together, but I’m here to tell you today that they do.
First, Kate DiCamillo, author of Louisiana’s Way Home. I suggest her books to all kinds of readers–even adults who are looking for something different–because she does such a beautiful job of giving life to characters and relationships and whole communities. At a recent event, she talked about how books don’t become all that they are until they have readers, that what an author writes only becomes something meaningful in the hands of a reader – the right reader, any reader. (Apologies to KD for mis-paraphrasing any of her words, of course.) So much of what she said that day was inspiring to young writers, old writers, lovers of reading.
Shortly afterwards, I read Becoming by Michelle Obama. No one needs me to say how great it is, because obviously, everyone already knows it. One of the things I have always liked about her, from the first time I heard her speak during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses oh-so-many years ago, is that she seems like a regular person, someone who would fit right in on my rather quirky block. She’s got her opinions, sure, but she isn’t just yammering on; she’s trying to do something to make the world a better place.
Then I read Louise Penny’s latest, Kingdom of the Blind. I have been looking forward to this for months. I am such a fan of this series that when I read a blog which called it a “cozy” series, I was offended for her, since I’m not thinking many “cozy” series have an ongoing thread which involves opioids, violence, and corruption. Then, of course, I was annoyed, because I feel like “cozy” is code for lightweight, like “chick lit” and “romance,” — mostly books written by women by the way –and if people like a type of book, why does anyone have to throw down judgment on them? (I say this, knowing that I am guilty of judging books myself.)
One of the ongoing themes in Penny’s books is community, the way the neighbors in Three Pines support each other even when they don’t agree, the way they become a family, even to you as a reader. Maybe that’s the “cozy” they were going for. I don’t know. It still bugs me.
And then I woke up this morning thinking about tornadoes – long story – but it led me thinking about all three of these authors and how they are putting something out into the world which speaks to hope, not hopey—changey hope, but something deep and universal within us. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. And when we wake up, sometimes all we can do is hope that the new day will be better. Amen.