Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Right Book Can Change Your Life

I love to read. I could define my stages of life by the books I read: Little Women and anything Frances Hodgson Burnett in grade school. Stories about brave girls who faced the turmoils of life. In my junior high years I began reading more grown up books and would devour anything in my parent’s library which explains why I read The Exorcist, Portnoy’s Complaint and a lot of Sidney Sheldon.

When I went to college I began reading literary fiction and classics. I poured through Somerset Maugham, John Steinbeck and all the old, white men of letters. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t think reading any of those books was a mistake. They were brilliant and I loved them.

In my twenties I began to read a lot more diverse books from Anais Nin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Alice Adams, A.S. Byatt. I moved from the old, white men of letters to the diverse world of literary women. Two Girls Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill rocked my life because I felt like she climbed inside my skin and stole my stories. Toni Morrison wrote of a mother (was it in Song of Solomon?) who bit into her child’s cheek because her love was so strong and she wanted to eat him (which years later inspired a really good poem I wrote).

Books provided an emotional backdrop and still do.

Imagine my horror to have a child who didn’t relate in the same way to books. She reads and enjoys books but her connection wasn’t deep. She never really got lost in the books.

Then came The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

She began talking about this book a couple of months ago. Told me I should read it because it has romance in it. She never said she wanted to read it, only that I should. I was slow on the uptake there. But I finally got her the book for her birthday.

She read it in two days.

We discussed it last night and my heart overflowed: my daughter read a book that opened her world and changed her. It finally happened and it was amazing to see.

We talked about different things in the book: teenagers having sex, having cancer, being in love, and dying.

For the first time she was presented with a romantic relationship and it felt right to her. My anti-love daughter talked about how much these two characters enriched each other and how it was okay for them to express themselves physically because of their situations. We talked about their fear of dying and fear of leaving someone behind.

She let this book be the catalyst to talking about how much it hurts to even think of losing someone you love, a conversation we need to have.

She wants me to read the book and I promised to start it this weekend. I doubt it’ll have the same impact on me (although I might be wrong) but it means the world to her and if it continues to open more doors then I want to walk through them with her.

Thank God I saw this happen. It was truly one of the most joyful mother moments I’ve experienced.


  1. You have been blessed. Many, in fact I venture to say most, people don't have that defining moment. There are books I remember, but none of them lit me up like you describe.

    Mollie has been blessed also, to have a mother like you.

  2. That's so awesome! I hope she will move on to another book that will be another great experience for her.