What is your favorite….
I can’t pick just one. It’s impossible. And the reason it’s impossible is because stories are a lot like songs in that the most beloved ones linger with you for different reasons. Some stories strike the sentimental you and so it remains your favorite in that category. Some linger because you read them at a time in your life when you needed something specific that the book offered, like laughter or adventure or a happy ending. Some stories strike the intellectual side of you, and so linger because they challenge the way you think, thus making you grow. And some are your favorite because they highlight a character that seems to have lived your life and so lingers in your mind. Asking anyone to choose a favorite story, or song, is like asking that person to decide which of their emotions is most important. With that being said, here is the short list of my favorites:
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.
This book is brilliant. Frankly, I know too much about the Holocaust and the Second World War to enjoy many (read: any) fictional accounts of the era. Many seem to focus on the German civilian, and what they did or did not know. Very, very few attempt to recreate life in the camps, for understandable reasons. Anyway, I’d about given up on reading fictional accounts of this era. Maybe it was because the synopsis was about a girl who loved books even before she could read them. Maybe it was because the narrator was Death and that reminded me of something one of my characters would try. Maybe it was just because I wanted to read a historical novel about something important. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I bought the book. And, let me tell you, I cried. I laughed, and I was heartbroken when I got to the last page. I was genuinely sad that that book was over, and that almost never happens to me. You see, truth be told, I am an extremely picky reader. I will re-read my own books instead of buying a new one because too many books are monotonous. Please don’t make fun of me but I like Danielle Steel: her Kaleidoscope was the first full-length novel I read and was the book that moved me from The Baby Sitter’s Club to fiction. Be that as it is, though, I have not bought a new Danielle Steel book in decades because they are all the same thing. Extremely well written, and I think the woman herself is amazingly courageous and kind (she actually personally responds to every e-mail, which says a whole lot): she has experience in loving criminals, which is something I can relate to. Bottom line, I don’t buy books. I dream about buying books. But I don’t actually do it unless the synopsis blows me away. And this book’s wonderfully engaging blurb didn’t do the book itself justice. The Holocaust is one of the most important events in modern history. No, it’s not the only example of mass murder sanctioned by a government. There are plenty of other, even more recent, examples. But the Jewish people…. their quiet dignity and grace speaks to me. And when I was growing up, their stories convinced me that I could survive my own childhood. If a human being survived losing every member of her family only to be released to find she did not have a home anymore, a job, or any relatives, then I could survive being violated and stripped bare. If a human being could survive being deliberately starved and cramped together with dozens of others with no access to clean toilets, baths or treatment for lice or any of the numerous diseases that plagued the victims, then I could survive being padded down so I could walk into a jailhouse and visit a father who was incapable of love. Zusak captured the essence of real survivor’s testimonies. I know, because I’ve spoken with survivors and because I have watched videos and read accounts of dozens more. It isn’t just a good book. It is a great book. It is an important book. It is one I will read again, and again, because it does an exceptional job of capturing the full gammit of emotions felt by survivors of any traumatizing event.
A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner
I love Faulkner. And I really love almost all of his work. As I Lay Dying is a classic masterpiece. But my heart hurt for Emily. You see, like Emily, I hate change. It scares me and it forces me to step outside my comfort box. I’ve gotten better at dealing with it than I used to be, but it still makes my breath catch every now and then. Predictability, however boring it may be, makes me feel safe. Emily just wanted to be safe. I connected with that character on basic levels and so I cried when I got to the end of the story and realized just how much change had hurt her. I know she committed a crime, and I was horrified by it. But what I couldn’t get out of my head was how her father damaged her and how the town hurt her and how, finally, she just couldn’t take it anymore. She just needed to feel in control of something. She just needed safety and peace. Truly, this short story had so many layers to it. It was brilliant writing by a master of the craft and the story itself was haunting, and sad, and thought-provoking.
The Holocaust, by Martin Gilbert
A non-fiction book that covers the entire Second World War. Truly, there isn’t another like it. Reading this book changed my life by showing me that I wasn’t the only one who was ever hurt. It was my introduction to the Holocaust, and to the Jewish people. Stories like the Jewish man who escaped a camp, ran to a nearby village and convinced a German woman to hide him for the duration of the war by showing her his scarred and burned hands as “proof” he was Christ broke my heart. Stories like the mother who, when being chased by the Nazis, went to the second floor of a house and threw her infant out of the window so as to save the baby from being murdered by the Nazis and then was forced to watch as a Nazi caught her falling child on a bayonet and laughed about how the baby’s blood dirtied his shoes left me sick to my stomach and shaking. Stories like the one of the naked woman who stood in a line of newly arrived victims who’s bodies were being inspected by the Nazis clutched a family Torah in plain sight without it ever being seen left me thanking God for miracles. I read about Kristallnacht, and about book burnings and terribly degrading things the Nazis made respected rabbis do. I read about courage I had never imagined existed like the Kindertransport and ordinary Jews who simply refused to obey, even when they knew death would be the result. I came away traumatized from the reading of this book. In retrospect, I probably read it too early in life. But I also came away truly believing that I could survive; it lit a flame of hope in me that, quite frankly, I desperately needed.
There is just no other book like the Word of God; it is comforting, it is encouraging, it is inspiring.
Again, there are many more books. I could create an entire page to the books I love. But these are the ones that stay true.
Horse. To me, they represent strength and freedom.
Strong Enough to Bend, by Tanya Tucker, because it’s beautiful on about a thousand different levels.
Wind Beneath my Wings, by Bette Midler, because it reminds me of my mother.
Gathering Flowers, a very old gospel hymn, because it was Mama O’s favorite song.
The Song Remembers When, by Trisha Yearwood, because it really does.
Pink, because I am a true-blue girl.
Chocolate banana crepe, preferably those made on the streets of Paris, France, but I’ll accept the ones made by The Perch in Nashville. Also, anything Italian.
Mama O’s chocolate pie. I can’t tell you the recipe because then it wouldn’t be a family one. Still, this is one of the very important reasons I so anticipate Thanksgiving and Christmas: they are just about the only two times of the year I can guarantee my mom will make it. Since she makes it much better than I do, I get really excited about these two dinners.
The black Eclipse I had. It was my first car ever, and it was a manual transmission ,and it was the coolest car on the planet. However, I do also really like the Durango I have now.
Last year, for my birthday, my mom helped my girls create a scrapbook made up entirely of letters and pictures the girls drew and wrote for me by themselves. I don’t think that one can be topped.
Pink roses. Although I love honeysuckle too.
Christmas, of course. I’ve been shopping for Christmas since August. I get really, really happy around Christmastime. I absolutely adore everything about it, even the cold weather. Also, I love Easter.
Actor and Actress:
Sally Field is fantastically talented, as proven by many roles she’s played, like the mother in Steel Magnolias, and her role in Eye for an Eye was very convincing. But I also like Julia Roberts. As for actors, Tommy Lee Jones tops that list.
Favorite singer is Tanya Tucker. I really like her. Beneath all her bravado, she’s a very family-oriented woman. Plus, she’s 55 and has never been married, so we’re kind of kindred spirits, you know. Also, her songs are story songs, which is probably the main reason I like her.
::hear me laugh::
What are sports again?
My sister loves the Atlanta Braves and has since we were children. Because of her, I know the names of some of the players. Plus, they’re based out of Georgia, and I really, really love Georgia, so I’m going to say the Braves.
Criminal Minds and I Survived are the only ones I watch, neither of which I should.
I wear a honeysuckle perfume called Wild Honeysuckle. It is fantastic.
Faulkner, Twain, McNaught. If you know who “McNaught” is, you and I would be great friends.
Winter! I love the cold weather. I love snow. I love beautifully decorated trees and sparkling lights all around town. I also love being cold because that gives me a great reason to make hot chocolate. Also, both my girls’ birthdays are in Winter.
Writing. I really, really love writing.
I’m not answering this question online. Political debates get people all tied up in knots and while it is good to have pull-and-take about important political topics, it is not good to fight about it, as that only divides us. What I will say is that I deeply, passionately love America. Maybe we’re not as strong as we once were, maybe we don’t have all the answers like we wish we did. Maybe we do things we shouldn’t do sometimes. But the courage, resilience and compassion of the American people when there is a real crisis…. that’s what this country was founded on and what has made it so beautiful for so long.
Pine Mountain, Georgia. In a cabin with a wrap-around porch. Far, far away from everything except deer and bear. Thousands of stars lighting the night sky; dozens of lighting bugs to chase. Crickets singing me to sleep. Waking up to misty, dew-drenched mornings.