Update: the winner of Kimberly’s novel is Susan Coster. She has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered!
My first literary love was not a book. See, I’m already off topic. But bear with me here. I was crazy about books from the time I first goggled my eyes at one. I still have my grandfather’s old Bible, marked up and smelling of tractor grease and hayfields. Sometimes I take it out to read it and end up smelling it, instead, because it reminds me of hours of that man telling me those stories. The problem was, when She Reads asked me to recall my first literary love I froze. I couldn’t think of one single book. It was like trying to take a multiple choice test where I could talk myself into all the answers. I loved too many, I thought!
So, I got myself into a quiet place to think a minute. (hid in my closet) And I realized the reason I couldn’t settle on one book as my literary first love is because I don’t love books. I love STORIES. My earliest memories of story are the ones my granny made up before bedtime and I would close my eyes and imagine the worlds she built. I have memories of my mother playing pretend with me for hours, either as a wicked stepmother or a handsome prince, or even with the hole in her fuzzy blue house shoes where her toe peeped through and magically transformed into a turtle. Through story, I learned, we are transformed.
Every year I lived and breathed for the nights when the network channels showed Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music, and then I spent weeks acting out my favorite scenes, becoming the characters, experiencing life beyond my own limitations.
I discovered the library. Not just any library, but the old Dalton library that was a huge, red brick antebellum house with white columns and a mahogany banister. It smelled musty and papery and I wanted to curl up in its dark corners and poke my heads behind doors where I shouldn’t be, to learn its secrets. Inside that library, the stories were whispering: Beverly Cleary taught me about siblings, Judy Blume gave me courage to face my diagnosis of scoliosis, and I still sometimes dream of an elusive book about children who traveled through time in an old Scottish keep. They compelled me to question and to value mystery.
The school library was a sanctuary, too, and I devoured the books so my middle school librarian had to start bringing things in for me to read. She gave me Victoria Holt and I was transported by passion. In Sunday school or over the course of a thousand summers of VBS, I loved the Bible stories and more than that, the parables. I loved that there was a secret inside, something you had to search out, a truth that was my reward. And I heard those truths in the music, too. Everything in life, to me, seemed to be telling a story, and at the heart of every one, good or bad, I found the same thing: Love.
Today, I took out that old Bible and took a whiff of my grandfather’s ghost before I wrote this post. And he whispered to me, the answer. My literary first love was not a book, as it turns out.
It was the Storyteller.
Kimberly’s debut novel, THE RIVER WITCH, is our book club selection this month. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, fear not! We’re giving away a copy today. Leave a comment on this post to enter.
Roslyn Byrne is twenty-four years old, broken in body, heart and soul. Her career as a professional ballet dancer ended with a car wreck and a miscarriage, leaving her lost and grieving. She needs a new path, but she doesn’t have the least idea how or where to start. With some shoving from her very Southern mama, she immures herself for the summer on Manny’s Island, Georgia, one of the Sea Isles, to recover. There Roslyn finds a ten-year-old girl, Damascus, who brings alligators, pumpkins and hoodoo into her sorry life.
Roslyn rents a house from Damascus’s family, the Trezevants, a strange bunch. One of the cousins, Nonnie, who works in the family’s market, sees things Roslyn is pretty sure she shouldn’t, and knows things regular people don’t. Between the Trezevant secrets and Damascus’s blatant snooping and meddling, Roslyn finds herself caught in a mysterious stew of the past and present, the music of the river, the dead and the dying who haunt the riverbank, and finding the courage to live her new life.
You can read the first two chapters here.