Lit I Love, Title 6: The Secret Life of Bees

secret_life_of_beesIn this world, being human and all, there are many times when the people who should be there for us just aren’t. And there is something powerful about another human stepping into that space and being present for the one in need. In that power, this outsider can bring healing or cause great harm. It’s an idea that is one I am drawn to in story form over and over. One such brilliant example is The Secret Life of Bees by, Sue Monk Kidd. In this story, we meet Lily. Lily has a vague recollection of the day her mother was killed and it’s put in her a deep longing to know more about her mother and what happened that day. In Lily’s home at the time, are Rosaleen who is the maid but also is very much a mother to Lily, and T.Ray who is her abusive father. Rosaleen gets into trouble for standing up to some racists, and Lily, in an effort to help Rosaleen, ends up on a journey that takes her to the door of three sisters who take her in. While I read this, I kept thinking about how we all have special niches that we can fill, and not one of us can meet all of another person’s needs, even the people we care the most about.

Sue Monk Kidd has a great aptitude for expressing the importance of relationships and community, in her novels. It’s a quality I strive to reproduce in my writing, too. I think that’s why stories like these, especially when the protagonist is so young and the heroes so unexpected, appeal to me.

Have you read any of Sue Monk Kidd’s books? Do her stories resonate with you? Are there novels that have informed the way you think about relationships and community? I want to know.

Thanks for reading!

Readers, I’m looking for guest authors for this blog. Is there a piece of literature that’s inspired you? Maybe it helped you see the world differently, maybe it helped you make an important decision, or maybe it made you realize you weren’t alone in the world. If you’re not brave enough to post, I could tweak your submission (with your approval) & post it. Comment here, or email me dldiener@gmail.com, if you’re willing.

Lit I Love, Title 5: Thorn in My Heart

thorn in my heartThe lowlands of Scotland are a lush, rich corner of the world. Mountains, rivers, deep green valleys. I can see why Liz Curtis Higgs fell in love with it, and because she did, I did, too. Part of my heart is walking about Glentrool, Scotland, with Jamie, Rose, and Leana. They’re the main characters from her first book in the Lowlands of Scotland series, Thorn in My Heart. I saw Glentrool briefly once, on a road sign through a car window as we drove past it on our way to Wales. Higgs, though, has spent a lot of time there and her affection and attention to detail are evident when you read her book. It’s an historical fiction retelling of the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, told in the book of Genesis from the Bible. But it’s set in 18th century Scotland. Now, as intrigued as I was with the story when I started reading it, I thought how is Higgs ever going to pull this off? The story had so many twists in it, I didn’t think it’d be possible to translate that to 18th century Scotland, but she does it with master finesse.

I have come to really appreciate Higgs as a wordsmith. Her settings are spot-on. I set myself up for a virtual walk (on my computer) through the town at the center of this story and even though my map was 200 years younger than the story, you can see she got it right. She is diligent about the historical and cultural details in her stories and has given me a solid writer-crush on her work. She inspires me to stay mindful and be deliberate about those aspects in my writing.

Have you fallen in love with a place through a novel? Have you read this series? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book and also on the importance of setting and accurate details.

Thanks for reading!

Readers, I’m looking for guest authors for this blog. Is there a piece of literature that’s inspired you? Maybe it helped you see the world differently, maybe it helped you make an important decision, or maybe it made you realize you weren’t alone in the world. If you’re not brave enough to post, I could tweak your submission (with your approval) & post it. Comment here, or email me dldiener@gmail.com, if you’re willing.

 

    Lit I Love, Title 4: Anne of Green Gables

    AGGI’m not sure how old I was the first time I encountered this story, but if ever there was a fictional town filled with characters I am fairly sure I’d recognize if I bumped into them in real life, it’d be Avonlea, and of course, I’d be elbowing Diana Barry out of the way to prove to Anne that she really wanted me as her bosom friend. I adore Anne of Green Gables by, L.M. Montgomery, on many levels. It’s the kind of writing that stands the test of time, and Montgomery seems to be able to pull her readers so far into the story that part of them stays in Avonlea forever. And if you fall in love with Green Gables, know this is just one book in a series well worth the read.

    I started college shortly after the movies based on this series had come out and I knew I’d found a kindred heart in my to-be best friend when she gushed on Anne, Diana, and Gilbert, as much as I did. It affected our romantic lives, too. If you weren’t quite up to the “Gilbert Blythe Standard”, you really didn’t stand a chance of dating us.

    If you’re not familiar with the story (go and read it now, or read it to the children in your life), it’s about a girl that’s been orphaned and she’s accidentally shipped off to the wrong family. It’s kind of a grim premise, but Montgomery makes Anne relatable. I think that is one of the biggest gifts an author can give a reader. Right there in their hands is someone normal, like them, figuring out how to live through the unimaginable and doing it with humor, pluck, and regular, everyday courage.

    What about you? Are you a fan of the girl who spells her name with an ‘e’ because it’s more distinguished? What books connected with you when you were young? And for the writer-readers out there, did your childhood favorites shape what you write now?

    Thanks for reading!

    Readers, I’m looking for guest authors for this blog. Is there a piece of literature that’s inspired you? Maybe it helped you see the world differently, maybe it helped you make an important decision, or maybe it made you realize you weren’t alone in the world. If you’re not brave enough to post, I could tweak your submission (with your approval) & post it. Comment here, or email me dldiener@gmail.com, if you’re willing.

      Lit I Love, title 3: Flowers for Algernon

      flowers_for_algernonI don’t think I was much more than 13. My body hadn’t even fully come into its own yet. And my English teacher had assigned us Flowers for Algernon by, Daniel Keyes. I’m fairly certain is was the short story, I’ve never gone back and re-read it, but I don’t recall the part about the illicit sexual affair and I think that might have been a bit much for our grade. Nevertheless, it was the first time I remember being kicked-in-the-gut by a story. We’d read Of Mice and Men by, John Steinbeck, and I think our teacher was on a bit of a theme with how we treat the humans around us that are different, especially those who live with mental, emotional, and physical challenges. That’s all good and worthy, but the part that hurt me the most in that story was the death of Algernon (he’s a lab mouse, if you’re unfamiliar with the story). I literally threw the book down and ran out of the room in heaving sobs. My mother was folding laundry in front of a soap-opera and seemed befuddled at my emotional wreckage.

      “What’s wrong, honey?” She waved me over and pulled me into her arms. I settled after a bit and managed to choke out, “Algernon…died. He died. Oh, mom!” The waves of literary grief swelled again.

      It took her forever to figure out what on earth I meant. And when she did, she had to willfully pull her laugh into a compassionate frown. “I’m so sorry, it sounds like a sad story.”

      Rage bubbled. “A story,” I nearly spat. “You just don’t understand!” I ran back to my room. I heard her say something about hormones right before I slammed the door, nicely (I didn’t want to get in trouble). I wailed some more before I finally picked the book back up and finished the saddest story I’d ever read in my life.

      Since then, the bar for emotional involvement has been set quite high. I enjoy a story that doesn’t move me to tears or force a hearty laugh up from my belly, but they’re just not quite the same without it. I want to be so fully-invested that I cease being the woman who is sitting here typing on a laptop with an ear cocked for the sound of a child getting sick. I think that longing stuck with me and it’s why I’m so hard on my own fiction. I want to go beyond amusement or a poignant moment, I want to bring my readers so deeply into my story that they become enmeshed with it. Bit of a lofty goal, and maybe a bit unrealistic, but it’s a good goal.

      I will forever to be grateful to Daniel Keyes for altering my life as a reader, hats off to my English teacher, too. It became a cornerstone in the foundation of my writing.

      What about you? What moved your reader’s heart as a child? Did it change how you read books after that? Do you get emotional when you read?

      Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to share this post if you enjoyed it.

      Readers, I’m looking for guest authors for this blog. Is there a piece of literature that’s inspired you? Maybe it helped you see the world differently, maybe it helped you make an important decision, or maybe it made you realize you weren’t alone in the world. If you’re not brave enough to post, I could tweak your submission (with your approval) & post it. Comment here, or email me dldiener@gmail.com, if you’re willing.