Unexpected lessons

So much of our lives is governed by the way we were raised: our moral code, our opinions on family, religion, politics–perhaps even the way we read a book. While that may sound overly simplistic or plain silly, I recently finished a book [The Poisonwood Bible] and feel like I just received a firm reprimand from my mother, who has been gone for 18 years now.

My mother’s ‘firm’ reprimands were delivered the same way as everything else–in a calm and measured voice, but when she really meant business, her cheeks got pink and her eyes teared up. That meant that whatever she was saying should be heard–and we listened.

The Poisonwood Bible was the book selection for this month’s book club. I read some reviews online (which, by the way, started me out with a negative attitude and I won’t do again), and expecting to not like the book, I decided to check it out at the library. This may not seem like a big deal, but what you should know is that I did not possess a library card prior to this. I am a lover of books (I tell my grandkids, and told their parents before them, that books are our best friends and for a good part of my life, this has been my truth). I am a buyer of books. I collect and share. My thought is that if I can afford a book, I want to buy it and put it in motion, hand to hand, out of respect for the author’s hard work.   I never check a book out at the library and return it.


But, I got a library card to check out this 543 page book–yes, you read that right. Five hundred and forty three pages of what sounded like it would be pure torture to read (again, shame on me for taking someone else’s opinion). Only my complete commitment to book club–a book club I begged for, prayed for, and finally got and will not disrespect in any way (I LOVE you ladies!)–got me to open the book.

I am ashamed to say that for the past two weeks, my husband has had to listen to me whine about the extreme negativity of this book and how it was dragging my spirits down so much, I felt like it was killing my creativity (for lovers of the book, don’t give up on me here…).  Honestly though, I sat down to write a blog two times and could only come up with two paragraphs which are sitting in my draft file for further contemplation because that darn book was weighing so heavily on my mind.  Since I have been unable to write at 4 am, I figured I might as well read until my work day began.

This morning, as I tackled the last hundred or so pages of the book, I finally understood why my creativity has been stifled.  The ending of the book summed it up nicely for me.  It wasn’t because the book was negative but rather because I knew what I was reading was real–and that reality was too sad to embrace.  Instinctively, I wanted to turn away from it.

This is the part where my mother reprimanded me.  Seriously, as I read the last pages, I literally had guilt wash over me.  When did I become someone who wanted to turn away from reading about the horrors another nation endures because it interferes with my daily countenance?  That statement does not speak well for me, and I’m certain my mother was shaking her head sadly knowing she raised me better than that.

I know I have raised my own children to turn toward the plight of others and reach out.  I see each of my children living their lives in this manner (thankfully) even while their own mother had a lapse in judgment.  I pray that this has only happened to me in reading and not in my daily life, but I assure you this book has brought these thoughts to the front of my consciousness.  By the way, I loved the book.  It truly touched my soul.

There is so much beauty and knowledge to be shared in books.  I think of all of the writer’s conferences, classes, and training seminars I’ve attended during which I have met numerous published authors who talk of how hard they worked to get their words into print.  I don’t know of any other profession where one person spends years upon years trying to get one thing accomplished.  In an interview with the New York Times, the author of this book [Barbara Kingsolver] indicated it took her close to eighteen years to research and write this book.  I don’t even want to think about how long it took to find an agent or publisher to read it after all of that…that kind of devotion deserves respect.

“Of all the things which man can do or make here below, by far the most momentous, wonderful, and worthy are the things we call books.” – Thomas Carlyle

If you are reading this blog, I know that the written word has touched your life in some way.  Whether it was something you learned in class in grade school, in college, in church, or just for fun–or whether you just love to be transported into another world when your own world is too busy, too sad, or too lonely–books are a gift to be cherished.  From one person’s heart and soul [pen to paper] into our own, we should cherished the unexpected lessons we learn from them.  

Dr. Seuss said it quite simply:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

I also love this quote:

“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.” – Anthony Trollope

So go buy a book today!  Someone has worked really, really hard to touch your soul.


2 thoughts on “Unexpected lessons

  1. Really enjoyed your blog today! Your perspective on the value of books and how to approach reading them was inspiring! I read The Poisonwwod Bible about 15 years ago for a book club. Amazing book!


  2. Cyn,
    Yes, books are my forever friends! They are my solace, my habit, and take me on journeys with lessons to learn!
    I had a hard time getting into this book but I never give up on a book! I am almost done, and I treasure the author’s time and word craft!


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