The Power of a Good Book

Trisha Yearwood had a hit a few years back, “The Song Remembers When.” Music has the power to place you back in a certain time in a unique way. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that to be true with books as well.

I can look at my bookcase and pretty much tell you what was going on in my life at the time I was reading a particular book. Anna Karenina will always remind me of a Christmas trip to Colorado with dear friends, Kristin Lavransdatter accompanied me to the South of France (though there were times I questioned bringing 900+ book through Europe), and a biography of St. Thomas More kept my mind off being on bed rest with my first child.

A few months ago, that same first child came down with pneumonia and, after a midnight trip to the ER, ended up in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Pretty much my worst nightmare.

As I “slept” on the vinyl pull-out praying for a rise in oxygen levels and trying to ignore the beeps and alarms going off every couple of minutes, I was a nervous wreck. In an attempt to stop my addled brain from going to a very bad, scary place, I half-heartedly picked up Gone With the Wind.

It had been sitting on my Kindle for a while. I’m not sure that I’d ever really read GWTW cover to cover before, but Lord knows I’ve seen the movie more times than I can count. I think you have to if you are a Southerner. Anyway, I thought it would be literary fluff–something to keep my mind off what was going on around me, even if only for a little while. But it was so much more. Margaret Mitchell weaves together the complexities and contradictions of Scarlett and Rhett against the backdrop of the political, social and spiritual upheaval of the Civil War. Yet she never loses her tight grip on characters and that’s what kept me reading late into the night in the PICU. As a reader, I was entranced; as a writer, I was awed.

Margaret Mitchell’s words written 75 years ago about people dealing with life and death 150 years ago helped me through one of the most frightening episodes of my life. Everyone is now healthy and getting back to normal. We are so thankful. I don’t miss those scary nights in the PICU, but I will always be grateful to Scarlett, Rhett, Melly and the gang for keeping me company.

I’d love to know if certain books bring back memories for you?

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About elizabethcarden

A wife, mom and writer of historical fiction (but sadly, not of thank you notes).
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2 Responses to The Power of a Good Book

  1. stephanie conner says:

    “Little Women” brings back a whole heap of memories of time and place. Unfortunately, thinking about it also reminds me of my terrible hair at the time. :) So glad all are healthy again at home.

  2. Shannon says:

    Reading Leishman’s translation of Rilke: “Anticipate all farewells as were they behind you now like the winter going past.” I can’t remember where my car keys are but have never forgotten that. Thank you for reminding me of the written word’s power to elevate the mundane (and even terrifying) to a transcendent moment of grace. xxoo

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