The Book that Changed Everything


I grew up in a house full of books. Like the old lady who lived in a shoe, my mother had so many books she didn't know what to do. My mother was a connoisseur of the bodice ripper. Covers that would make you blush. Fabio was no stranger in my house. Because space was scarce in our cramped three bedroom condo, my mothers books took over the house. There would be one on the kitchen table, in the chair where she kept her purse, on the end tables in the living room, on her night stands and dresser. And, most notably, on a homemade, DIY before DIY was a thing, wall spanning bookcase inches from our dining room table in what can only be described as an eat in kitchen. Books were just a part of life, and happily so. 

I had free reign of these books. Even at the tender ages of seven and eight. By eleven and twelve I knew to ignore Steven King and Dean R. Koonz. I knew that Judy Blume was relatively safe, since Are You There God It's Me Margaret, had changed my life when I was nine. I knew that the bodice rippers were out of my league, but I read some of them anyway. I blame those bodice rippers on my distaste for Fifty Shades of Grey. You read one bodice ripper, you have read them all. 

When I was a about thirteen or fourteen I was bored one night and my mom suggested I read a book. I didn't have any of my Sweet Valley Highs available or my Baby Sitters Clubs, so I walked over to her massive bookshelf and picked the one that sounded most interesting to me at the moment. 

I found The Book of Phoebe. A book about a Yale Senior in the early eighties that finds herself pregnant and on the run to visit her friend in Paris. Upon her arrival she is shuffled to her friend's friend, a man, an artist, and the perfectly imperfect person to fall in love with. I was smitten.

The descriptions of life in Paris were enough for me to dream of travel. The descriptions of pregnancy, were enough to show me I had no desire to be in such a state until ready. The story of friendship and love inspired me to want both of those things in my life. The prose was beautiful and inspiring and everything you would want in a book about a woman finding herself. 

It was the first time I really lost myself in a book. Forget Blubber and Margaret, Phoebe had real life problems that couldn't be solved with ease. It was a story within a story and I loved every moment of it. And I knew without a doubt that I wanted to write something as beautiful. The Book of Phoebe was the book that called me to write a story of my own. 

I read that book a few times a year until it was packed up when the movers came when I was eighteen. It went into a box, and with a fresh start and a new place, my mom only unpacked half her books. The ones she could live without. Phoebe didn't make the cut. During my college years I thought about Phoebe, pinned for her and her story. I'd see something or read something that reminded me of her. But I never really sought out the book. Never begged my mom to help me dig in the boxes in our little covered garage. Even when we moved into a house, and then again when my parents moved a third time. Mom and I always talked about going through her books but we just never found the time.

When I decided to move some of my favorite books into my bedroom, I realized that Phoebe was required to join the ranks. My collection would never be complete without her. So I searched and searched and couldn't find her. Turns out I had the wrong title. I was remembering it all wrong. I finally found her via Google and Good Reads and as it turns out she is currently out of print. But thanks to Amazon and some really great resale shops I was able to score her for a penny (way under priced) and $3.99 for shipping. A week later Phoebe was home. 

I cracked the spine, which had maybe had one previous owner do the same, and completely lost myself in the story all over again. For three days I read with and without distraction. I didn't write or spend any time on social media. I just fell into the pages of a lost friend.

It reminded me all over again why I'm trying so hard to do what I do. Why this blog means so much to me. Why I stay up way to late typing out the little stories and ideas in my mind. It reinforced the love I have for the written word. How easy a story can take you and sweep you off your feet. It was everything I remembered it to be and more. Because this time I was a mother, this time I had been pregnant. This time I was reading with a new perspective and a new life, and with some experience under my belt. And damn if it wasn't still just as sweet as the first time.

Sometimes you read a story that never leaves you. That sets up camp in your heart, and resides there like a love you once had. And sometimes if you are really lucky, it changes absolutely everything.

2 comments:

  1. Love this. I always had a book by my side growing up, and still do. I remember once as a freshman in high school I had finished a test and was bored. My teacher slipped me Slaughterhouse-Five, way advanced for my age I suppose, and I ate it up. There's so great about discovering an awesome book.

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  2. I have a book like this. I think we all do. I love what you wrote at the end. =]

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