The Reader and the Writer

My grandmother was a capital-r Reader. If there were prizes for book consumption, she could have contended for top honors. She was happiest, she always said, with a stack of books beside her chair. Sometimes she even read two at a time (shocking!).

She was a homebody in her later years, and I was her main book supplier. Usually, I read the books I chose for her: Catherine Cookson, Maeve Binchy, and anything with a bit of nineteenth-century hardship and a splash of romance. None of the modern stuff appealed to her, but a tale in which a family had to share a single potato beside a fire about to flicker out in midwinter--now that floated her boat. She'd often say, "What's wrong with me that I like people starving and suffering in my stories?" And we'd laugh--because it was true.

Sometimes she'd write little notes and tape them to the books before returning them: Very Good. Good. A little steamy! Loved, loved, loved! I still have some of these little scraps. I ought to make a collage of them. (She'd think that was a terrible idea, displaying her left-handed, chicken-scratch handwriting!)

When I visited her as a little girl, I'd sometimes write and illustrate little newspapers for her. Of course, sleepovers at Gram's always involved reading quietly at bedtime, often books discovered at the local book binding factory's "buck-a-book" sale.

When I grew up, I wrote a book, and then another. The second one was dedicated to her. She objected, but it was too late. Her name was in print for the world to see. And in audio book form. Whenever I hear narrator Gerard Doyle read her name in his lovely Irish accent at the beginning of The Gold-Son, my heart smiles and cries at the same time. 

As a writer, you hope your family will love your work. Somehow, in spite of my best efforts to raise readers, my kids are not bibliophiles. Not even close. Not one of the little darlings has read all the way through one of my novels. Grammy Shirley made up for their lack of literary enthusiasm. She read my first book, The Mermaid's Sister, at least ten times. Literally. Every time, she'd have more questions about the characters and how I came up with this or that. Every time, she'd mark parts she liked best and show them to me. She knew my heart was in those pages. She picked out what was true like a miner plucking bits of gold from a pan of pebbles.

Grammie Shirley left this earth a few months ago. To say that I miss her doesn't come close to covering it. We were the best kind of friends--the book sharing kind. She was the reader to my writer, the one who always asked what I would write next, the one who called me a little strange but meant it as a compliment. (If you're a writer, you'll understand this.) 

I hope her home in heaven is full of books piled floor to ceiling, and that she's writing little notes on them for me to see someday: Loved it! Great ending.  


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