Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Escaping into the familiar

By Julie

Photo credit: CaptPiper's Flickr photo stream by Creative Commons License
Last night, I disregarded the half-finished library book waiting on my nightstand. (Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.)

I disregarded the other books teetering beneath that one in my to-be-read pile. Ones I eagerly purchased and really can’t wait to read—but not today. (No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel, for instance.)

I ignored Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, which has been queued up on my Nook for a few weeks now. (Series books make me nervous.)

I even turned away from several unread novels written by close friends—ones I know I’ll enjoy immensely not only because I know the authors, but because I know they’ll be good; I’ve read the reviews!

Instead, I scanned my local library’s holdings of available e-books in search of something. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was I searched for, but when I saw this story waiting, I thought, “Yes. That’s the one.”

And today, as I turned to the familiar comfort of this newest Elizabeth Berg novel—Once Upon a Time, There Was Youand I touched my phone screen to flip through page after page after page while I did my daily walk (yes, I am that talented), I nodded and thought again, “Yes.”

Occasionally I read to discover what made a book so revered it won coveted prizes and drew the attention of Oprah Winfrey.

Sometimes I read to learn about yet another instance where humans were capable of incomprehensible horror and humans were capable of unbelievable hope.

Very often, these days, I read to learn what’s on the publishing horizon or what’s trending or what’s grabbing the attention of social media mavens.

Even more often, I buy books and read them in support of authors I’ve come to know online nearly as well as many friends I know in person.

And these are all fine reasons, and inevitably, I enjoy the majority of these books and am grateful for the experience. I’m more knowledgeable, more compassionate, more aware.

But sometimes, I simply need to revel in the familiar. I need to read a book by one of my favorite authors for all time, someone like Elizabeth Berg. Someone who seems to be able to take the contents of my mind and channel them directly onto the page. I read and I nod and I think, “How did she know that?” and “Exactly!”

The last week or so (well, much longer than that if you want to get technical) has been especially sad and depressing from a media standpoint. I’m not going into details there. You know. And I am that person who spends hours and hours poring over news articles and opinion pieces, truly attempting to see issues from all sides, trying to develop an educated perspective as opposed to whatever perspective the media is feeding me. This can be a little exhausting, and I do get to the point where, in my exhaustion, I simply have to withdraw for a time. Withdrawal, for me, often means seeking reading material that not only replaces what I’m avoiding, but re-centers me.

And I thank authors like Elizabeth Berg for writing stories like this one, for recording the thoughts she somehow clairvoyantly withdraws from my mind. The things she says for me. The reminders that we are all human, in spite of our seemingly impossible-to-overcome differences of opinion. We all age. We all have insecurities. We all mess up. We all love desperately. We all love foolishly. We all cry. We all laugh. We all get scared. We all are what we are.

Once Upon a Time, There Was You drew me humbly back to a love for humanity.

That’s why I needed to read today.


  1. You perfectly described how I feel about Elizabeth Berg - " Someone who seems to be able to take the contents of my mind and channel them directly onto the page." She is an author I read again and again for the same reasons you write about! :)

  2. Thanks, Karen.

    Pamela reminded me that Berg's book about writing was called Escaping into the Open, and I didn't even remember that when I titled this post! It must have been floating around in my subconscious when I was searching for a title. I was struggling to name it. :) Great book about writing, too.

  3. I love Elizabeth Berg! I have been re-reading some of hers that I read in the 90's and marveling anew at her giftedness. She definitely captures the female brain on the page-- an everywoman who draws from the range of emotions we encounter on any given day. I love her short story "The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted." Never fails to make me laugh!

  4. Marybeth, Talk Before Sleep was the first one I read by Berg, and I was sobbing and in awe and joyful all at once after reading it. I was hooked. And yeah, I love that whole collection about eating! I love food a little too much myself. :)

  5. Elizabeth Berg has been my writing-idol since I read her very first book, Durable Goods. Love her.
    Did you ever read Peace Like A River, Julie? It's one of my favorites.
    Incidentally, my first novel is also being published by St. Martin's Press - mine's in August. We're sisters!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...