I’m comfort reading at the moment. I do that when I’m stressed or when things are rough. I won’t pull any punches, nor will I pretend this is a normal post. It’s anything but. My beautiful sister died on the 1st of December. It was sudden and unexpected and I will take all the comfort I can get.
Reading is something she and I both delighted in, and we often talked about what we were reading and excitedly made lists of books to add to our own TBR pile from those discussions. Barnes and Nobles was a regular pilgrimage for us when I visited her in Oregon. We would gather a stack of books each and bring them to our table in the adjoining Starbucks with its central fireplace and huge windows. Then we’d order coffee and sit and pour over our treasures for hours. We did it every time. She did it with many of the children and young people at her church to celebrate their birthdays. Everyone wanted to go with Nancy for a Barnes and Noble fix.
The last ‘what are you reading’ post I did for OGaG was about how much fun my sister and I had reading out loud to each other when I visited her in August. This was a new discovery for us, one we relished, and because of the heat, one we did often during those two weeks when it was too hot to do anything else.
Comfort reading is different for everyone. My sister was a Christian, and her comfort reading was always the Bible. She knew it well and took delight in the passages that gave her hope and courage for the future. But I’m a writer, and when I take refuge in the pages of a book, I seek out my favorite authors. I often return to my favorite reads. You know, the ones I mean, the ones I’ve read over and over again and never get tired of. I don’t want to have to struggle and concentrate on what I’m reading. I don’t want surprises in hard times when it’s all I can do just to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t want cliffhangers or gut wrenching endings. I want what is familiar. I want what leaves me feeling satisfied. I want what leaves me with hope. I need a Happy Ending.
There have been a plethora of comforting quote this past two weeks - some from the Bible, some not, some cliché, some thought provoking. But quotes don’t get me there no matter how pithy they are, no matter how timeless or tried and true. I need way more words than a quote. I need to get lost in a forest of words. I need to immerse myself in the ocean of story. There is something in the iambic heartbeat of the written word, even when not read out loud, something in the ebbing and flowing, in the cadence of a story unfolding that comforts me, that gives me a sense of continuity, of the order that still exists in the midst of chaos, of the meaning and the purpose we all have to seek out in our celebrations and in our losses. I need the familiar. I need a safe place in which to lose myself and forget the real world for a little while. In some ways, I guess it is like returning to that place below my mother’s heartbeat, that place where I feel protected and safe from all the pain and stress of the world outside.
My sister and I laughed and joked about spending time with the dragon as we read Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels to each other, changing our voices to accommodate the characters, repeating passages we liked, stopping to discuss and speculate. That series is a comfort read for me, but a bit too close at the moment because my last memories of it were of sharing it with her. I am, instead, seeking refuge in the re-reading of the Throne of Glass novels by Sarah J Maas. The world Maas has created is high fantasy, a place of magic and struggle, of heroines and heroes overcoming great odds