Writing this as a staff member of the Scranton Library in Madison, CT,
Welcome to Rural Fiction Day at The Scranton Page Turner. Today we’ll be discussing two contemporary novels and one classic novel.
Eden Close is Ms Shreve’s first novel and my favorite. Eden Close, the title’s character is a blind women who endured a violent act at a young age. Living in a battered house on farmland, Eden grow up sheltered by her overly domineering mother. Back into Eden’s life comes her childhood friend, Andrew. After a nearly twenty year absence, Andrew returns to complete a matter of family business. While back in Eden’s life, Andrew attempts to uncover the mystery surrounding Eden’s life and the feelings he had for her slowly return as well.
Part mystery, part romance. There’s a bit of Gothic to this story as well. A small inkling reminds me just a bit of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I know. I know. That’s a huge amount of praise to lay on a contemporary novel. But there is that feeling to it, at least for me.
North of Hope
As I’m turning back the pages of my memory to find the treasures that hold special meaning for me, I stop for a moment and reflect on the time spent in northern Minnesota, with a priest who has been reassigned to his hometown.
Frank Healy is having a crisis of conscience and he hopes by returning to his northern Minnesota, hometown, he can recover some of the zeal he once felt. There appears to be a running theme thus far in the two books I’ve discussed here.
And here comes that theme:
Man returns home to discover woman he was once in love with.
In North of Hope, Jon Hassler writes about Frank Healy and Libby Girard. Frank returns to serve his hometown folk and the contingent of Ojibwa Native Americans. As Father Healy becomes drawn further into Libby Girard’s life again, a tumultuous life at that and one that is rapidly falling apart. As Libby is dealing with her turmoil, she clings to the only thing that is keeping her grounded. Frank Healy. This only causes more conflict in Healy as he realizes that his still loves Libby and upon coming to this understanding he starts to question whether this is the root of the crisis that returned him to his roots. While reading North of Hope I saw parallels to Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds.
North of Hope, though bleak and full of despair, is ultimately a book I feel is well worth reading. Jon Hassler is an author of many talents. In another’s hands this book could have derailed, but with Hassler at the helm, it was a thoughtful book.
Different in some ways from Eden Close , but in many ways similar.
I could very well have included Huck Finn in my Banned Books post as it has crossed many a list during its time. Huckleberry Finn is a follow up and a branch of the same tree as Tom Sawyer. I see Huck Finn as more rural than Tom Sawyer as much of the book takes place on the grand Mississippi River. I love rereading classic books now that I’m not being told to read them. One of the biggest hurdles I believe that is being placed in young reader’s paths is being given a list of books they must choose from. The challenge with that approach is that some young readers may not be at the same learning point where others are. While it is admirable that schools do give choice, some of the reading lists are antiquated today.
I do believe we should be exposed to everything, but perhaps we should look at the individual and see where each student is before arbitrarily handing out a list of books. I can clearly recall in high school not wanting to read and not taking any pleasure in the activity because I was told I had to read from a prescribed list of books and to this day there are several that I have a severe allergic reaction to whenever they turn up. One such book is Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. The funny thing about this book is that it’s the only Steinbeck I can’t and won’t read. I’ve read just about every other book by Steinbeck.
Okay, as is the case with my other blog, Wisdom and Life, I have a tendency sometimes to get off track. Let’s see if I can refocus. What was I talking about? Oh yes:
Why has the book been on so many Banned Book lists? There is an undercurrent of racism some say. Is it racist? I can’t answer that. That point is up to the reader to decide. It’s one of the reasons I feel we should read anything and everything that jumps out at us. How will we decide what is and what isn’t, if we are not exposed to everything. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are seminal books in American literature and to say someone shouldn’t have the opportunity to read something, well I think that’s a crime against literature.
Maybe. No! No maybe about it. I am biased. I’ve been involved with the written word since I was ten years old, first writing fiction then reading then getting paid to read, first at RJ Julia Booksellers for over five years and now at Scranton Library. So go ahead and call me biased. I do believe we should not be stopping people from choosing what to read. Huck Finn is quintessentially American; and as such it should stay on everyone’s reading list.
Until next time…
…Turn the page.
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