A story too good to let go

BY MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

Sometimes you just have to give in. Not to worry, I am not crossing a line in the sand. There is no cause for concern for my state of being.

I just decided one day recently to do absolutely nothing on my very lengthy “to do” list. In my favor, it was an inclement weekend day. Yard tasks were not enticing. Housework wasn’t at a crisis point. The need to be isolated due to virus concerns was part of the decision making process. Visits to and from family members were not expected.

The final decision was not so much an academic exercise, but an eventual glance at the clock revealing I had dallied away the better part of the day reading a book. The morning began as usual with a pot of coffee and nothing on the calendar. Not one single activity was pushing me to get up and at it.

The book in question is probably the longest piece of pleasure reading I have ever picked up.  I had been working on the story over a period of about a month, chipping away at the convoluted connections of the residents of a small Ohio town during the years following the American Civil War and up to the early years of the Great Depression.

There I sat with the rain spitting outside and a fresh cup of coffee in my hand. The book was on the night stand where it is heaved when I begin falling asleep with it in my lap at night. I picked it up, opened it and began reading. And that was just about exactly the picture many hours later.

I did change locations and beverages. Food was prepared appropriately. But, I read for hours in one day.

I do not remember the last time, if ever in my adult life, I read because I could, all day long. I read while dinner was cooking. I was distracted a few times by the dog’s needs, but I returned to the book. There may have been some little inconsequential interruptions throughout the day, but none which persuaded me to return to the real world. I felt absolutely no guilt in my decision. I was reading a book.

During the long months we have been in a state of suspended living, I have read a number of books from my stash. In retrospect I find it interesting, and curious, that every selection, up to this latest choice, was a work of non-fiction.

Further, each book was not short on pages and, frequently, footnotes. I always feel duty bound to read the footnotes. What little secret might the author be hiding in an out of text reference point?

In one particular book, the typeface used for the reference number is so tiny, I would miss it and become annoyed when, upon reaching the bottom of the page I discovered a footnote.  The very least the author, editor, and publisher can do for a loyal reader is give a clear road map to this extra special information.

It is truly a test of reader resolve when the footnotes are in the back of the book. If you want me to know it, put it where I can access it without the aid of multiple bookmarks to keep my place. Never the less, I plow on.

One would think, after expending so much energy to read all those “serious” tomes, I would eventually turn to something light, frivolous, and simple to follow. Perhaps, it was time for a bit of light bedtime reading.

I began the exercise of this latest piece partially because the book is not mine. It had been loaned to me by a friend who repeatedly told me how much she loved it and treasured it. The story was epic, but even more; the setting of the story and the author had an emotional connection for my friend.

I had to read it, she said.

Well, I put it off for as long as I thought polite. Truthfully, I couldn’t imagine diving into a story which clearly was going to involve more than a few days commitment. The sheer weight of the book, and number of pages, spoke of an effort crossing months. Would I tire of it? What would I say if I returned it unfinished? Would it take such a long time to read I would lose track of the story line?             

Well, it is just the break I needed. In fact, after that long day devoted solely to reading, I was within just a hundred pages of the end; the book has 1,176 pages.

The family stories were well into the third generation. There were marriages, babies, deaths, tragedies, scandals (softly spoken about just between friends), wars, economic downturns, and politics.

Historically speaking, the work was well researched. Every detail of architecture, clothing, daily living, and social norms were described minutely and at length. Some sentences are so long, with numerous phrases and clauses, understanding required rereading.

I can’t keep the book forever, but I don’t want to give up those final pages. I will miss those people.