If you want to find a good read, go to a writing conference.
Writers, I have learned, are jittery about their own books. As often as not, we struggle to tell you what our books are about or why we fell in love with our own stories enough to spend days, months, and years writing them. But as soon as someone starts talking about books we love written by OTHER people, the conversation around the dinner table wakes up.
I keep a notebook or the Evernote app close by at writing events, so when the book lists start flying, I can write down all the titles and then later find my best reads of the year. Sometimes, these books are old treasures that I missed like Catherine Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice.
When these came out in the 1990s, I was busy with other life experiences like my time in Germany, so I missed Karen Cushman’s tales of the Middle Ages. I am grateful my writing friends paid attention back then.
Both of these middle grade works of historical fiction pulled me into the time period. I could tell that Catherine Called Birdy was Cushman’s first tale. The plot wandered a little in the weeds of history while The Midwife’s Apprentice felt tighter with a story line that wove through in a way that CCB sometimes did not. I see why it won the Newbery Medal.
But CCB, the Newbery Honor book, spoke to me this last week. In it, a girl struggled against her limiting circumstances and the arranged marriage awaiting her. I wanted her to be able to run away on a crusade, become a script-writing monk like her older brother, or even to be able to marry Perkins the goat herder.
Maybe as a young teen, I believed these as possible happy endings for a young lady like Catherine.
As a grown up, I recognize those as impossible options for a young woman living in the feudal society of the time.
In any case, I loved how Cushman brought Catherine to a realistic but hopeful resolution at the end. The character found peace and a way to stay true to herself by the end in spite of the oppressive rules of her society.
Many thanks once more to my writing friends for the joy of two good books, one after the other.
May you find your own selves in the midst of whatever lifts you up or holds you in place-
P.S. The biggest trouble with posting late comes when the next week swings around and you’ve already missed it. Getting behind on a weekly post is like waiting until the next night to do the dishes. It gets so much easier to let the pots and plates slide the night after when you’ve done the washing up before cooking and then face more washing up.
All of that is to say that I’ll get my wonders back on Wednesdays next week. Honest.