There is a thread somewhere on this site (can't find it now, so sorry, so clueless...) where folks are posting a short list of their favorite reads. I had made a note of several of the books mentioned, but wanted to know why those books were loved.
So, how about a Book Review thread? Have you a favorite book? Don't just tell us the name - tell us how it changed your life! Why you love it! Who should read it!
Here's my review to kick things off:
"You have exactly two weeks to read this book and return a book report."
My ninth grade teacher pushed oversized glasses up her nose as she spoke. Her black hair was piled in a loose bun on the top of her head. The knot swayed back and forth, and I could see grey roots at her temples. I opened the frayed cover. To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it in three days.
I never finished an entire chapter book before. I didn't know books told stories, thought they just rained parables full of words hard as hail I would never understand. I drew charcoal portraits of the characters, wrote an original play about Scout's adventures in my own hometown, laboriously typed it up on my Gramma's Underwood. The morning it was due I found a million saliva-coated pieces strewn across the kitchen floor. The family dog gave me an apologetic glance.
I told my teacher, could barely get the words past the lump in the throat. She didn't believe me. She gave me an "F." As she spoke, I watched her morph into old dying Mrs. Dubose, my chewed pages the soft waxy petals and torn leaves of a ruined camellia bush. I squinted through tears, my hands on hips just like Scout. That's when I figured adults were cynical and tired, that they didn't stop to hear the expression of your eyes. I did the only thing Scout would do. I stole that dog-eared hardcover school edition and called it my own.
Ten years later, I became some kind of Boo Radley - Mayella hybrid, pregnant, the victim of violent rape, a girl on the run. I stood in line at Employment Assistance day after day, filled out form after form, met with pasty-faced placement officers and nothing, just nothing happened. I walked parking lots looking for spare pennies, enough to buy a loaf of cheap bread. Women with money passed me, didn't see my hollow cheeks, didn't notice the only dirty maternity shirt I owned. I lay in bed each night, musty book against growing belly and prayed to a fading God to give me the steady wisdom of Atticus.
What I want to do now is slice my body in half so that you can peer inside, look at my guts and heart and frontal lobes and see what this book meant to me. It was everything, because it carried me through that pregnancy, sat beside me as I signed my newborn girl over to the state, held my hand during bad choices and man problems and kid emergencies and work traumas. I've lived a hundred thousand lives in the thirty years since I stole that book, wear Calpurnia's apron as I cook dinner, watch my own young boys steal Jem's defiance, Scout's tree-climbing joy, Dill's imagination.
I remember one night sitting in a parking lot, stealing wifi from a chain hotel. My mom waited in an Albuquerque hospital bed for blood clot surgery. The Book hid in my purse, every page splattered with pizza, with tears, with rock scrabble memory. I knew just what scene I would read as they wheeled Mom to meet the surgeon. I would open to the day Scout finally meets the darkness, the evening she sits in white light silence next to Boo Radley. My Mom met her fears as they drove the sleep needle into her arm. As for me, I meet my fears every damn day. But thanks to Harper Lee, I'm never alone.