A swerve off the road of romance to talk about books in general – hold on to your hats. Twice recently I’ve had the occasion to send people books who have been in mourning, or in a terribly stressful place where a respite would be needed.
I’ve taken a great liking to sending books when flowers or food might be the standard gift, especially those books that are escapes for the people reading them, a chance to check out temporarily from whatever hurt they’re facing to enjoy a fictional break. Most of the time reading anything is like that for me – I become completely oblivious when I’m reading, to the point where if a book really grabs me, I often nearly miss my stop.
But the Escape and Respite Books are those that not only grab the reader, but transport them easily and gently into the story, or cause the reader to laugh, even when there’s precious little to laugh about.
The two books I’ve been recommending are very different, but I wanted to pass them along to anyone among the Bitchery who might have need of them.
First: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book about the years after the Nazi occupation of the Jersey islands, but a whole lot more than just that. It’s an epistolary novel in the style of Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road or the A. R. Gurney play Love Letters, in which being a part of the correspondence is immensely rewarding and transporting. The person who recommended it to me has sent it to people all over the country, from post-hurricane displaced families to friends who were mourning their loved ones, and they all loved it. One friend, she says, tried so hard to savor every page because it was such a welcome, peaceful break from all that she was dealing with.
Second, a children’s book that’s hilariously funny, especially for preschoolers, and most especially when told in your best New Yawk accent: I Stink!, by Kate and Jim McMullan. I Stink is about a New York City garbage truck, and it’s hilarious, especially his recipe for alphabet soup.
Now, Freebird, my own resident preschooler, loves this book, and likes to read it nightly. We’ve sent copies to many of my friends who also have young children, and one of them sent a copy to a four year old boy who has been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, and is undergoing treatment at St. Jude’s right now. His mother says she’s read it over and over in the last three days since they received it, and despite poking and prodding and all kinds of tests, it makes her little boy laugh and laugh and laugh.
What are your books of refuge and respite? What do you recommend for people who need that welcome escape? Bring on your recommendations. Few people are as well-read as the Bitchery.