Books always have and always will, give me great comfort. When I was a child, I had difficulty sleeping and reading helped. Growing up my brother and I shared a room, so my mom gave me a flashlight and said that I could pull the covers over my head and read as long as I wanted to well into the night as long as I didn’t wake my brother. Today I still can’t fall asleep without curling up in bed with a book.
During these uncertain times I rely on books more than ever. The same holds true for everyone in my family. Since March, when school was shuttered, my 4-year-old son wanted us to read him young adult novels at night, forgoing his picture books for longer, more sustained tales. Charlie rarely sits still – his body is in constant motion and his mind rattles along with him – unless he’s being read to. This spring we read Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux and Charlie wasn’t the only one who drew courage from the little mouse’s bravery. We’ve read all of Roald Dahl’s books, and thanks to the BFG “snozzcumbers” have replaced cucumbers. It wasn’t easy for my husband and me to hold back our tears with Charlotte’s Web. The story not only reminded me of how I felt reading it as a girl, but also the theme of friendship and compassion are both virtues greatly needed today. With some careful edits, my husband regaled Charlie with The Princess Bride and like Fessik the giant, our son is clever with his own rhymes.
Reading aloud is such a delightful pleasure and I continue to be amazed at how my little boy can sit for an hour or more at night in complete rapture. After he goes to bed filled up on stories of Willy Wonka’s inventions, I sink into a book. This summer, my tastes are wide ranging, likely reflecting unease and uncertainty. Light and humorous reads, especially the work of British writer Nina Stibbe, help me relax and escape after a trying day. The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, about Winston Churchill and World War II, gives me comfort and insight into how to endure and lead through a crisis. In a concerted effort to understand systemic racism and white supremacy, I’m working through critical titles on race, bias and anti-racism.
And if I can’t summon enough heart to plow through a long book, there is poetry. Actually there is always poetry, when I can’t get that lump out of my throat or need some heart medicine. So Mary Oliver is there, at the ready.
While everything seems upended, I try to remind myself of the many things in life that are certain, and for me, there is always a book waiting to provide respite and, like we learned from tiny Despereaux, courage.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.