I like books. No, that’s not right … I love books. I love the feel of their weight in my hands. I love to fluff their pages, scan their white spaces, run my fingers along their spines. I like that feeling of anticipation as I read their dust jacket. I like the fact that I can pick one up, enter its world for a while and then set it aside when reality (whatever that is) calls. I like how that book, once set aside, will rest there, waiting for me to return. And will always be in the exact same place I left it—no pushing the pause button, no re-recording. Just there. Waiting.
And I’m disciplined about my ability to lay a book aside. To me, this prolongs its inevitable ending. Because when a good book is over, it’s like losing a friend. Or leaving home. Or dying. So yeah . . . it takes a lot to get me so absorbed that I can’t set one aside. Can you imagine how odd it felt to have two books “do that to me” within a matter of months? I read The Help in a couple of days—incredible since I read like a proverbial snail. But Sweetie—oh, Sweetie! She grabbed me that same way and I burned through her like a California wild fire, taking her with me when I drove, reading at stop lights, reading as I stood in line at the grocery counter, reading until I was done.
All of this probably says something about me. How drawn I am to stories of relationship, of bonds between women and girls. Females who are, externally and culturally, different and yet who realize that their differences only bring them closer together. Stories of friendship, compassion and a sense of loyalty. And especially stories of feminine strength. How interesting that both The Help and Sweetie have only peripheral male involvement. Indeed, it’s the girls who struggle through the issues. And the girls who solve them all.
I was prepared to enjoy the journey into Kathryn Magendie’s writing. I had already read two of her books—both wonderfully written and magical in their own right. But I was not prepared to abandon my own life and enter Sweetie’s so thoroughly, completely losing myself to the back mountain world that Kathryn created. I’m sure that part of my joy was also the lure of setting. Diving into Kathryn’s descriptive prose was like being back there myself, back into the mountains where I’m lucky to escape to once or twice a year.
I think a good book should leave its readers with an empty hole somewhere inside—empty in a sense of a continued longing, a yearning for more. And yet, a feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And for me, Sweetie did just that.