I am so happy to welcome my friend, Jessica McCann, back to Great Thoughts’ Great Authors. I loved Jessica’s book, All Different Kinds of Free. My review is here. Jessica’s prior Great Authors’ post, Writing Bass-Ackwards is here.
Please note that I LOVE this guest post. She captures my feelings towards books perfectly!
Here again is Jessica:
During the past year or so, I’ve strolled the beaches in Uruguay, explored the island of Puerto Rico and picked wild raspberries in Alaska. Novelist and literary critic Caroline Gordon said, “A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.” I couldn’t agree more.
Book journeys take me places I don’t necessarily have the opportunity to visit in real life. They expand my mental landscape. They transport me to a different place and time. And the really good ones inspire me to explore the world around me when I can.
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis completely swept me away. Set mostly in Uruguay and spanning the 20th century, its lyrical prose had me drinking bitter mate tea passed in a traditional gourd, gulping red wine at 3 a.m. in a backroom bar, inhaling cigarette smoke in the humid breeze of the La Rambla river. More than a year after reading it, the memories still flicker like old vacation film-reels in my mind.
In Sarah McCoy’s The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico, I joined sweet 11-year-old Verdita Ortiz-Santiago on the island in 1961. I rode along in her Papi’s Jeep with the top down, in the brilliant sunshine, after the rains. “The trees and grass were emerald bright and winking as we drove down our winding mountain. Fruit stands stood at every bend. Oranges, bananas, and pineapples. Along the straightaway, a man sold fried chicken from the back of his pickup truck with a fryer sticking out of the bed.” Doesn’t that make you want to grab your car keys right now and go explore the winding roads of your own town?
Truth be told, I’ve been impressionable this way my whole life. As a child, how I longed to live in the Hundred Acre Wood, in a tree house with Piglet and Owl and Pooh Bear. (OK, fine, I still do.) And as a teenager, Jack London’s Call of the Wild beckoned me to the Alaskan wilderness like a moth to the light.
In 1999, I experienced Alaska in real life on an anniversary trip with my husband. My mind spun with the vastness of the landscape, my lungs tingled from the glacial air among the fjords, and my heart skipped a beat the first time I saw a bald eagle in the wild.
A few months ago, I returned to that magical place through the pages of Eowyn Ivey’s novel, The Snow Child. Her description of homestead-era 1920s Alaska is absorbing. Part historical novel, part fairy tale, part love story, it’s a bittersweet, lush, enchanting book.
“Outside, the air was clean and cool against her face, and she could smell the wood smoke from the chimney. She let the snow float around her, and then Mabel did what she had as a child — turned her face to the sky and stuck out her tongue. The swirl overhead was dizzying, and she began to spin slowly in place. The snowflakes landed on her cheeks and eyelids, wet her skin. Then she stopped and watched the snow settle on the arms of her coat. For a moment she studied the pattern of a single starry flake before it melted into the wool. Here, and then gone.”
This excerpt is the perfect description of how I felt while reading The Snow Child. It was at times dizzying and captured all the magic of winter’s first snowfall. Like all good vacations, it ended too soon. I take comfort, though, in knowing the book has a permanent place on my shelf and I can ride that magic carpet back for another visit whenever I’d like.
Where have your book journey’s taken you? Has a novel you’ve read ever inspired a real-life adventure?
Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist, lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her debut historical novel, All Different Kinds of Free, was awarded the Freedom in Fiction Prize and is available in trade paperback, ebook and audio. Jessica loves chatting about books at her website (http://www.jessicamccann.com) and on Twitter (@JMcCannWriter).
What are you reading and where are you going?