“I believe in the magic of books. I believe that during certain periods in our lives we are drawn to particular books--whether it's strolling down the aisles of a bookshop with no idea whatsoever of what it is that we want to read and suddenly finding the most perfect, most wonderfully suitable book staring us right in the face. Unblinking. Or a chance meeting with a stranger or friend who recommends a book we would never ordinarily reach for. Books have the ability to find their own way into our lives.”
― Cecelia Ahern
― Cecelia Ahern
I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I’ll run across something in my reading and suddenly books are falling into my hands that touch on this very topic. No, it isn’t that everyone is suddenly jumping on the bandwagon to write about a hot topic. I’m referring to those esoteric topics that take us down an unexplored fork in the path. Let me give you an example.
I mentioned I have a book at work that I read on my breaks. I’m currently reading THE POSTMISTRESS by Sarah Blake. The story alternates between a small Cape Cod village and London, England during the early years of WWII, before the United States officially joined the fighting. One of the main characters is Frankie Bard, a broadcast journalist working with Edward R. Murrow in London during a time when German bombs made survival a dicey prospect. The Brits, however, are a stoic lot and rally round the motto: Keep calm and carry on. Not easy to do—especially in this situation—but not a bad frame of mind for any of us to strive towards when faced with stresses large or small. Which brings us to the other book.
The second book is a middle grade novel I just finished: WONDER by R.J. Palacio. One of the main characters here is Jack Will who spends his fifth grade year discovering the ups and downs of friendship. What makes Jack’s case unique is that he has befriended, Auggie, the new kid at school who has some serious facial deformities. Serious enough to freak out most people when they see him. Serious enough to label him “the plague” and avoid touching him at all costs. Jack and Auggie both have English class with Mr. Browne. Each month Mr. Browne writes a precept (a rule to live by) on the board for his students to consider and write about. At year’s end, he asks the class to send him postcards during the summer with their own precepts. The precept Jack Will sends Mr. Browne? Keep calm and carry on.
There it was. Like dots in a connect-the-dot puzzle, the reference in each of these books to that same phrase suddenly connected me to a deeper understanding. Standing alone, Jack Will’s precept was a nice thought, but without having read that same phrase in relation to the London bombings, that’s all it would have been. Coincidence, you say? No, book magic.
Update May 10: Many thanks to my friend Audabee for the link to the original motto.