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Friday, November 26, 2010
My World Travels on Thanksgiving Day
Some years back, David and I decided not to travel for holidays in November and December. The weather is too dicey, for one thing, and besides, there are too many people on the roads, all hurrying to their destinations. Better, we agreed, to visit our families at other times of year and stay in our own home for winter holidays. But my trusty armchair has wings! Under a warm comforter, I am a world traveler!
When a bookseller deals in used books as well as new, the surprises from day to day are endless, and so I found myself on yesterday’s cozy holiday at home reading Kim Sunée’s Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home. The trail took me first from Seoul, Korea, to New Orleans, U.S.A. Then, after Kim left her adopted parents’ Louisiana home, I traveled with her to Florida and Sweden, Italy and North Africa. But we spent most of our time in France, in Paris and in Provence. Can you believe that she had, for a while, a little bookstore on the Île St. Louis that sold nothing but poetry? No, it did not make a profit. I knew you would ask!
Part of the reason I often find it difficult to recommend books to other people is that tastes and interests are so diverse. I have no problem telling someone what books I love and why. Whether that other person will love a particular book, however, is something I cannot predict with certainty, and I bring this up because the copy of Trail of Crumbs that I have been devouring so avidly came into my hands with a note in the back from a previous reader. That note read, “An okay memoir—not sure I would have finished it if I had not heard Kim speak at TC library—felt ending was abrupt—Recipes are full of fats and small servings.” Would not have read the whole book if she hadn’t heard the author speak? Really??? There, you see, is the danger of recommending a book to someone else, because if that someone else hadn’t heard the author speak and had the same reaction to the book as the writer of this note--! Well, you see the difficulty. I, however, had none.
Any book that begins in France grabs my attention, but when the author flashed back to her childhood abandonment at three years old, in an outdoor food market in Korea, I accompanied her not only willingly but eagerly. When a young American couple adopted Kim and another Korean orphan girl and took them back to New Orleans, that part of the story mesmerized me, also. Childhood is never as simple from the inside as adults looking at it from the outside want to believe. Two little girls who didn’t look like anyone else in their school, taunted by other children, suffered painful confusion, although in Kim’s case the suffering was at least partially counterbalanced by her relationship with “Poppy,” her adopted mother’s father, who welcomed her into his kitchen and taught her to love cooking. In fact, on almost every page of this book, long before the Paris chapters, I was ever so slightly distracted by wondering who among my friends and family members would most enjoy this story.
Well, yes, some of the recipes are full of fats. The cream of chestnut soup, for example, contains a quarter-cup of heavy cream and only serves four (“Small servings”), but that’s only two tablespoons of cream per person, and is that so bad? (My Thanksgiving contribution to a large dinner party last year, cream of chestnut soup was not on our table this year, but maybe it will be for Christmas.) I have a few short chapters to go in this book so cannot yet say anything about the ending and whether or not it strikes me as “abrupt.” I’ll report on that another time.
Did you know that this year was the 100th anniversary of birth of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt? That this year is the 70th anniversary of the release of “The Wizard of Oz,” featuring one of the most beautifully poignant popular songs ever written, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”? We enjoyed these programs and more on NPR. Public radio, as I first remember noticing in 1991, seems to offer exceptionally good programming on holidays. Thanks to NPR, we traveled to the Land of Oz! Then came bedtime and the moment to turn to Mark Twain, reading aloud and sharing several exciting chapters of Life on the Mississippi, which took me once again to New Orleans, where I’d been earlier in the day.
David worked outdoors during the day on storm windows and barn door props while I mixed up cookie dough in my cozy kitchen. Later Sarah and I braved grey skies and drizzle for a walk and romp involving (on her part) lots of running and stick retrieval. No car motors were started, no planes or trains boarded by our pack on Thanksgiving Day, and we were indoors more than out most of the day, but don’t be misled by “facts.” We got in plenty of holiday travel, in our own way.
Now there is a tree to decorate at Dog Ears Books in Northport, and tonight there will be cookies to bake for tomorrow’s Open House. Story Hour will be from 2:30-3:30. Will I be the reader or someone else? What will be read? I’ll just say now, Don’t arrive late and miss the beginning of the story or the chance to sample a cookie before settling in for the reading! Do you enjoy being read to? All ages are welcome--and who knows where we might go together?