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To Kill a Mockingbird

October 20, 2007

Few times in a person’s life do two words reduce a grown adult to tears. Maybe three words. For example, “I do”, as I imagine hearing them now, would definitely send my heart beating itself into a tizzy; and the words “It’s a boy”, remembered from twelve years ago, were worth the wait; but I have to tell you that the two words I read last weekend, will be forever etched in my memory and I will not forget that they made me cry. The words were, “Hey, Boo.”

Just a few days ago, I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. What can I possibly say about this book that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the most beloved books of all time, but even that doesn’t begin to convey what a wonderful book this is. The city of Chicago read the book collectively in 2001 for their One Book, One Chicago reading program. So I can only write about my own experience with the book.

I was talking to a colleague yesterday when I picked up the DVD of the movie, starring Gregory Peck. She told me that she also had not read the book yet; it was one of those titles you are supposed to read in school, but somehow she never had read it. She told me she picked it up a while ago and couldn’t get into it. And that was the case for me; I think I tried it a few years ago and it just didn’t “hit” me at the time. I will never know who first said that if a book doesn’t appeal to you when you first pick it up, then you aren’t meant to be reading it then; its time has not yet come for you. (Isn’t that beautiful?) My friend Barb told me she heard it at the Stratford Festival of Canada.

Anyway, I told a few friends that I was finally reading it; and the immediate reaction from each of them was a warm smile, a short closing of the eyes, as the person briefly enjoyed the memory of this wonderful book. Reading this book, I felt as though I was experiencing a rite of passage and that my friends were happy for me that I had chosen to give my time to such a noble cause. I had mentioned to that there was another book I was supposed to be reading for our book discussion group, but I didn’t want to stop reading Mockingbird, and Renegade Librarian, with a wistfully remarked, “Oh, you want to give To Kill a Mockingbird the attention it deserves.” Yes, indeed.

The other thing is that my friends know that fiction is the bane of my reading existence. I’ve never been able to enjoy fiction as most leisure readers do; so to even attempt a work of fiction is a big deal for me. I really do enjoy reading nonfiction; right now I’m reading a book called The Catholic Imagination by Andrew Greeley. It’s a study of what gives Catholics their “flavor”. I read books about saints, and books about ADD, and books about plank-grilling, and books like Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. I’d take these any day over a mediocre work of fiction. But if you look at my LibraryThing catalog, you’ll see a bunch of fiction in there. Hmm.

So I did finish it, and I did love it. I loved the characters, I loved the storytelling, I loved the message.

And tonight, I watch the movie.

I’ll have the tissues ready.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    October 21, 2007 11:58 am

    A lot us don’t say it’s our favorite book of all-time for nothing.

    And when the crowd stands in silence as Gregory Peck leaves the courtroom, the lumps in one’s throat get pretty big.

    Great stuff.

  2. Melissa permalink
    October 22, 2007 10:52 am

    Yeah, Steve, the movie was pretty darned awesome too. I didn’t use the tissues, but I was pretty stiff afterwards because I haven’t sat still like that for two solid hours, in a long time.

    Wow, Gregory Peck’s performance was indeed incredible.

    I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it and seeing it!

  3. Lynn permalink
    October 25, 2007 7:51 pm

    I’m jealous. I think I read the book too young. It didn’t have the emotional impact that it does now, but since I had read it already, the joy of discovering that impact is impossible to recapture. *sniff*

  4. Julie permalink
    November 9, 2007 12:19 pm

    Some books make me wish I had never read them – just so I could have the experience of reading them for the first time again, You know?

    To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those books.

  5. Melissa permalink
    November 9, 2007 12:24 pm

    *sigh* Yeah. There are so many things that are better appreciated in adulthood (and by that I mean, after the age of, like 35).

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