Thank you, Toronto Public Library, for including me in your ongoing feature about the people who frequent the library. I am ‘a bit’ late to post this on my blog, but as you know from the many late fines I’ve paid over the years, I’m always ‘a bit late’!
“I’m a bookworm and I’ve loved public libraries since I was a child. Steeles branch has a special place in my heart. Why? Because of the kindness of the librarians there over the years when I struggled to recover from injuries caused by a car accident.
“Sarah and I bonded over a book. It was a PD James book and I really wanted to read it. But I was shocked at the long waiting list. I was #1341 on the list! I showed up at the library every two or three weeks to ask a version of the same question:
“What’s my number now?”
“After a while, I didn’t have to ask any more. Sarah would see me arrive and hurry to her computer to start checking.
“We’d share a laugh and sometimes I’d pretend to be outraged that I was nowhere near getting that book.**
“When my book was published, my librarians were among the first people to receive their own signed copies.
I think they were both happy and proud – after all, they had seen me on days when I could barely use a computer.”
**And yes – I did also get the PD James book! It was “Death Comes to Pemberley”, a perfect blend of Jane Austen sensibilities and PD James’ wonderful murder mystery skills.
She was supposed to attend another event that evening, but came to my book reading at the library, wearing her red shoes. It was a direct reference to a highly charged passage about red shoes in my book, A Good Home. It was also a sign of camaraderie and support to an author whom she’d never met.
She was not the only person who had already read the book. There were several in the room, including library professional Jacqui Denomme. Exactly one year before this event, Jacqui, who works with the London Public Library, read my short story (about two much-loved homes) in the Globe and Mail newspaper. She immediately wrote a letter of praise about the story to the editor. That letter was passed on to me.
Through the months leading up to the publication of A Good Home, Jacqui and I kept in touch by email. When the book was released, she was one of the first people to read it. She then showed it to her supervisor, Elizabeth Egleston.
I therefore should not have been surprised that the first library to order the book was the London Public Library.
“You’ve started a trend,” I told Jacqui and Elizabeth. “More and more libraries in Canada have now ordered copies of A Good Home.”
Libraries have meant a lot to me since childhood. And decades later, my local public library became one of the few places I visited repeatedly in the years after the car accident. At a time when I had difficulty walking, talking and when even trying to read a book gave me blinding headaches, the librarians there guided me to audio books.
When I started reading books again, they often helped me choose. Some days, when I stumbled into the library, mumbling incoherently, two librarians rushed to help me at once. And so, when A Good Home was finally published, my husband and I brought a copy of the book for each librarian, with heartfelt thank-you notes.
Knowing how much libraries had helped me, I wanted my book to be in libraries. With this strong desire, and my close connection to public libraries, I was thrilled when the invitation came from the London Public Library.
On September 25, my husband and I traveled to London for the reading at the Stoney Creek branch of the London Public Library. We met Jacqui and Elizabeth in person for the first time.
I started the session by reading the short story from the Globe that had started the connection between the LPL and me.
Photography Credit: Hamlin Grange
Just minutes earlier, Jean, an audience member, had stuck out her feet, clad in pretty red shoes for me and everyone else to see. Somehow, those red shoes and Jacqui’s warm introduction kicked off the event in just the right way.
It was a perfect evening.
My thanks to Jacqui and Elizabeth, to Jean (and her red shoes), and all the patrons and local residents who came out to meet me, buy my book, and hear me read.
The evening reinforced my impression that the best of these events are a true give-and-take between author and readers. It was a terrific discussion, and I appreciated both the laughter and the moving comments that were made about homes and family relationships.
p.s. If A Good Home isn’t in your local library, please ask the librarian to bring it in. I’ve found that libraries are very helpful in bringing in books for their patrons.