When Ryann and Lynne asked me to participate in the Last Reads series, I was thrilled. Thrilled I tell you! What book would I choose to be my last one because let’s face it, there are countless books that have been impactful and I’d want one more go round before the end. Would I choose THE LIFE OF HELLEN KELLER since that was the book my eight-year old self checked out thirteen times in a row making our librarian fear I was impaired rather than just the serial re-reader that I am to this day? What about THE CRYSTAL CAVE, my first Mary Stewart book where I learned that a beloved myth could be reshaped to tell an even more compelling story? Maybe PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which I read at the age of ten. My brother’s sophomore English class had been assigned the Austen masterpiece and being the nosy and indulged baby sister, I was allowed to fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy for a time before my brother’s paper was due. I could close my eyes a final time to Mr. Darcy’s declaration of love and devotion and be happy.
Given my hoarder tendencies and if left to my own devices, I might leave this mortal plane in a home barricaded by so many books that I’d need a docent to shepherd folk through the collections—“the living room houses Science Fiction and Fantasy but there’s a separate section for High or Epic fantasy. Over there the Space Operas are wedged beneath the windowsill. If you’ll squeeze through that crack and try to force your way past the Mysteries in the hallway and into the dining room, we can visit the Non-fiction and Biographies section. If by chance we can make our way to the guest room, we’ll find the Romance and Literary fiction sections.”
I waded through my options, still unable to decide. Maybe something simple. What about the Margaret Wise Brown books, GOOD NIGHT MOON or THE RUNAWAY BUNNY, both guidebooks to the anarchy and tyranny of small children who don’t want to go to bed or be told what to do? Those books would bring fond memories to both my sons and me. Excellent choices but no, not quite right as a last read for me.
Thinking of my sons forced me to focus on what would be important at the end. I would want to spare my family any discomfort while still conjuring all the good and happy memories reading has always brought to our lives. Maybe something that had been read by the generations before my children and hopefully would be read by the ones that followed. Also something that inspires and informs my own writing. So, my choice would be another book (actually a collection, so that might be cheating) common to us all–the Andrew Lang’s Coloured Fairy Tales Collection, particularly the BLUE FAIRY BOOK and the GREEN FAIRY BOOK. Lang was a nineteenth-century Scottish poet, novelist and critic who helped collect and edit the translations of many of the fairy tales enjoyed today. I’d be content to spend my last days re-reading East of the Sun West of the Moon, Snow White and Rose Red, Little Red Riding Hood, Spindle Shuttle and Needle, The Dirty Shepherdess, Rumpelstiltskin, The Forty Thieves, Cinderella, the Many Furred Creature, the Enchanted Ring and all the other tales Lang collected and helped translate into English. I could spend time with all those beloved characters from fractured fairy tales, mentally spinning them to suit my own purposes and leaving my loved ones with happy memories.