Posts Tagged ‘L.M. Montgomery’

warwicks la jolla interior

A Presumption of Death, Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L. Sayers
I’m usually wary of authors adapting another author’s characters – but Jill Paton Walsh superbly continues the story of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. As World War II heats up, Peter goes abroad on a secret mission and Harriet takes the children to the country, where (of course) she has to solve a mystery. Full of familiar village characters (from Busman’s Honeymoon) and two truly wonderful bits of code-breaking.

Hoot, Carl Hiaasen
As the new kid at his Florida middle school, Roy is trying to stay under the radar. But a mysterious barefoot boy and his tough soccer-player sister introduce Roy to a group of tiny burrowing owls – which lead all three kids into a confrontation they hadn’t expected. Funny at times, but definitely aimed at middle-school boys.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home, Laura Vanderkam
I loved Vanderkam’s 168 Hours and enjoyed these three short, pithy productivity e-guides. Useful tips for making the most of your mornings, weekends and work hours. I’m paying more attention to where my time goes, and am planning to implement some of Vanderkam’s ideas. Smart and practical.

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris, Ann Mah
When Ann Mah’s diplomat husband was posted to Paris, she began planning all the culinary adventures they’d have together. But when he was called to Iraq for a year – alone – she had to revise her plans. A lovely memoir of creating a home in a new place, with lots of French culinary history, mouthwatering recipes and nods to that other American diplomatic wife, Julia Child.

The Attenbury Emeralds, Jill Paton Walsh
Lord Peter Wimsey recounts his first case – the recovery of a stolen emerald – to his wife Harriet. Then the emerald’s current owner turns up, needing Peter’s help again. The retelling of the first mystery dragged on and on – it only got interesting when the second case started to pick up. Not nearly as good as Walsh’s other two adaptations, but still entertaining once it picked up steam.

Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
I reach for this book every year when winter digs in its heels and it seems spring will never come. I love watching Jane discover the world of P.E. Island, but even better is watching her blossom into a confident, happy young woman. Charming and fun.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer
Linh Cinder, gifted mechanic, has a secret: she’s part cyborg. When the prince asks her to fix his personal android and her sweet stepsister falls ill, Cinder gets drawn into a web of politics, medical testing and the secrets of her own past. A slow start, but a really fun take on the story of Cinderella. First in a series – I can’t wait to read the sequel! Recommended by Leigh and Jessica.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave, Patty Chang Anker
A fun memoir (by a lifelong scaredy-cat) about facing fears – some of her own (water, death), some common to others (heights, public speaking). Anker wanted to become brave to set an example for her two daughters, but she was shocked at the transformation it wrought in her own life.

Ice Dancing, Nicholas Walker
British teenagers Samantha (a former ballet dancer) and Alex become ice-dancing partners. They’re good together, but Samantha’s parents don’t want her to skate. Will they triumph on the ice? A quick, fun reread from junior high – timely because of the Olympics.

The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery
Valancy Stirling has spent her life pleasing everyone but herself. But when she finds out she has a year left to live, she decides to begin living as she wants to. A sweet, slightly wacky story from the author of my beloved Anne books. Valancy is charming once she wakes up to herself.

Ice Princess, Nicholas Walker
In the sequel to Ice Dancing, Samantha gets sent to boarding school, but still meets Alex secretly to skate. Can they pull off another competitive win? More dramatic and more romantic than the first book – though Samantha is sometimes a real brat. Still a fun reread.

All Good Things: From Paris to Tahiti: Life and Longing, Sarah Turnbull
I loved Turnbull’s debut, Almost French, about how she fell in love with both Paris and her husband. All Good Things traces their move to Tahiti and their fraught journey toward parenthood. Beautiful descriptions of the island, though the IVF parts are painful to read.

Spy Mom: The Adventures of Sally Sin, Beth McMullen
This book is a two-in-one set, following the adventures of a top-secret spy turned toddler mom. I saw it at a Yankee Swap last year, kicked myself for not stealing it, then was so happy to find it on Cape Cod this summer. The narrator’s voice is so witty, though the supporting characters are a bit thin. Funny and engaging.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

I’m participating in Leigh’s February Reading Challenge, so I’ve only bought one book this month, though I’m still working on my library stack.

What are you reading?

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shoes book harvard yard

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin
I loved Colwin’s Home Cooking, and rereading an essay of hers (the titular one in Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant) prompted me to pick up her second collection of food essays. She muses on cooking for kids, catering on the cheap, and the difficulties of finding good bread, with a few recipes sprinkled throughout. Light and fun.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
“Only the true fans can quote Anne lines from Windy Poplars,” Serenity told me once. This fourth book in the series is definitely underrated. I love it – from Anne’s short-lived feud with the Pringles to her musings on pens and silences, to the way she charms “the widows,” Katherine Brooke, Rebecca Dew and the rest of Summerside. Perfect for blustery autumn days (how I envy Anne her tower room!).

Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin
I’m usually a snob about chick lit, but my sister loves Emily Giffin and convinced me to give her a try. Giffin’s debut is both fluffy and compelling, though it made me feel a bit icky because it is about several people who cheat on each other ALL the time. I did like the narrator, Rachel (the consummate good girl), and appreciated Giffin’s musings on the complexities of female friendship. Good weekend reading.

Something Blue, Emily Giffin
After her best friend Rachel (see above) steals her fiance, Darcy Rhone finds herself alone, pregnant (by a different man – again with the cheating!) and at her wits’ end. She moves to London to stay with an old friend, and gradually realizes she needs to make some changes in her life. I didn’t believe Darcy could change, but she does so admirably (though a bit quickly). Fluffy and fun.

Somewhere in France, Jennifer Robson
Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to make a difference in the world, but she’s constrained by her place in British society. But when World War I breaks out, she learns to drive, defies her parents, and joins the ranks of WAAC drivers, eventually getting posted to France where her sweetheart, a Scottish surgeon, is working at a field hospital. A compelling war tale (with some gory medical details) and a moving love story, though the ending was quite abrupt. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 31).

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey goes undercover at a London advertising agency to investigate the death of a copywriter. He uncovers a nest of blackmail, drug-smuggling, jealousy and other fun leisure pursuits. An entertaining mystery, with lots of witty advertising wordplay. (Though I couldn’t believe nobody guessed Lord Peter’s true identity.) So much fun.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

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atozsurvey-1017x1024-297x300I saw this survey on my pen pal Jaclyn’s blog (it was originally created by Jamie), and thought it looked so fun. I love books and I love surveys – put ‘em together and it’s perfection.

Author you’ve read the most books from: L.M. Montgomery. Anne Shirley, Emily Byrd Starr, Sara Stanley, Jane Stuart, Pat Gardiner – I love all her heroines. And Madeleine L’Engle – lots of her memoirs, books on writing and faith, and young adult novels.

Best Sequel Ever: Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – even better than the original. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which breaks the series wide open. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos is a fabulous companion to the original, Love Walked In.

Currently Reading: I’m revisiting Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his love, Harriet Vane. It’s been nine years since I first read them and I love them even more this time around.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Tea – either black flavored with spices and citrus, plain black tea with milk and sugar, or decaf/herbal (at night).

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical books. Always, always, always.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Someone kind and slightly nerdy. Remus Lupin? Atticus Finch? The usual handsome, confident heroes in books would have been too intimidating to shy teenage me.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: I was a Harry Potter skeptic for a long time. Once Val convinced me to try them, the books became some of my favorites. And Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand was utterly, unexpectedly spectacular.

Hidden Gem Book: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice – a sweet, wise and witty story of two friends in 1950s London. No Children, No Pets – a fun summer tale, one of my favorite childhood books. Cynthia Voigt’s books about the Tillerman family (Homecoming, Dicey’s Song, etc.). Anne Fadiman’s brilliant little collection of bookish essays, Ex Libris. And Susan Hill’s wonderful bookish memoir, Howards End is on the Landing.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: I took a World Literature seminar during my senior year of college that exposed me to a dozen books I’d never have read otherwise – most of them powerful and heartbreaking. That class shifted my perspective in all kinds of important ways. And Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water was my “back door” introduction to her work. I later wrote my master’s thesis on her memoirs, and I have learned so much from her.

Just Finished: Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers; The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: I’m not really a sci-fi or western fan. Also: no erotica or trashy romance novels.

Longest Book You’ve Read: Les Misérables, which I finally tackled this year (after many years of adoring the musical) and loved.

Major book hangover because of: Hmmm…I don’t know. My shelves and to-read stacks offer enough options that I can get past a book hangover pretty quickly.

Number of Bookcases You Own: Six. Three in the dining room, two in the bedroom, one in the guest bedroom. (Plus one built-in, and piles of books all over the place.)

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: I’m an inveterate rereader – I reach for the Anne of Green Gables series, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, the Mitford series, my Advent book, and other favorites regularly.

Preferred Place To Read: Curled up on the sofa in my living room; in bed; on a park bench with a hot drink. I can’t say I adore reading on the subway, but I do a lot of it during my commute each day.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: There are many, but I wrote this summer about a phrase from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet: “I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts.”

Reading Regret: So many books I’ve yet to read – but this isn’t a regret, it’s a possibility!

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series; the Chronicles of Narnia.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: This whole survey is a love letter to my favorites – but I adore L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Harry Potter; Betsy-Tacy; Anne of Green Gables; so many other favorite series.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: Can’t pick just one. I can’t wait to read Ally Carter’s United We Spy, Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire, the latest Royal Spyness mystery, the latest Bess Crawford mystery, Kerstin Gier’s Emerald Green, and the new Jhumpa Lahiri novel.

Worst Bookish Habit: Piling up the to-be-read stacks until they teeter; specifically, going crazy at the library when I already have a dozen or more books waiting at home. I have no self-discipline in a library.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: The Count of Monte Cristo (on the fiction shelf).

Your latest book purchase: Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers (can’t get enough of Wimsey & Vane).

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): I stayed up far too late recently rereading Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon and Strong Poison (all Wimsey-Vane mysteries).

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widener library harvard convocation

When we left Queen’s we knew everybody and had a place of our own. [...] Now we feel as if the ground had slipped from under our feet. I’m thankful that neither Mrs. Lynde nor Mrs. Elisha Wright know, or ever will know, my state of mind at present. They would exult in saying ‘I told you so,’ and be convinced it was the beginning of the end. Whereas it is just the end of the beginning.

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery

I always think of Anne’s words at this time of year, when flapping black robes and colorful hoods appear on the streets of Boston and Cambridge, when nervous almost-graduates have to answer the question “What are you doing next?” for the seventy-sixth time. Families flood into town to watch their sons, daughters and siblings walk across those stages. For weeks, you can’t set foot outside without tripping over a few knots of family-members-cum-tourists, disoriented but excited, trying to squeeze in all the sightseeing and still get everyone where they’re supposed to be on time.

I’m no longer a student, but I have never left the world of higher education. I’ve worked at three universities, and I spent a year in Oxford earning a graduate degree. Last week was my first Harvard commencement, and though I mostly watched it from afar, it thrilled me to be part of a centuries-old tradition, distinctive yet common to universities around the world.

The festivities began for us on Wednesday afternoon, with the Ed School’s Convocation ceremony under a big white tent in Radcliffe Yard. I manned the Class Gift table with two colleagues, and we watched our office’s intern, Evan, present the class gift check to our dean and then deliver her speech, perfectly poised. (She’s a class act and a fellow West Texan – which makes me doubly proud.)

evan speech convocation

The Thursday morning exercises in Tercentenary Theatre (adjacent to Harvard Yard) are always packed, and tickets are hard to come by, so I watched the live stream online with my colleagues (in our air-conditioned offices – it was 92 degrees!). But I did walk through the day before:

tercentenary theatre harvard commencement

I’ve never seen so many folding chairs or college banners in one place. And even when it was (mostly) empty, you could feel the buzz in the air.

On the day, the pomp and circumstance were such fun to watch – as were the quirky details, from President Faust’s crimson shoes to the deans all hugging Oprah (the afternoon’s featured speaker) during their brief times onstage. And the student speeches – one in Latin, two in English – were simply wonderful. My favorite quote came from Jon Murad, a New York police officer who earned a graduate degree at the Kennedy School of Government:

Here’s the secret: Everyone changes the world. Everything ripples. What matters is how we do it.

That is the excitement of commencement, at Harvard or anywhere else: the idea that these graduates will leave campus and begin working to change the world. It is an end, especially for the undergraduates – but it is also a beginning. They are leaving a place where they have become comfortable and known, but they are on the cusp of another grand adventure.

We’re settling into summer mode around here: tying up loose ends from the school year, dodging tourists with oversized cameras, shifting our attention to projects we’d been saving for quieter days. The tents have been folded, the chairs stacked and carted away. But the air still shimmers with the excitement – and uncertainty – of all those beginnings.

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Windy Poplars,
Spook’s Lane,
May 30th.


It’s spring!

tulips boston public garden

“Perhaps you, up to your eyes in a welter of exams in Kingsport, don’t know it. But I am aware of it from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes. Summerside is aware of it. Even the most unlovely streets are transfigured by arms of bloom reaching over old board fences and a ribbon of dandelions in the grass that borders the sidewalks.

blossoms charles street boston

“Everything is calling ‘spring’ to me . . . the little laughing brooks, the blue hazes on the Storm King, the maples in the grove when I go to read your letters, the white cherry trees along Spook’s Lane, the sleek and saucy robins hopping defiance to Dusty Miller in the back yard, the creeper hanging greenly down over the half-door to which little Elizabeth comes for milk, the fir trees preening in new tassel tips around the old graveyard . . . even the old graveyard itself, where all sorts of flowers planted at the heads of the graves are budding into leaf and bloom, as if to say, ‘Even here life is triumphant over death.’”

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

pink tree boston public garden

From Anne and me to you, happy spring.

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“I’d never get tired of red,” said the Story Girl. “I just love it—it’s so rich and glowing. When I’m dressed in red I always feel ever so much cleverer than in any other colour. Thoughts just crowd into my brain one after the other. Oh, you darling dress—you dear, sheeny, red-rosy, glistening, silky thing!”

She flung it over her shoulder and danced around the kitchen.

—L.M. Montgomery, The Golden Road

I ordered a copy of Red is Best for a friend recently, and tried to make Jeremiah guess whom it was for. (He hates guessing games, but usually goes along with mine.) “Whom do we know that loves red so much?” I asked. He stared at me and answered, “You!”

Ahem. Well, yes. I bought a red v-neck sweater this weekend, after searching for the perfect one for months. I’ve knitted seven red items (though four are gifts!) since mid-October. My long red wool coat has made its winter debut; I rock the red wellies whenever it rains; and my red Evangeline mitts are getting plenty of play on these cold days. Not to mention my red bathrobe, our red bath towels and dishes and couch slipcover, and all the other red things in our house.

Me in my "Valentine coat"

“You suit red,” my housemate Lizzie used to tell me – though she and other housemates have made fun of me for having enough red and pink laundry to merit its own load. But like Sara Stanley, above, I love red. I do feel cleverer in it – and, even if it’s not Christmas, I also feel festive and jazzy.

Do you have a color you never get tired of? (Any fellow red-lovers out there?)

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Despite rain yesterday, it’s been a beautiful week – including two positively balmy days. The Common and the Public Garden are trying to outdo one another with their leaf displays, and I’ve been walking around with my camera, trying to capture the glory:

I spent two lunch breaks in a row on the Common’s western hill, reading a book, basking in the sun and enjoying this view – coatless, scarfless and BAREFOOT, people. For probably the last time for months:

There’s nothing lovelier than leaves backlit by autumn sunshine – it’s like stained glass, only alive:

I’ve been thinking again about the descriptions of autumn in The Story Girl, and found a quote to perfectly match this week:

November dreamed that it was May. The air was soft and mellow, with pale, aerial mists in the valleys and over the leafless beeches on the western hill. The sere stubble fields brooded in glamour, and the sky was pearly blue. The leaves were still thick on the apple trees, though they were russet hued, and the after-growth of grass was richly green, unharmed as yet by the nipping frosts of previous nights. The wind made a sweet, drowsy murmur in the boughs, as of bees among apple blossoms.

“It’s just like spring, isn’t it?” asked Felicity.

The Story Girl shook her head.

“No, not quite. It looks like spring, but it isn’t spring. It’s as if everything was resting–getting ready to sleep. In spring they’re getting ready to grow. Can’t you feel the difference?”

Yes, the world is getting ready to sleep. But these bright soft days and brighter leaves are a wonderful parting gift.

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Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
I’ve long loved the famous “live the questions” quote from this book, but hadn’t read the whole thing before. Fascinating to read Rilke’s words in context, and there are some other bits of good advice, on how to write and how to live. Brief, but worth pondering.

MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel Bertsche
I love Rachel’s blog about her ongoing friendship quest – so was thrilled to receive an ARC of this book (out Dec. 20!) and to review it for the Shelf. I wasn’t disappointed. Rachel’s self-deprecating humor shines through as she details her 52 friend-dates (I was reminded at times of the dating memoir 31 Dates in 31 Days). As a relative newbie in my city, I definitely empathize with the friend search, and even picked up a few useful tips.

Dear Enemy, Jean Webster
I loved Daddy-Long-Legs, so I expected to enjoy this sequel – and I did. Sallie McBride, a New England society girl, finds herself the new head of an orphanage and plunges right into reforming it into a model institution. She’s overwhelmed by the work, but quickly comes to love the kiddies – and even to tolerate the orphanage’s dour (but handsome) Scottish doctor. Such a fun turn-of-the-last-century read.

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Stephanie’s hilarious blog is famous in the knitting world – and for good reason. She gave a reading at the Booksmith on Oct. 18, and the house was packed with knitters, most of whom were alternately knitting (myself included) and wiping away tears of laughter. This third collection of her essays is witty and honest, with a lot of deadpan humor and a few lovely, reflective moments. (Best understood if you’re a knitter.)

Ginger Pye, Eleanor Estes
I found this at the Strand when visiting Allison in New York – a lovely vintage edition of a vintage story. Jerry and Rachel have a beloved puppy, Ginger, who can do all sorts of tricks; he gets lost; and eventually (spoiler alert) he gets found again. Sweet and fun, if a little slower-paced than the Moffats series by the same author.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
An utterly perfect read for fall – Anne’s adventures in winning over the Pringle clan, bonding with little Elizabeth and even befriending the prickly Katherine Brooke. Her time in Summerside, away from her beloved Gilbert, reminds me of my time in Oxford, away from J…such uniquely precious times before the beginning of marriage. And her optimism, of course, shines through on every page.

How to Love an American Man, Kristine Gasbarre
A memoir about love and loss – and getting relationship advice from your grandma. I lost patience several times with the narrator’s constant need to be validated by a man (and I wasn’t all that sold on the guy she fell in love with), but the story was entertaining. (The best parts are undoubtedly Krissy’s deep love for her grandpa and her growing bond with her grandmother.) Reminiscent of Adriana Trigiani – big Italian family in small-town Pennsylvania, and a family of strong women.

The King in the Window, Adam Gopnik
I adored Gopnik’s memoir Paris to the Moon, and enjoyed this fairy-tale romp through Paris – shades of Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and even a bit of Narnia. Oliver, a lonely American boy living in Paris, becomes the King in the Window almost by accident – and discovers a whole new world, complete with loyal subjects (who live inside windows) and a villain who must be stopped. Fun and clever.

A Corner in the Marais: Memoir of a Paris Neighborhood, Alex Karmel
I’ve spent a few afternoons strolling the charming Marais district on Paris’ Right Bank – eating falafel, poking around in vintage shops, browsing books at The Red Wheelbarrow and sipping chocolat chaud at les philosophes cafe. So I enjoyed this memoir-cum-history of the area (though the chapter on French land deeds and auction papers was a bit dry).

Guardians of Being, Eckhart Tolle & Patrick McDonnell
I am a devoted fan of Mutts, McDonnell’s daily comic featuring the adventures of Mooch the cat, Earl the dog and all their friends. So this little gift book pairing McDonnell’s drawings with Tolle’s wise words on what we can learn from animals about living in the now? Perfection. (To review for the Shelf.)

A Life in Stitches, Rachael Herron
A sweet, honest collection of essays on knitting, family, love and the writing life. Herron writes with warmth and wit about her sisters, her beloved cat (and the knitters who helped raise money when he needed surgery), and her ups and downs in love. Every chapter, of course, involves at least one knitting project, and there’s even a free pattern at the end. Nice, knitterly comfort reading before bed.

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I’ve been rereading Anne of Windy Poplars, because it’s the perfect fall comfort read. Anne moves to a new town, finds a charming tower room in a house with two adorable old ladies and their quirky housekeeper, and proceeds to win the hearts and minds of everyone in Summerside, as she seems to do everywhere she goes. And she chronicles her three years apart from her beloved Gilbert in dozens of letters, which remind me strongly of my emails to J when we were apart for our yearlong engagement.

This time around, I noticed a detail I’d never noticed before, in her first letter to Gilbert:

From the left window in the tower I can see the roofs of the town…this place where I am to live for at least a year. People are living in those houses who will be my friends, though I don’t know them yet.

I had always blithely assumed, in my previous reads, that Anne had planned to spend those three years in Summerside before Gilbert finished medical school and they got married. But reading that phrase (italics above are mine), I realized: she didn’t know, at the outset, how long she’d be there. The fear of resigning at Christmas (when the Pringles plagued her life out), or at the end of a year, was very real. And her musings on a new life with an unknown end date struck a deep chord with me -  since I, too, am living in a new life with an unknown end date. We’ll be here a couple of years yet, but I am not sure what lies around the “bend in the road,” either in Boston or after we leave it.

This is one reason I love rereading – noticing these details for the first time, and feeling an entirely new kinship with a character who has long been a good friend. (And, of course, it was deeply reassuring to read about Anne’s three years in Summerside and watch her build a rich, full life there.)

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