Blogger Liza Purdy

The Right Book in the Right Hand at the Right Time

I am writing this blog post on the night before I return to work from bereavement leave. My dad was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme in late February. I once heard GBM referred to as the “great white shark” of brain cancer because of its relentless rate of growth and spread, and the lack of effective treatment. My parents moved in with my family right after Dad received the diagnosis; we put their house of 53 years on the market, moved their stuff into storage, and buckled up for the wild ride of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy while maintaining our “normal” work, school, church and home duties. Needless to say, it’s been a lot.

I don’t know if you all experience this, but when I am particularly stressed out, I sometimes find that I cannot read. I just can’t allow myself to enter into a story. I can’t put my life aside to join someone else’s, which is what reading at its best is for me. Instead, my go-to activity when I am particularly stressed is knitting poorly while watching murder mysteries. It works, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as a book.

I had been trying to get into a story for a while, but the months since my dad was diagnosed were filled with false starts and abandoned books. Then I heard one of our local high school librarians recommend The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley.   I had been wanting to read it for a while and decided to give it a shot. I was a chapter or two in when my dad’s condition started to make a marked decline. After a really rough overnight at home, we decided to call 911 to take Dad to the local emergency room. Due to remaining Covid regulations, only one family member at a time could sit with him in the ER. My mom and I took turns. Dad was unconscious by that point, and the doctor informed us that we were not going to be able to take him back home. We had “hours to days” left.

Cover portion, The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

While I was able to be with Dad, I talked and sang to him, read aloud his favorite passages from the Bible, and called family members so that they could say their goodbyes. When it was my mom’s turn, I sat out in the ER waiting room, which was filled with people who were having really bad, really noisy days. Somehow, I was able to concentrate on The Firekeeper’s Daughter. The book saw me through twelve hours in the ER while we waited for Dad to get a room. It also accompanied me through a solo overnight vigil at his bedside that ended in his death at sunrise. It was a life giving, transporting companion through one of the most difficult days of my life.

I have written a bit about developing a trauma informed library in some of my ALSC blog entries over the past year. I’ve been working through what programs, outreach or collaborations we could create in the public library that would reach our patrons and touch their lives. But I’ve realized through my experience with Dad that we already have the best resource. It’s our books. I don’t know if there is anything as powerful as stories, and we are the shepherds of stories. A good story has the power to transform a life. The story and the reader do the hard work together. It’s our job to know the stories, and to attune ourselves to our patrons so that we can be the people who put the right book in the right hand at the right time. Go change a life today, friends. Recommend a good book.

10 comments

  1. Deb Cooper

    I’m sorry for the loss of your father. My dad loved reading. He passed away five years ago, and it took me about four years before I could concentrate on any book or story. I started a lot of books I never finished. I have The Firekeeper’s Daughter checked out and am looking forward to reading it. Thank you for your post. I think this happens to many people going through the grieving process.

  2. Elizabeth

    Love you, Liza. Beautifully written article. I’m sorry that your Dad has left this earth but I know his memory lives on. “The Fire Keeper’s Daughter” has been on my TBR for a while, I will read it next in his honor. xo

  3. Kate Easley

    Wow, this brought me to tears. I’m so sorry for your loss. Lovely blog post and true words.

  4. Kathleen

    Hi, just wanted to say thank you for this beautiful post – so sorry for your loss. Wishing you rest and healing.

  5. annie

    I just finished reading this book yesterday. It was so good! I’m grateful it found its way into your hands when you needed it. The right book at the right time is a miraculous thing.

  6. Jan Watson

    Oh my gosh, Liza this is so heartfelt and true. May your dad have any book he wants in his heaven! He certainly raised a very fine daughter! Recommending a good book may not change a life but it could certainly change a day! Miss you, my friend!

  7. Carolyn Cooper

    Loved your words about a difficult time in your life. Memories are the best, especially the happy ones. Ask your mother about my experience with a Cardinal after Dick died. If she doesn’t remember, they are to be messengers from heaven. If I have a difficult day, one suddenly appears for comfort. Bless you and your family in the coming days. Look up the “Legend of the Cardinal” in your library.

    Carolyn Cooper

  8. Kris H

    This is beautifully written.

  9. Beth Lawry

    Spot on, my friend. The right book is solace in our time of need. All books are our forever companions …often meeting us in a need we didnt know we had.
    Peace.

  10. Kitty Sparhawk

    Liza, my heart goes out to you and your family. Your insights and writing are truly Gifts to all who have to be the strength in such a terrible loss. Thank you for sharing your experience… the pain and the measure of comfort, with the world. Love you and all of your Family. Praying for healing and comfort.

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