We pick up my reading kind of life as our family moved to New Hampton, Iowa. Looking back, the move itself didn’t change much for me. It was simply another place, another group of people, another town to live in and try to figure out this whole “growing up” thing, yet the books I encountered during those years left an indelible mark on me. The library was only three blocks away and though it was a simple, modern, one-story building it too eventually became a refuge for me in the weeks, months and years of junior and senior high.
I would walk and sweat the three blocks in the sweltering summer heat to curl up in one of the window coves for an afternoon desperately trying to hold the heat at bay and get lost in another world. It was in New Hampton’s library shelves of Romance, that I first discovered Jude Deveraux. Starting with her book The Dutchess, it became a 20 year love affair. I read all her books and the Montgomery family and their relationships and stories became my family history, legend and lore.
It was in the midst of my father’s shelves that I found and fell in love with Louis L’Amour and the Sacketts. I was raised on western movies and especially anything with Sam Elliot in it (thank you Mom) and as the Sacketts became part of my life, I began reading Louis L’Amour as avidly, well maybe not as avidly as some, but quite a bit for a girl of 15. Ride the River about Echo Sackett (what a fabulous name for a woman) is my absolute favorite.
It was movies that inspired me to read and read widely. As the youngest of five I rarely got to pick the family movie, but whatever was chosen, movies opened my imagination and I would dive more deeply into specific subjects through books. It was after watching the miniseries based on Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice that my love affair with all things Australia began. The summer of my sophomore year I took that novel to camp to read by the pool. It got soaked, sunned and pages torn and it still wares the scars of a beloved book as it graces my book shelf to this day.
And the summer of high school graduation I read and was forever transformed by Marlo Morgan’s Mutant Message Down Under. Under the bright blue sky, I devoured each page in my yard as everything I understood the world to “just be” was ripped from my clutches and I was able to enter college with as open a mind to the “realities” of the world as I possibly could. Those six years of life, school and reading in New Hampton are marked most thoroughly by the books that shaped me. I find it weird to type, yet it is utterly true that I would not be the woman, the mother, the pastor or the person I am today without these books. They ground me, they are the ones I come back to over and over and over again and the ones that remind me of who I am and who I endeavor to be.