Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Miss These People

What people?
The characters in these two books.
Over the Christmas break, I actually let myself sit down and read. For some reason, when my schedule is running on normal (kids in school, hubby at work), I don't read much.
Guilty pleasure.
Stupid, I know.

Anyway, two of my favorite books on the planet are written by authors that wrote one amazing book and then passed away.
I've read and reread both these books a half dozen times.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was so well done, that I would find myself wondering what the characters were doing when I wasn't reading. When I finished the book, I was sad. I would never know anything more about any of these people again.
The author, Ms. Shaffer passed away before the book was even finished. Luckily for me, she had worked so closely with her niece, Annie Burrows, on the book, that she was able to finish it.
It was a seamless transition that I wouldn't have been able to identify had I not known about it ahead of time.
I won't give a synopsis of the book (see link in title). It's considered historical fiction set in World War II, on Guernsey Island .
It is well worth your time to read. Trust me.

I read Cold Sassy Tree the first time when my friend, DD's daughter, was reading it for a school assignment. I don't know what compelled me to do it---I think it was because I couldn't seem to latch onto any good reading material. I figured a high school literature teacher might have a clue. Of course, the same set of teachers also assign books like Dante's Inferno. I think my daughter Pearl, and her classmates wish they could burn that book.
The irony is not lost on me.
It's funny, from Cold Sassy forward, I began reading the books my own kids were assigned for school. Lots of great literature (old and new) is being assigned. Plus, it helps me discuss the books with them, should they stumble on plot. Couldn't help Pearl on Inferno, though. :(
I digress.

Cold Sassy Tree is "Mark Twainian" in it's depiction in of the deep south and character development. Much like Potato Peel Pie society, I fell in love with the characters and wondered what happened to them when the book was over.
I was itching for a sequel.
Mrs. Burns wrote Cold Sassy while on bed rest and seeking treatment for cancer and congestive heart failure.
She had a short remission and began working on Leaving Cold Sassy.
She was able to finish five full chapters and left copious notes. Her cancer returned and she wasn't able to finish the book before she passed away.
Leaving Cold Sassy was published posthumously, with her notes intact, story lines and a lengthy biography written by her editor and friend, Katrina Kenison.

Two amazing authors. Their ability to dance with words was amazing. It saddens me greatly when I put each of these books down, to know that I'll never read another book written by them.
When the author dies, the characters die along with them.
I'll miss them all.


  1. When I traveled for a living I read no less than two books a week. I'm sorry to say reading really is a guilty pleasure for me these days as well :( You wrote such a wonderful review of these books that I really want to read them now! Maybe I'll indulge myself.

  2. I truly loved Potato Peel Society. Read it twice. Great story that felt very authentic. Also learned a lot concerning the details of conditions on the Channel Islands during WWII. It needs to be made into a movie.

    Heard a lot about Cold Sassy Tree. Putting it on my to do list.

    I agree it is too bad these authors didn't have an opportunity to produce more.

  3. Both wonderful books! I read Potato Peel Society after seeing it mentioned on a blog - yours? It was quite a few months ago, but I loved it. It was a fascinating picture of life so far from mine...

    Nancy in Iowa

  4. I am putting both of these books on my "to read" list - they sound right up my alley. Have you read "The Help"? I miss those people so much, I've listened to the book three times.

  5. I too now find reading to be a guilty pleasure these days... it wasn't always that way. Nevertheless, I'll have to add these books to my ever growing list. :)

    Guess what I'm making (AGAIN) today? Pork verde. We love, love, love it!

  6. Oh I want to read these now. I love books that make me think about the characters long after the reading is through. That is the sign of a great writer I think. So sad that they both passed before more writing.