Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here's to Librarians (one in particular)

Hey K,

So, I read this novel, maybe thirty years ago, about the Irish potato famine, and the story always stuck with me--the way the government wouldn't let the people grow anything but potatoes even though most the potatoes had the blight and would make people deathly sick if they ate them. Maybe ten years ago I started looking for this book again. It wasn't on my shelves. I went to libraries and found another novel or two (there really aren't as many as you might think) about that time and place, but never found the one I had read before. Recently I started that search again. I found a reference to a book, Famine, by Liam O'Flaherty, written in 1937, and Ron brought it home for me from the library. It sort of had the same story, but it wasn't the right one either. The writing was so old-fashioned and heavy and cluncky, not the great read I remembered. I told Ron it wasn't the right one, and he asked me what I meant. I hadn't even explained to him I was trying to find a book I once loved. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. "That's what we librarians do. Find books."

But all I knew was that I read it thirty years ago, and --well what I told you already--it was about a family living, or dying to be more precise, during one of the famine's in Ireland.

Well, of course, he found it! He brought it home that night, and I'm so loving it again. It's called The Famished Land, by Elizabeth Byrd. It didn't come up in any of my searches, and it's far from a best seller. (I really thought it must have been a best seller if I loved it so much!) Anyway, here's the really weird part. The main character, a sixteen year old girl, who's story we follow, who struggles with famine and poverty and love and family. . . her name is Moira!

I did not remember that. But did I, somehow, when I insisted my daughter's name be Moira? With that spelling? What our brains, and hearts, do! Life can be so cool sometimes. And a good book can make us smile.