We are happy to welcome Valerie Geary to LLF today, the birthday of her book, Crooked River. I really enjoyed this novel, the story of two sisters determined to find the real murderer of a young woman and free their wrongly accused father. I'm a sucker for sister stories, and this relationship is loving, lovely and genuine. Welcome, Valerie!
I am seven, sitting cross-legged on a rough carpet in the Oak Grove Elementary school library. An author has come to talk to us about writing. In my memory she is Madeleine L’Engle, but that seems too perfect to be true, wishful thinking that my brain, over the years, has transformed into something real. She reads from her book and, smiling, tells us we can be writers someday too. This is where it all began, I suppose.
I am twelve and my library card is my best friend. My ticket to anywhere. My escape. We are a single-income family of four on a budget; books are nonessentials. I ask for them for my birthday, for Christmas, but it’s never enough. The Albany Public Library may seem small to some people, but it’s the whole world to me. I bring home stack after stack and hide in the garage, my room, my tree fort in the woods, wherever I can be alone with these stories of other places, other people. I live in my imagination where I am set free.
I am twenty-eight. “Are you going to read all of those?” The man points at the six books I’ve pulled off the hold shelf at Multnomah County’s Kenton branch. I don’t tell him I have six more at home that I picked up the day before. I check out novels, short story collections, books on writing, but also books on bees and beekeeping because I’ve started a story about sisters who live in the woods with their beekeeper father. I’m thinking of calling it Crooked River.
I am thirty-one, writing a love letter to all the libraries that have shaped me into the reader, writer, person I am today, and a thought hits me: Libraries change lives. They changed mine, anyway.