Thursday, April 15, 2010

This is one of those books that sticks with you.

A long time ago, I was having a rough time of it.

I was eleven. My parents are both different sorts of people, neither of which quite knew how to deal with me in a tough point in their lives. I'd been in a religious cult for most of my life. I was socially awkward. My parents had split only two years earlier, and my "stepdad" Bill had just died. I had been told he was murdered. My mom and I were rendered homeless by his death. We had to give away both dogs and all the cats, since we had nowhere to live. I was in the unenviable position of keeping the homelessness issue under my dad's radar and outside his knowledge. My mom was unbalanced. We were staying in a shack in the woods, which belonged to a "friend" who turned out not to be. I wanted to die. I wanted to die every single day.

But in that shack were these two books by Anne McCaffrey: Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. They were very short books, and I read them repeatedly. I was a fast reader even then, but mom never figured out I was re-reading the same two books. Mice ate holes in my last pair of jeans. We were living off sea rations, showering under a tree amidst scorpions, and heating water on a Coleman stove. We slept on the floor. Mom would kick me in the head when I snored. I never knew I snored before then. But I stopped caring about all that, and lived in these two books.

They are about a girl named Menolly, a fourteen-year-old on a distant world, and she loved music more than anything else. The one person who understood and protected her had just died, and her parents were cruel. It resonated with me, as you might expect.

I can't really reveal too much plot, since the books are so short, so I'll say this: since I read these, I have been a life-long Anne McCaffrey fan. I met her once, and I do hope she forgives me for bursting into tears. I certainly will never forget her hugging me, even though she didn't know why I cried. She saved my life, and I just couldn't voice that. These stories got me through when I had absolutely nothing else to look forward to, and I managed to stop thinking of ways to die.

Is there any wonder I grew up wanting to be a writer?

Dragonsinger (The Harper Hall Triology)
The Harper Hall of Pern (Dragonsong; Dragonsinger; Dragondrums)

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