I remember the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was in eighth grade and going through a rough time. My best friend had just decided that she didn’t want to be my pal, let alone my best one. I had a terrible perm, out of style clothes, and a whole headful of insecurities.
But there on the page was a girl who was every bit what I’d been when I was younger. Plucky, brave, and with a side of sass (which I’d never released upon the world but kept in my head). Scout felt like an instant friend.
That same year I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Ponyboy and Johnny were as different from me as they were from the “Socs”. Still, their vulnerability, their love of Robert Frost, their depth of sadness was so very familiar.
The next year I read The Scarlet Letter and wept over the horrible treatment of Hester and Pearl. I wanted to scoop them up out of that awful town and help them find a place where they would be loved and afforded mercy.
From those days of early teenage life to today I have found countless friends within the pages of fiction. Owen Meany and Luna Lovegood, Jem and Merinda, Doug Swieteck and John Coffey. Reading their stories (and the stories of hundreds of other characters) remind me that I’m not so alone in this world.
Reading these stories makes me feel at home.
In A Trail of Crumbs (releasing March 27) eleven year old Pearl’s mother tells her to go out and make friends soon after they move to a new town. So, where does Pearl go? To the library, the place where all bookish kids go to meet new friends.
And there she does. Not just of the fictional sort, but also of the kindly librarian type.
Readers bond together, quietly, over dusty tomes. Don’t they?
And as we grow in these friendships – both in real life and in fiction – we learn that life is truly a beautiful gift. And we share in the story of this life.
What fictional characters are like friends to you? Which ones do you come back to over and over to feel that connection, that kinship? Do you have bookish friends you like to talk story with? How have you bonded over books? I’d love to hear from you. Your story matters.