Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brainerd

It's amazing sometimes, what words and stories can do. They can take you away, they can make you more present and they can shape a life.

I recently interviewed Randy Susan Meyers about her debut novel, "The Murderer's Daughter". It's a book I really enjoyed and I was excited to talk with her about it. But something happened in that conversation - we got talking not just about her book - but about what books can mean to us. And about how we can mark the moments in our lives by the books we read. Suddenly, I forgot that I was interviewing an author, and it felt like Randy and I were the best of friends, passionate about the same things.

Here's a little of what she said:

"Reading was probably the most stabilizing influence in my entire life. My sister and I were both tremendous readers - we both went to the library almost daily. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was incredibly influential to me. To read about/from the point of view young girl who loved her father but whose father was very destructive to the family - that meant an enormous amount to me."

And just like that, I remembered reading "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". A book that a girl who grew up in Brainerd, Minnesota might not connect with. Except that, when I read it, as a freshman at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, I was new to a big city, and I had just started my first "real" job. This job was as a newspaper clipper. Which is what Francie, the main character of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" does. And that did it, I was pulled into this story, and it automatically became a part of who I was then. And now, I can perfectly remember what it felt like to read it.

Randy went on to say, in our conversation, about how books can transport us back to the times in our lives when we read them:

"I can say right off the top of my head the worst break up ever - I was reading White Oleander and Poisonwood Bible. In Cold Blood kept me from ever staying alone in the country."

You can hear our whole conversation here.

What books were influential to your life?


Randy Susan Meyers said...


What a lovely post. I could talk books with you forever! Ah, the joy of finding a sister book person.I still remember the book I read before I could read! (An animal encylopedia.)

Heidi Holtan said...

I used to copy down the words of the encyclopedia before I knew how to read. I think the 4 year old me thought that was sophisticated :)