Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Book Made the Biggest Impact on Your Life?

Was there a book you read or was read aloud to you that you have always remembered or that has impacted your life? Tell us about the book and why it touched you so deeply.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote is the book I would choose as the one I have always remembered. My eleventh grade English teacher read it aloud to us the day before we got out for Christmas in 1984. And she read it with such passion that even when the bell rang to dismiss us, not one of the juniors in the room moved because she was not finished with the story. I remember her doing an impressive variety of voices for the characters in the book.

This book made a huge impact on me for several reasons. First, I was definitely a nerdy, teacher’s pet kind of an English student in eleventh grade so this kind of book/story was right up my alley. Next, it was so out of character for this tough-talking, red pen-marking grammarian we had encountered so far in the course that we were enthralled, yes, enthralled all 25 of us sitting breathlessly in our desks waiting for her to finish the story. And yet I think we all didn’t want it to end either, but end it did and it even ended sadly. I don’t know if it was that the story took place in the South, or that I am a true lover of Christmas (my initials spell ELF, you know!), or that Capote’s prose is just so engaging, but I know that story almost word for word over 25 years later.

When I was a high school teacher, I had to give exams the last days before Christmas until the last year I taught. I encouraged my IB Theory of Knowledge students to come to class on that day before the break even though they were exempt for the exam because I had a gift to give them. I read them A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. I tried to do my best voices for the different characters, but I don’t think I was as good as my former teacher. I paused at important points and ran through the list of fruitcake ingredients in one breath and spoke softly and loudly at all the right moments; and I had my class of wonderfully intelligent and dedicated students in the palm of my hand. And we all cried when I read the lines, “A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.”

And that is why when I copy and paste those lines today, I get a little teary and chill bumps all over. This is the book that has made the biggest impression on me because I had it read to me and I had the privilege of reading it to others. The themes in it are universal. The characters are memorable. The relationship between Buddy and his friend is one that we all want to have at least once in our lifetime.


loonyhiker said...

I confess that I've never read this book but now I want to go find it. Thanks for sharing!

Melanie Holtsman said...

Sounds like a magical book. I need to check it out.