If you’ve ever had (or babysat) young children you know that little people love to hear the same books read to them over and over again. They also love to watch the same dvd’s and listen to the same music. It’s predictable and comforting. And, quite frankly, after the 20th time, maybe a bit annoying for the parent or caretaker. That said, I have wonderfully warm memories of my children asking me to read them their favorite story ad nauseam.
There’s a part of me that searches out comfort, just like my kids used to when they were young. You know – that warm, fuzzy feeling that reading your favorite author, eating your favorite foods or being with your favorite people brings.
That’s why I’m listening to “Sing Them Home” by Stephanie Kallos for the third time. I’ve checked it out of the library this time every year for the past three years and, odds are that I’ll do it again next spring. It’s becoming a ritual, which is also comforting.
“Sing Them Home” is a book that’s a bit difficult to describe. When Hope Jones goes up in a 1978 Nebraska tornado and is never recovered, it appears that the lives of her three children may never recover as well.
The eldest daughter, Larkin, an art history professor at the University of Nebraska, is a food addict who is private to the point of being aloof. The only true friends that she has are her neighbors including John, who she secretly loves, Mia, his artistic wife, and their young daughter, Esme (who she also loves). Despite the fact that she is successful in her professional life, she is sad and lonely in her personal one.
The middle son, Gaelen, is a weatherman who has two main interests: women and working out. Neither of these interests, however, appear to help to heal the hurt that he keeps inside. He’s a bit of an enigma too. He drove away his very first love by cheating on her with multiple women. Gaelen is as untouchable as his eldest sister.
The youngest daughter, Bonnie, is just plain different. That’s putting it mildly. She talks to the dead (who, incidentally, answer back), collects and catalogs bits of trash and continues to look for her mother daily. She doesn’t care that she never went to college like her siblings. Nor does she care that she is living in a converted shed in the backyard of two spinsters. She’s doing just fine, thank you very much.
The lives of these dysfunctional siblings are once again shaken as their father, retired town physician Llewelyn Jones, is electrocuted while playing golf in a thunderstorm. They are thrown together to perform the Welsh rite of “singing the dead home” with the other aging members of Emlyn Springs, including Llewelyn’s long time mistress Viney. At the same time, they are forced to face the parts of their lives that need mending.
If you’re thinking that I’m bizarre and you would never re-read a book when there’s so much else out there from which to choose, I accept your judgement. Let me just point out that there is no diagnosis in the DSM IV for people who re-read books multiple times. It’s not affecting the rest of my life, so identifying me as having OCD is out too.
I think that there are some definite benefits to re-reading. I am convinced that I have picked up something new that I hadn’t paid attention to before every time I go back to this book. Take, for example, the death of Llewelyn. After listening to this book three times, I now wonder if he actually played golf during a thunder cell because he too wanted to die. It occurs to me that maybe I was supposed to figure that out the first time I read it.
As far as missing out on other books goes, not to worry. I have another book on CD in my car, on my MP3 player and one by my bedside. I also got a NookColor for Mother’s Day and I’m filling that up with more “must reads”. Yes, there’s plenty out there to read and I’m all about new books.
Yet, there’s still that comfort in re-reading that brings me back to Emlyn Springs each May and “Sing Them Home” does seem like familiar in its own weird way. Be it ever imperfect, I think there’s something to be said for feeling like you’re home.