LESLIE CRISS: Two wonderful books end, search for next good read begins

Leslie Criss mug“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
– J.D. Salinger

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
– Charles William Eliot

I love a book.I love to feel it and smell it. Mostly I love to read the words that have been printed on its pages.

Before Dick, Jane and Sally, and later those young sleuths Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden came into my I-can-read world, there were folks who read to me.

I’m grateful to all of them for starting me early on my long love affair with the written word.

The most vivid memory pictures – accompanied by the sound of my grandmother’s voice – remain with me five decades later of mean, ugly trolls who live under a bridge and frighten a family of goats named Gruff.

My favorite comes near the end of a controversial children’s book where a group of fierce, hungry tigers, each clutching the tail of the next, run in circles until they turn into a big batch of butter which is later used for a young boy’s pancakes.

These days, I find that life often gets in the way of reading. It shouldn’t. When I have a book on my nightstand, with my place marked, I am the happiest.

And when I have just finished a book – or two – that have moved me immeasurably and made me wish they’d never ended, I am the most frustrated.

Why?

Because I always find it difficult to find the next great read, one that might possibly measure up to the ones just completed.

That’s where I am right now.

In the past several weeks, I’ve read and loved Elaine Hussey’s “The Sweetest Hallelujah.”

When I came to its end, my sister made a “very high recommendation” of another book.

Now, a sisterly reading recommendation bears some weight, as does a high one. But a very high recommendation is sort of like a triple-dog dare. And it’s not something I ignore.

So with very high expectations, I began reading a novel, a first novel, by Carol Rifka Brunt.

She received an Arts Council grant in 2007 to write this first novel which was published in June 2012.

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” is one of the most powerful and poignant coming-of-age stories I’ve read. It’s about family – most specifically, the relationship between sisters – and friendship and so much more.

My sister was right. But now I’m finished and I need something new and wonderful to read.

While I search, let me very highly recommend to you both “The Sweetest Hallelujah” and “Tell the Wolves I’m Home.”

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

leslie.criss@journalinc.com