I read something recently, a blurb in an Oprah newsletter, where Alice Walker Alice was asked to choose a single book that made a difference in her life. She actually chose three, but one of them was a book that has also been important to me: Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë. Alice said, "Jane Eyre was given to me when I was a teenager by some unremembered soul who knew I loved books. I read it through without putting it down, and continued to read it once a year until well after I was grown up and married. Talk about respect for the feminine! Which, it turns out, is simply respect for the soul. That this author was sent by Providence (as they said in the 19th century when Brontë lived) to show me the difference between convention and morality, I count as one of the great blessings of a blessed life. Jane, a poor but proud woman, overcomes a childhood that would have killed a lesser spirit, and finds work as a governess in the household of a tragically wounded, deeply flawed but quite desirable man, Edward Rochester. How she maintains her dignity and self-respect after she falls in love with him is one of the great soul-strengthening stories of all time."
It's incredible that books can do this for us -- change our lives in completely unexpected ways. A few books have done this for me - initiated a complete paradigm shift that, once having begun, don't ever allow the reader to return to that old pair of shoes. One was by Dr. Wayne Dyer and was called, "What do You Really Want for Your Children?" (Now out of print and only available used.) It was meant to be a book about child rearing, but somewhere along the way it started me (a not at all religious or even terribly spiritual person) seeing God as my parent in the same way that I was a parent to my children -- forever loving, forgiving, tolerant and benevolent. Along the way, I became a better parent because of this, and I gained something far greater than I could ever have imagined -- the knowledge that I was loved beyond all measure. Astounding stuff.
The other choice for me is "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou. It's no secret to those who know me that I am in love with Ms. Angelou's voice, both literary and actual. I could listen to the smooth, rich, buttery intonation of her words forever as she reads her poetry and prose -- but this book was my introduction to her writing and it changed something in me. Briefly, vicariously, (and admittedly only as much as possible for a white girl from the suburbs of New Jersey) I was able to have the slightest sense of how someone with strong character can grow to overcome trauma and racism. I felt her pain, her confinement, her humiliation, but also her dignity, her love of family, and her strong desire for self-sufficiency, and I related to that. It transcended all boundaries to reach out and grab me by the heart.
So I ask you, dear reader and friend -- what book has touched you this way? Isn't it amazing to feel the power that words have to move our souls and make our hearts dance?