Halloween is all about haunting. The unrelenting hold of ghosts. The unbearable-to-resist sweetness of candy.
Ghosts that haunt are products of the living: relatives dead and alive, past loves, remembered slights, pinnacles of success, things we wish we'd never done, things we wish we had done. Jobs we wisely quit. Careers we never pursued. Decisions that changed our lives, broke our hearts, made us soar with delight.
And the books that haunt. The truest readers probably measure their life in books. Oh, that was when I read . . .
Books that haunt aren't necessarily the best (though often they are) or the scariest (though sometimes they are) but the books that follow us forever. The characters become part of your mind's family. The story admonishes you to be a better person. Or warns you against letting up your guard. Or makes you wish for a life just like that.
Below are my haunting books (rules: chose on memory alone: no Googling to remember anything but author's name, no perusing bookshelves, and no calling sister Jill for hints.)
1) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Thanks to Mr. Capote, I will never sleep in a country home alone. Never.
2) A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A comfort to this Brooklyn-born girl, read until it fell apart.
3) The Family That Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss. Another childhood soother-made me want to grow up and adopt the world. Made me fantasize that I would be adopted (despite having parents.)
4) The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham. A recent haunting-the truthiest (thank you Becky Tuch) book I've read in a long time.
5) Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. Coping with the horror of bad parents in the worst of places.
6) Growing up Rich by Anne Bernays. Orphaned rich girl suddenly in middle class home-am I seeing a theme here? Re-read recently after a million years. It held up.
7) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty. Is there a scarier book? More gripping. More story-that-won't-quit. Who can ever forget ‘Blue Duck?'
8) Nell by Nancy Thayer. Because it got me through a divorce.
9) Food and Loathing by Betsy Lerner. Oh yes, that relationship.
10) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I count the years until I can re-read this one yet again.
Which books haunt you?
About Randy Susan
Causes Randy Susan Meyers Supports
Women for Women
New England Home for Little Wanderers