We always hope that One Read participants make connections with each other, enjoy celebrating the power of a book and learn something in the process. Columbia resident Patty Jo Long attended a One Read book discussion of “The Tiger’s Wife,” and she felt moved to write about experiencing a little bit of magic. She graciously agreed to allow us to share some of her words with you, and part of her essay appears below. (Please note that her essay includes a few plot spoilers if you have not yet finished the book.)
I went to a meeting yesterday–I don’t go to meetings often because–because I don’t like them. But there are exceptions for all things. What lay ahead for me was a glorious example. I was at the library to pick up a couple of books I had on reserve and ran into a friend–then another friend appeared, then a third, all coincidentally–it was fate. They were all headed for the meeting and quite persuasive in their arguments for me to go, too. The topic was Columbia’s One Read book, “The Tiger’s Wife…”
The group of thirty or so eagerly jumped right in, no one monopolized, and almost everyone had something to say. It reminded me of a long ago college English class I sat in on conducted by a professor I admired who had the shyest freshman in the back row responding enthusiastically within fifteen minutes.
Since I had read “The Tiger’s Wife” when it first became available, three or four months ago, I was convinced I would have nothing to offer because I wouldn’t remember any details of the story. But as the discussion revved up, I found to my surprise that I recalled the book quite vividly. I found myself saying confidently in response to queries as to the identity of the Deathless Man, a commanding presence throughout, “Well, he’s a specter, an apparition, no one would be attracted to him.”
Then, a man across from me said that he was disappointed in the apothecary dosing the tiger’s wife, my reaction exactly. He and I both felt that it was a betrayal. I wanted the tiger’s wife to be rescued, maybe ride away in triumph on the tiger’s back.
Like all good gatherings, there were no absolutes, no conclusions, yet I, and I believe almost everyone, walked away with a curious sense of satisfaction.
This morning when I woke up, the aura of the meeting was still with me. Suddenly, a jolt of insight occurred to me–the Deathless Man was a specter–the tiger’s wife’s death was not a betrayal but a deliverance. The author’s skillful weaving together of fact and fancy made an interesting and compelling tale.
As a friend and I walked out together, I said, “That’s what I meant last Sunday when another friend of ours was denigrating the whole idea of magic, and I said to him, ‘I couldn’t live without magic.'” And I remembered a quote from William Carlos Williams that I keep on the fridge:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
Special thanks to Patty Jo Long for her essay.