Newsletter 1

Help Me Identify These Half-Forgotten Books

I am getting older. So is everyone around me. I’ve started feeling fabrics at clothing stores and checking the garment care tags. My roommate has special glasses she wears in front of her computer screen to reduce eye strain. Things my boyfriend missed about being away from Ann Arbor all summer? His local butcher. I wouldn’t dare pretend any of us are “real adults” yet, but we’re getting there. I know this because not only do I catch myself doing things I’d long considered the minutiae of the adult world, but I also find it harder to remember things from when I was younger.

When I was little, I was both incredibly shy and thought I was smarter and more special than most of my classmates: the classic recipe for a bookworm. I was also convinced that I was destined for greatness (like, magical greatness) in the mode of Hermione Granger or Matilda. So: that which I call my childhood could really be considered a never-ending parade of books. I read constantly. My sisters were the same way. The three of us would sit around reading for hours, finish our books, and silently trade them and start the whole process over again. I have no idea how half the books in my house even ended up there, because I was lucky enough to have a bottomless supply.

Consequently, there are so many books I know I read when I was younger that I currently don’t remember at all. I get a bookish version of deja-vu: I’ll experience something that reminds me of something I read in a book, but I have no concept of the greater plot, and absolutely no idea of the title or author. So, in order to connect a little more with my littler self, I decided to make a list of the mysterious books from days gone by. And who knows? Maybe the good people of Book Riot can identify them, and help me wriggle free from the clutches of time.

  1. The Book About the Crazy Aunt: I was at the market a few months ago when I saw a carton of fiddlehead ferns for sale. My mind immediately transported me to a book about a couple of kids who are visited by an eccentric aunt, who tells them a bunch of stories about their family. They eat fiddlehead ferns in the book. There’s a relative who won’t eat the fiddlehead ferns and runs away never to be seen again. And something about a moose, maybe?
  2. The Book About the Three Friends in New York: This one has been bothering me a lot lately. I remember this book about three girls in New York City who had to do some kind of photography project together, and they were all very different. One of them had an uncle that had died of AIDS. They gave her a makeover at the end. It switched perspectives between the three of them: very influential on my early fiction writing style.
  3. The Book About the Disembodied Hand: I definitely took this book out from the school library, because it was very scary and would not have been purchased for me by a parent at the age I read it (which I approximate to be about 9). This girl went to work as a servant in an old house for some creepy aristocrats. Over time, she found out that the girl she replaced had died mysteriously. The details that set this book apart from other generic ghost stories was that the color green was banned from the house, and there was a scene with a disembodied hand that gave me nightmares. A meat cleaver was involved somehow.
  4. The Book About The Girl Who Didn’t Want to Do Anything: Literally the only thing I remember about this book was that the main character was a teenage girl who said “I prefer not to” in response to everything. And I think that art or sculpture also played a role. Help! Brains are weird!
  5.  The Ann Brashares Book That Wasn’t About Traveling Pants: So, like any young book eater, I snuck around reading books I was way too young for whenever I got the chance. I remember one in particular I slipped into my dad’s cart at the grocery store (the prime spot to get books you’re way too young for). I actually am positive the author of this book was Ann Brashares, but it wasn’t a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book. It took place on a beach (rocky, not tropical) and there was a lot of romance and guilt and unresolved childhood issues. The main characters were possibly sisters. I might actually be the right age for this book now. What on earth was it?

I have so many of these bouncing around in my head, brought to the forefront of my thoughts by some random visual or auditory cue. Convinced this was just the lot of the childhood bookworm, I asked my sisters if they had any half-forgotten books. My sister Madeleine replied that she hardly ever remembered plots without titles unless she’d “mixed up a book with something she’d dreamed.”

No way. Like Alice or the Narnia kids, I know it can’t just be a dream. And when I find these books, maybe revisiting them will help me stall the whole growing-up thing. Or maybe I’ll just have something to read while I bookmark slow cooker recipes.