I didn’t feel like writing a post this morning. Maybe because it’s a holiday, maybe because I’m feeling a bit melancholy. Anyway, I figured I could take a day off on Labor Day of all days.
I allowed myself the rare luxury of losing myself in a book that I had already started and reading through to the end. It was A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny.
And here I sit, shaken, tears in my eyes, stunned by the beauty and complexity with which she writes. I shouldn’t be. I’ve read every one of her extraordinary novels. But I am.
There’s no one like her. She is my favorite living writer. Because not only does she write incredibly complex mysteries with detailed plots and an ending that I can never figure out ahead of time, she weaves all of those threads together in a way I cannot predict and leaves me both sad and happy. I stay there, after closing the book, examining the human heart. Because this is the most important thing: Penny writes of evil, of the possibility for evil within each and every one of us. She doesn’t back off from it. She also writes about the goodness we have within us, and of the choices we make at any given juncture in our lives. Where do we choose to go? Which path do we take?
And, above all, she writes of the power of redemption. The power of a new path taken. The power of love, which always trumps hate. Of finding a way to love ourselves despite what we’ve been and what we’ve done. Of forgiveness. Of healing.
The story of Armand Gamache, his family, his friends, the village of Three Pines, the Sûreté – a story she has written over the course of 12 books – is deep, complex, and ultimately life-affirming.
Many of you have read and are reading her books. For those of you who haven’t yet had this pleasure, I urge you to start with Still Life, her first book in the series, and read them all the way through. You need to read them in order. You will be changed for the better, I promise you.
On this Labor Day, which was originally a creation of the Labor Movement, I stop to honor my father, who was a union member, my brother, also a union member, and my husband, member of three unions. In a time where unions are in danger, we must remember what they have given us: a fair wage, protections that were not available to workers for many years, overtime pay, minimum age requirements so that child labor abuse could be stopped, minimum wage laws, collective bargaining over wages, benefits (including pensions) and working conditions.
They gave workers rights, something they didn’t have before.
And I stop to honor my brother, who died on September 4th, twenty-five years ago yesterday.