I was so caught up with telling you about the ballerina book last time, that I forgot to mention how my Elizabeth Strout reading was coming.

Would you believe that I had actually read Abide with Me as well? Not only Amy and Isabelle, which I had remembered loving, but also her second novel, too!

Funnily enough, I didn’t recognize Abide with Me for a good stretch into the novel, not until we learn something about the minister’s wife’s habits, and, even then I was content to keep reading because I didn’t remember how it ended.

And, as it turns out, that’s because there isn’t a satin bow wrapped ‘round the story, so it doesn’t really feel like an ending: she tells the story and then she stops telling it, but you have the sense that it’s all still playing out somewhere else, not finished, not over.

That seems perfect to me, for now, and likely for always.

Then I rushed straight into Olive Kitteridge, because I half wondered if I’d not also read that one, and, indeed, I had read some of the stories, when they’d been published in magazines.

One of them I remembered quite clearly, the older married couple in it, and the emotion in the final lines, but I had the idea it was an Alice Munro story and, then, on reading through Munro’s stories a few years ago, was surprised not to find it there.

(Obviously, THAT makes sense now. And I know I don’t need to say any more to you about muddling up stories and authors.)

I’ve also just started Linwood Barclay’s A Noise Downstairs. I’d been going to read The Parting Shot, but I think you actually read that one. I’ll get to it too – I love the idea of going back to Promise Falls for a time – but I wanted to read one this summer that you’d not been able to read.

So, this is his newest. And, as usual, he begins with such an ordinary scene, one that turns into something nearly heart-stopping.

It’s just the kind of mess you can believe someone would fall into, and he’s just so good at making you care that that someone climb out of it. He reminds me so much of Stephen King with this knack.

I’ve sampled a few of the American male suspense writers over the past year – Lee Child, Harlan Coben, and the like – and I think he’s got them all beat.

No argument from you, I know. You’ve got your fan-club paraphernalia on display and you’re probably straightening your T-shirt right this moment!

When I borrowed the ballet novel, I’d picked up another book as well, feeling hopeful, but I didn’t want to mention it until I knew it was something you’d enjoy.

Because, oh my, there is nothing more tiresome than a cat book that doesn’t land. But this one? It’s by Nilanjana Roy and it’s called The Wildings.

And it’s everything that I’d hoped to find in those Warrior Cats books that the girls used to read.

You would love the way that they introduce the character of Mara. And how many of the cats are female (and they don’t have to keep house and sweep out the larder, like the female rabbits in Watership Down either).

And you would love the way that she views the humans from the cats’ perspectives. And how little the humans matter, when it comes to leading their cat lives. And you would love that there is not SO much loss in the story that one can bear to read on.

And I am going to read the sequel, too, not right away, but eventually. And, when I do, I will nod quietly at the parts that you would love. And I will tell you all about it, even if I am not writing you a letter, not here, or not at all. Because I will go on reading with you in mind. Of course I will.


My friend, Barbara – librarian and booklover – died shortly after Christmas. We met via a listserv dedicated to Canadian literature, a serious venture that inspired us to take our enthusiasm offline, where we exchanged proper letters – mostly about books and cats – for about 19 years. In my mind, our bookish conversation is ongoing. (Letter One and Two and Three.)