Several years ago I was part of a production of the musical The Secret Garden. The main stage piece was a huge open book, with several scrims that came down in front of it. It was a beautiful set which invited the audience to come inside the book and live the story.
Have you ever read a book you wanted to crawl inside and live in? Actually become one of the characters, be part of their family to share in the tragedy and triumph of their story?
I’ve read quite a few of those books over the years, and I’m in the middle of one right now. Thinking back about some of the other books I’ve felt this way about, they all have this in common – they are ensemble stories. You know the kind I’m referring to. A group of disparate characters whose lives intersect, bringing them into a tightly knit group which becomes like an alternate family.
Belong to Me is such a book. I’ve had this one on and off my radar even since it was first published in 2008. A few weeks ago I was in the bookstore spending a birthday gift card and noticed a stack of hardcover copies on the remainder table. “Oh yes,” I thought, grabbing it up, “I never did get around to reading this.”
And what a treat I was missing. Belong to Me is beautifully written, alternately funny and poignant, and has given me some purely pleasurable hours in my big reading chair. While critics probably wouldn’t call it a profound literary tour de force, I love because it’s a book about real people facing real life dilemmas and delights, the kind of book that makes you reflect on your own life and where it’s been, where it’s going.
So this need to belong is at the center of the story – to belong to a place, belong to a person, belong to a family. Which is probably why it appeals to me. Because while one part of me is a fiercely independent only child, the other part longs for connection, for friends and family, for a place to belong.
I’ve been lucky enough to find that connection over the years, in my family, in musical groups to which I’ve belonged.
And sometimes between the covers of books, where I happily enter in and tarry awhile among some truly lovely people.
Now tell me about the books you’ve lived in, and where you feel you most belong.