About a month ago, I reorganized my bookcases and came to the startling realization that there are many books sitting on the shelves that are about 1/4 to 1/3-read by me. For whatever reason – I get bored, or life gets in the way – I have this nasty habit of reading the first part of a book, putting it down, and never returning to it. I have two New Year’s resolutions this year – the first, to start running again (a pretty common one), and the second, to finish the partially-finished books on my shelves. I resolved to progress towards the second, er, resolution, a little earlier than the start of 2008, and began by returning to The Thorn Birds by: Colleen McCullough.
I remember my mother, and every other adult woman I knew in the 1980s, glued to the tv during the airing of the mini-series. Then, during the summer of 2000, my roommate in Montana, Nicole, bought the book at a second-hand bookshop, Quarter Moon Books. For several days, Nicole remained in the apartment each afternoon and evening after work, reading The Thorn Birds. As fewer pages remained at the book’s end, the intensity of Nicole’s attention grew. By the final day, every time I saw her reading the book, tears were streaming down her face, and she appeared emotionally wrenched over this story. When she finished, she needed to be alone for a brief time. She then gave me the book to read “when [I] feel like reading it.” A year ago, the time arrived, and I was instantly captivated by the story of Meggie Cleary, her journey from New Zealand to Australia, the harsh unfairness of her childhood, and her growing love for the man she can never have. Then, I quit reading it. When I picked it back up this month, I was even more intrigued by the tale. When taking the shuttle from UW Medical Center to Harborview one afternoon, I was crying as I read when the bus arrived, and I had to spend minutes composing myself before returning to work.
Today, I finally finished to book. I was a little disappointed by the ending, to be honest. I had higher expectations, and felt the story should have concluded several years earlier than it did. However, this aside, it was a very satisfying novel, and I am sad (but relieved) to have finished it. It’s one of those experiences that had me online last week, reserving the mini-series (all 400-plus minutes) through the library. Imagine my delight when my mother gave me the mini-series on DVD for Christmas this year! Now that I have a baby, I will not be able to watch it straight through while sobbing in front of the tv, but my grief and catharsis can extend over weeks, if necessary. After all, it took a year to finish the book.