So, friends, do you know what you’re doing on March 12 of next year?
Let me tell you.
You’re going to get a package on your doorstep. And you remember, “Oh, yes, today is the day my pre-ordered book comes! Faith Elizabeth Hough loved this one so much I just couldn’t resist the chance to have it the day it comes out.”
You tear open the packaging, and pull it out. The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County, by Claire Swinarski. It is gorgeous. “Just as beautiful as Faith said it was!” you think. But you’re a smart, experienced reader, so you won’t be swayed by something so superficial as a gorgeous cover. (You’re totally swayed, but your secret is safe with me.)
So you think, “I’ll just read a page or two to see if it’s as good as she said. Then I’ll make a cup of tea and really settle in.”
You open the cover and slip into the world of Ellerie County, Wisconsin, a place where the winters are snowy and cozy and the sumers are spent on the docks and the people come together to help one another through thick and through thin. A place so vivid it’s almost a character in its own right. But the characters! The characters are even better. There’s Esther, who reminds you a bit of your own grandmother, with her steadfast faith and the perfect pies and casseroles she whips up with her “Funeral Lady” friends for each and every funeral at the town’s little Catholic church. There’s Iris, her granddaughter, who is thoroughly modern with her Instagram savvy and her business plans, but who also is happy to fill in for her mom’s hour of Eucharistic Adoration every week. You get excited right along with them when Ivan Welsh, the Food Network celebrity chef, arrives in town for a funeral, along with his sassy teenage daughter and kind but haunted son, Cooper.
At this point you realize you’ve made some good choices in your life, because somehow a cup of tea has appeared in your hand and you don’t even remember how it got there. (You’ll thank them later.) You enjoy each sip, even while wondering what that chai would taste like with a hint more cardamom, or perhaps accompanied by a slice of apple pie. But you can’t dwell on it long, because Esther's kind heart got her in trouble, and Iris has a plan to help, but it’s kinda crazy and she might be falling in love with Cooper, and he’s got issues to deal with and what’s going on with Ivan, anyway, and can Esther’s good heart and perfect pie crust really save the day?
Somewhere mid-description of a gorgeous culinary creation by either a midwest grandmother or a Food Network celebrity, you realize you probably should eat something (and, for some of you, make a meal for those wonderful little humans that have been uncharacteristically self-directed in their play or schooling all day). You prepare the meal with exquisite attention to each detail, because your reading has reminded you that the little details matter and that food is a pretty darn good way to show love.
After your meal, you’re dying to get back to the book—but you pause. Because it’s also made you think a little more carefully about the time you spend with those little humans or other people around you. You muse, “If I take anything away from this book, it’s going to be that we have to be there for one another. We have to love and we have to forgive, but first we just have to show up. With a casserole or a book to read or arms open for a hug.” So you choose the right thing, and you hug your humans, and you just might slip into bed and read under the cover until you turn the very last page.
Sometime around March 13, you order a few extra copies, because The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County is the perfect choice for your brilliant idea of a three-generational-book club with your grandma and mom and sisters. While you’re on the computer, you think, “I should send a quick note to thank Faith for convincing me to click on that pre-order link back in September. What a difference it made!” But instead you remember what Faith said, and you send a quick email off to the author, Claire Swinarski, thanking her for the time and energy and heart she put into writing such a beautiful book. Because imagine what a bleak March 12 it would have been without the chance to lose yourself in a perfect pie and a midwest town and your new favorite story.
Besides, Faith might be busy re-reading her shiny new copy, if she's not making a pie.
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!