The last appearance on the tour happened on Saturday. Since coming home I’ve slept more than eight hours every single night, which is more sleep than I’ve had in years. In other words, being on tour when you’re just couple of weeks short of age 79 can be a lot more tiring than anticipated—tiring but incredibly rewarding.
And it turns out, it’s not over yet. I’ve been invited to participate in the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville on October 21st and 22nd. My panel is scheduled for Sunday. If any of my blog readers happen to be in that neck of the woods, I’d love to see them there. In other words, age be damned, I’m a dog for punishment. Because clearly, I’ve just signed up to hit the road again.
But right now I want to talk about the rewarding part of the tour. I would have to say that a real high point was the event at the San Xavier District Community Center. My hostess there, Vivian Juan Saunders, is the daughter of Melissa Juan who was my library aide that first year of teaching on the reservation. It’s amazing how much she resembles her mother.
The accompanying photo, taken by my media escort, Nancy Stuebe, gives a far better idea of the actual size of the two baskets Vivian gave me—the horsehair one with the woman wearing a black shawl and the tiny bear-grass and yucca one which, as Vivian told me, is a vessel to hold my thoughts. Obviously, thoughts don’t take up much space. Then there was the woman in the front row at the Poisoned Pen who told me that After the Fire saved her life. She said that everything that went on inside her house was always a big secret. Then, once she read After the Fire, she realized she didn’t have to keep those secrets any longer.
At one of the last appearances a mother and daughter bought a copy of After the Fire for their daughter and sister. The sister is in the process of leaving an abusive marriage. The day before, the young woman had signed the divorce paperwork, but her soon-to-be-ex-husband had not yet been served. That took my breath away. The most dangerous time for spouses in abusive or addictive relationships comes when they’re trying to leave.
In 1980 when I was exiting my own marriage, I spent months in an awful kind of limbo where I couldn’t see any way forward and couldn’t even pray about it. At that point, a friend I’ve mentioned before, the late Estelle Dubose, stepped up and told me, “You pray for the little things—whatever you need to get through each day. In the meantime, I’ll pray for the big things. I’ll pray to see you in your perfect place.”
So that’s what I’ve been doing this week—praying for that young woman to find her perfect place. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know her name. The Guy whose eye is on the sparrow knows exactly who I mean, and if any of my prayer-minded readers would care to join me in that endeavor, their participation would be most welcome.
I’m under no illusions that After the Fire will serve as any kind of magic bullet for her right now any more than a court-ordered protection order would give her any real protection, but once she’s moved beyond the immediate crisis, perhaps my story will help her see her own way forward.
But here’s the topper for my week, the kind of email that keeps me focused on writing and on doing what I do. It came from a man who, six months ago, was given a dire medical prognosis, one for which the suggested treatments aren’t being entirely successful. He told me that in the last six months, he’s read sixty of my sixty-six books and that reading about my characters has helped preserve his sanity. He says that the Walker Family books are now on his Amazon wish list, and After the Fire is currently on order.
I don’t generally read reviews, but with that kind of personal endorsement, I guess I won’t be giving up writing any time soon.
And if anyone besides me wants to add my anonymous sixty-book reader to their prayer lists, that would be welcome, too.