These days, the sun shines golden in the truest of blue skies, as finely etched shadows grow longer.
My husband has often said that September is a month for beginnings. Because we married in September, I have always loved this notion.
But this anticipatory feeling—that surely stems from our childhoods—is also nourished by waves of nostalgia that seem to build as the leaves fall and Thanksgiving approaches; and I think that it is in this space where hope and loss, love and pain intersect that we experience true gratitude.
Of all the novels that I consider stories of thankfulness, I have three favourites. These are books about the things that fill us with optimism and the tenderest of feelings, even as they expose the fragility and pain of daily life.
The first of these, chronologically, is Anne Tyler’s A Patchwork Planet (1998). I was reminded of this novel—and its endearing antihero Barnaby Gaitlin—while reading I Am the Messenger, by Marcus Zusak (2005). Considered young adult fiction, Zusak’s novel allows us to walk several miles in the shoes of Ed Kennedy and his taciturn dog, the Doorman. And then, there is Anna Gavalda’s Hunting and Gathering (2007) that introduces us to the unlikely trio of Camille, Franck and Philibert.
These novels are linked in important ways: they are small-scale stories of flawed, ordinary people leading regular lives. Yet each, in turn, finds their life transformed by their decision to become involved in the lives of others.
These are novels about the value of human connection and our need to belong; affecting and often funny explorations of the roots of happiness and gratitude.
As the seasons change, all three provide stories to warm the heart.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
― Herman Melville