Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A strong sense of place

The ability to be taken to new places and have new adventures has always been one of the great allures of reading to me.  Whether it's the daily life of a retiree trying to adjust to life without work or a wife or the exciting adventures of teenagers battling the forces of evil across space and time, reading has always afforded the opportunity to experience new things.  A few books I've read recently, though, have been interesting not because they bring new places to me, but because they take me to places I know well.  There's a strange sort of excitement about reading a story set in a place I'm familiar with. 

In preparation for a recent vacation, I read The Bastard of Istanbul.  It was interesting and a story worth ready, but as I hadn't yet been there, I didn't feel a pull toward the city in any way. By complete coincidence, though, over the past weekend I read Gardens of Water by Cincinnatian Alan Drew.  I didn't even realize that the book takes place outside of Istanbul until after I started it.  In addition to being a really compelling story filled with questions of culture clash, gender roles, religion, physical and mental illness, and young love, I felt a small thrill every time I recognized a street, a district, a word, or a food being referenced.   

It doesn't have to be a foreign locale to be exciting.  I've felt the same rush reading books about Columbus, like Jennifer Cruise's Bet Me or Dayton, like Martha Moody's Office of DesireWhen I lived in a small college town in Iowa, I felt compelled to read Sleeping With the Enemy, which took place in that town.  It's just fun to read about things happening where you are. 

Of course, I'll never be able to travel to as many places as I can read about.  So, until my next vacation, I'll enjoy my armchair travels and learn about new locations through good books.

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