Sunday, October 11, 2009

Louise Penny's Thanksgiving Sunday

Since I was a child I've dreamed of writing and now I am. Beyond my wildest dreams (and I can dream pretty wild) the Chief Inspector Gamache books have found a world-wide audience, won awards and ended up on bestseller lists including the New York Times. Even more satisfying, I have found a group of friends in the writing community. Other authors, booksellers, readers - who have become important parts of our lives. I thought writing might provide me with an income - I had no idea the real riches were more precious but less substantial.

There are times when I'm in tears writing. Not because I'm so moved by my own writing, but out of gratitude that I get to do this. In my life as a journalist I covered deaths and accidents and horrible events, as well as the quieter disasters of despair and poverty. Now, every morning I go to my office, put the coffee on, fire up the computer and visit my imaginary friends, Gamache and Beauvoir and Clara and Peter. What a privilege it is to write. I hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoy writing them.

Scattered showers, cool, temps 7

It’s actually about right for this time of year in Quebec, though I notice there is snow – SNOW I say – in the forecast for later this week.

It’s Thanksgiving Sunday here in Canada. In southern Quebec, the leaves are at their height, turning astonishing, blushing, shades of red and amber. It’s as though the forest was suddenly made of stained glass. All sorts of colours, and when the sun hits them, it’s magical. As I write this I hear my two brothers laughing downstairs in the kitchen. It’s a sound a hear once a year, if that.

My older brother, Rob, lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he is the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Environment. We’re very proud of him – but know that he still has difficulty remembering to flush the toilet. It seems ironic, really.

Rob is here with his wife of 28 years, Audi. If you look closely you can see scars on Audi’s arms from the house fire when she was a child. The fire that killed her parents and siblings. She’s Cree and was raised by a half-brother and his wife. And is perhaps the most wonderful mother I’ve ever seen. So grateful for her own healthy children. And Rob is so grateful for her.

My younger brother Doug had long, silky, blond hair growing up. I had mousy brown. He is now bald. I am not. I am grateful for both those things – and never fail to tell him that. But I’m grateful for much more when it comes to Doug. If there was ever anyone I was going to murder growing up, it would have been Doug. He would argue about everything and anything, choosing the most nonsensical fights, and somehow winning every one. I sympathized with our mother who tells the story of taking her own younger brother for a walk in his pram one day and coming home alone.

Where’s Ken, my grandmother asked.

My mother’s response? All gone, no more.

Seems she’s left him on the railway tracks. He was rescued and ‘All gone, no more’ has become both a family joke and threat. Like Doug’s hair. All gone, no more. But you can see that murder is never that far from a Penny mind.

Doug was a hugely successful investment dealer in Toronto for many years, with a lovely, kind wife and three children. Then one day he had a crisis of conscience and realized his life, for him, was hollow, callow. He needed to find meaning. So he quit his job, took up meditation. Worked construction. Now helps raise the kids. Found a wonderous guru named Amma. He lives in a tiny apartment, separated from Mary and the kids, but seeing them everyday. His life is rich and full of meaning, and tolerance and patience. Full of prayer and gratitude and simplicity. He and Mary are best friends, and his children adore him.

What a lovely, kind, God who gives souls like Doug another chance. Has given Audi another chance. Has given me another chance. Has given my husband Michael another chance after losing his first wife to cancer. And daring to love again.

This is a day not to reflect on murder but on mystery. The mystery of hope. And the place of gratitude and thanks in a life fully lived.


Vicki Lane said...

What a lovely reflection on family and thanks giving! And your wonderful books -- in spite of the obligatory murders -- certainly reflect the deep peacefulness you and your family have found. Not surprising that you've gained such a following in a world where people hunger for peace. Thank you, Louise!

jenny milchman said...

I only recently discovered Louise Penny's work, and loved STILL LIFE--how delicious to anticipate a back list to work through!

It's nice to feel a kinship with an author on a personal level, and Louise's sense of gratitude and appreciation is one that really resonates with me. How joyous it is to get to write. If people read and respond to our stories--as they clearly do to Louise's--that is another layer of joy. How joyous can be this life.

Patricia said...

I have had the opportunity to meet Louise in person a few times, some at cons others at signings and once at our face to face bookclub and she is a wonderfully warm, gracious person and a great storyteller. And while for me it is a lonely road I am also thankful for another chance...thanks Kaye for having Louise blog..

Jen Forbus said...

How beautiful. But I shouldn't be surprised. I am always moved by the richness of Louise's writing. As I finished listening to A RULE AGAINST MURDER this morning on my way in to work, I found myself smiling yet again. I am truly in awe of the world she has created.

And Louise, I finally found a copy of the PEOPLE magazine this weekend. I had been looking but no one had it out. I snatched it up as soon as I saw it on the rack at the drug store! YAY!! I'm so incredibly thrilled that I'll get to meet you this weekend!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Such a beautiful essay. I love reading things that make me reflect on what's important. I'm a big fan of your books, Louise, and always enjoy relaxing in your peaceful setting (that has a little murder to shake things up every once in a while! My favorite kind of place.) :)

Mystery Writing is Murder