Home > About > Bill Peak's Library Column > Love's Return at the Talbot County Free Library
Melissa and I often read to each other at lunch. Usually poetry, but occasionally prose—anything we've come across that we think the other might enjoy. Recently I read to her a passage on love from Kathryn Schulz's new memoir, Lost & Found. When I finished, Melissa squinted myopically at the book in my hand and asked what it was. I told her it was Schulz's memoir and she shook her head. “I would have sworn it was a poem,” she said.
Kathryn Schulz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for The New Yorker. Not long before her father—whom she loved dearly—passed away, she met and fell in love with Casey Cep, Rhodes Scholar, fellow staff writer for The New Yorker, author of the acclaimed Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, and celebrated product of Talbot County Public Schools. Lost & Found is the penetrating, richly detailed story of the pain and bewilderment Schulz experienced in the wake of her father's death, and the solace and future she found in Casey's arms.
Love, death, grief, joy … big themes that would confound a lesser writer. But Schulz is no lightweight. In language that is as easy to follow as it is profound, she stares these Medusas in the eye and her heart is not turned to stone. She walks us up to life's precipice, peers with us into the abyss, and then carries us back to solid ground as moved as we by what we have seen and felt. She shares with us her encounter with true love, one of life's greatest mysteries (why this person and not another, why now and not then, and—most inexplicable of all—why have I been so lucky while so many others are left out in the cold?), and as saddened and sobered as she is by death, she is awed by love's time-stopping, time-stretching glory, the abiding notion that it is forever.
And then she is brave enough to reach out and touch love's untouchable mystery: the fact that it is not forever, cannot be forever, that no matter how perfect the love, one partner or another must inevitably watch, and then live beyond, the death of the other. And here too, astonished as she is by life's extravagant demands, the roaring seas we all must weather, Schulz finds meaning, cause for wonder, and even a sort of contingent reconciliation.
But don't get me wrong, while she stares unblinkingly at life's big issues, Schulz also has an eye for the small details that so often enrich and renew our lives. And the fact that much of her love affair with Cep takes place on the Eastern Shore adds the charm of familiarity to the story she tells. Sensing Schulz's uneasiness on the first anniversary of her father's death, Casey suggests a walk at Adkins Arboretum: “We followed a looping trail through woodlands and meadows, past native sassafras and mountain laurel and shining sumac and a pasture full of goats, until we returned to the place where we started, a little Monet-like pond with a wooden bridge across its middle …. [In] the arboretum with C., I felt at peace, and even content, in the adult way that contentment can coexist with whole histories of sorrow and distress—and indeed almost presupposes them, since it suggests an acceptance of life as it is.”
I have long been in the habit when reading a book that is mine (not the library's!) to underline sentences that appeal to me. If the significant passage runs longer than a sentence or two, I will, instead of underlining, place a pencil stroke next to it in the margin. With certain exceptional books, I may find myself running a line down the length of an entire page. The lined margins in my copy of Schulz's book sometimes go on for page after page. I felt funny penciling in all those lines (am I going to underline the entire book?), but I kept drawing them. It was impossible not to. Lost & Found is a warm, wise miracle of a book. It is, I am certain, a book I will return to again and again, one of life's singular consolations.
Oh, and by the way, on Friday, March 11, at 6 p.m., the Talbot County Free Library, in partnership with the Academy Art Museum, will sponsor a reading and talk by Kathryn Schulz in the museum's auditorium. Casey Cep, Talbot County's illustrious native daughter, will serve as the evening's moderator. Though the event is free, registrations for the evening poured in so quickly it is already “sold-out.” Over-flow seats and seats unclaimed by those that pre-registered will become available on the 11th at 5:45 p.m. Those who end up seated in the over-flow section will watch the event on a large screen and will be able to ask questions of Schulz during the Q&A.
All who attend Friday night's event will have the opportunity to purchase a copy of Lost & Found and have it signed by the author. Trust me, if it is at all possible you should try to get ahead of me in that line … as I am going to be carrying an armload of books for the poor woman to autograph.
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