My favorite book since I was ten.

When I was ten and our house was being built, my dad gave me two things I wanted for my room: a window seat in the dormer and a built-in bookshelf that met the sloping roof. Interestingly, both have recently made their way into my stories (along with the enormous cast I had to wear after I broke my arm that year). Later, my dad also gave me his twelve-string guitar.

When it was the kind of autumn on my mountain as it is today (wet and whispering), I would bundle up on my window seat and either write songs on my guitar or read The Secret Garden. Again.

This is the cover I had. Which did you?

The book is so much a part of me that I subconsciously used its images to govern my own first novel. I gifted my main character with a skeleton key that fits a hidden lock. Further, to our real-life son, we gave the name Colin. (He could have been Dickon, but another old favorite work cast the deciding vote: The Look, by American poet Sara Teasdale.)

Anyway, the most important takeaway from The Secret Garden—the thing that has soothed like medicine for my soul—is that persistent love wakes up what is dead and heals what is hopeless. I think this is the primary reason I read and write and pray. To explore the kind of persistent and life-giving lovers whom I adore. The faithful men. The self-sacrificing mothers. The laboring gardeners. The gentle, lamb-carrying shepherds. And the tempestuous, tenacious, hot-headed little girls who also grow into champions of love—in their own way.

The Secret Garden is by Frances Hodgson Burnett. She wrote it when my mammaw was two. She died on my dad’s birthday, though many years earlier, which is this week. October 29. Happy birthday, Dad!

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