Tom Squillace is our Director of Library Sales and wanted to share the great experience he had at his local library.
I have been an absolutely voracious reader for practically my entire life, and my favorite genre is what I call “semi-fiction”—the placement of a set of fictional characters into actual historical events. Herman Wouk does a great job of this with “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance”, weaving the Henry family throughout the entire span of the period leading up to and through World War II. For me, though, the all-time champ in this area is John Jakes, with his “Kent Family Chronicles”. This eight volume series starts with Phillippe Charbonneau, a French citizen in the mid 1700’s who decides to make a better life for himself in the New World. Along the way, he changes his name to Philip Kent, and becomes swept up in the passion and fury of the American Revolution. The series goes on to trace Philip’s ancestors all the way to the turn of the twentieth century, along the way painting vivid and sometimes very painful pictures of events such as the Civil War, the Johnstown flood, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849, and almost all of the significant events of this time period. Not only do I find this juxtaposition fascinating- it also provides me with a unique perspective (or at least something to say) about many events in American History.
I have accumulated a few of the various volumes of the series over the years- picking up one at a garage sale, and another volume while cleaning out a deceased relative’s apartment- but since the series was written in the early 70’s, it is very difficult to find. Then, earlier this year, I absolutely struck gold. As a committed bibliophile, I haunt the book sales held by my local library, the very fine Grosse Pointe Public Library (also a Tutor.com Learning Suite customer, I am proud to say). At one of these book sales, I came across THE ENTIRE SET—all eight volumes of the Kent Family Chronicles. I began to emit some rather strange sounds of glee and disbelief— it’s actually kind of disheartening to realize what a geek I really am—and then I swept all eight volumes into my arms, protecting them like a mother bear with eight fractious cubs. I cut my shopping spree short, rushing to cash out and get my treasures home. Without a doubt, that was the best $4.00 I have ever spent.
So, I just got back from vacation this past weekend, and while I was away, I had a chance to appreciate what my local library was able to do for me. One night (actually early one morning), I found myself unable to sleep- partially because of a tad of over-indulgence at the nightly beach bonfire, but mainly because I was very close to finishing the final volume of the Kent Family Chronicles. Book in hand, I crept quietly out of bed, to the beachfront balcony of the room where we were staying, and sat there, with an ice-cold bottle of water, and finished the last 25 or so pages of Volume Eight.
It’s hard to express the sublime nature of that specific moment- the sound of the waves, the stillness and quiet of a Northern Michigan forest in the wee hours, a carpet of stars scattered haphazardly above me, and the realization and completion of a personal 20+ year quest. I silently thanked Mother Nature for the spectacular setting- but I also thanked the Grosse Pointe Public Library for providing me with the means to fulfill the quest.