One day, mid-December, William, a friend of mine called from New York. After brief pleasantries he got right down to business.
“Hey, I was wondering if you could send me a signed copy of your book? I’d like to give it to my mother as a Christmas gift. I think she’d enjoy it.” I pondered his request and suspected she would not.
Having just self-published The Gypsy’s Song, my first book of the Destiny’s Consent series, I was still precious about who read them. I knew William had definitely not read it and was only asking because he had no money to buy his mother, a daunting East coast matriarch, a Christmas gift. My wonderful book, through no fault of its own, had become his last resort.
Adding to this, his mother, Janet, and I had history; I was not one of her favorite people since I had broken up with her son ten years before…much because of his erratic lifestyle. In her eyes, I had been the girlfriend who was supposed to tie him down and FAILED. In any case, William sounded desperate and I agreed to send him a book.
When I answered the phone, all of this was very much forgotten. However, as soon as I heard her cigarette-toasted East Coast rasp, my heart sunk. It was her.
“Hello, Laura? This is Janet. I have just finished reading your book.” Uh oh, there was not a trace of warmth in her voice. “So, what I want to know is…who are you? How could YOU have written THIS book?” OMG! This phone call was more like an inquisition; she had obviously hated it.
I felt helpless, like one of the birds who had gotten trapped in our greenhouse, flapping uselessly against the glass trying to re-enter the sky. Anyway, how do you explain the components of such an undertaking…writing a novel, and not just any novel, but a historical fiction novel, much less on the little-known roma. it had taken me eight years. “Well, I…well I am in California,” I said as justification.
“I know that,” she said. It seemed we had reached an impasse, but from the deep silence she emerged with, “ I have not been well.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” I said and I was. “What is it?”
“Oh I don’t know!! The dopes put me on a medication which apparently conflicted with my other medicines!!” Aha, I thought, there is the Janet I know. “I am in terrible pain most of the time. I can’t even ride my bicycle anymore.” I felt sorry; I knew how much she loved riding her bicycle along the Jersey shore, but what was she, ninety?
“Anyway, that is not why I called.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “After I started reading your book, I could not put it down. I actually stayed up all night until I finished it.”
“Well, thank you,” I managed in my astonishment.
“No, thank you. I want you to understand that I was deeply depressed when I started reading it. And when I finished it, I was no longer depressed. I didn’t know what to make of it, so, I gave it to my friend who also read it. She said to call Oprah by the way and get onto her show.”
“I think it is very hard to get onto Oprah,” I said, but liking the thought very much.
“Well my friend is very smart. She is a librarian for the State of New Jersey School System, and she wants to try to buy them for every library in every school in New Jersey. She thinks every child ought to read this book. Well, obviously every woman also.”
I held the phone to my ear. I was clutching the receiver very hard. I wanted to cry. Janet had found powerful medicine in The Gypsy’s Song – her friend too. I told her how grateful I was for her call. We said our goodbyes. The line clicked off.
I still held the phone. Tears were streaking my face wet at the unexpected and grand gift. .
When I lose faith in Destiny’s Consent, I remember the many readers like Janet who have loved my books. And I repeat to myself with my heart brimming…when Janet began reading The Gypsy’s Song, she was depressed and when she was finished, she was no longer depressed.
She absolutely got what I was trying to convey, that the universe is grand and works in the most mysterious of ways.