Occasionally you come across a book that speaks to you. A book that contains a character that in the words of the Anne girl, is a kindred spirit. For me that character was Menolly in Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. I was in my early teens when my mother handed me Dragonsong and, although Menolly and I are radically different in certain respects (I can’t hold a tune to save my life and my family are my greatest supporters), I still felt like we were the same.
Like Menolly I felt like an outsider my whole life. Not necessarily a round peg trying to fit into a square hole, more of a hexagon peg trying to fit into a round hole. Almost but not quite there. At the time I hadn’t quite found my place in the world, like Menolly finally does at the Harper Hall, but the books gave me hope. Maybe I could find my place.
This was my first introduction to the wonderful world of Pern. It would not be my last visit. Over the years I have read and re-read all the Pern books written by Anne McCaffrey (I tried the ones by Todd McCaffrey but they just didn’t capture me in quite the same way). The books about Menolly have stayed a firm favourite for me, but I do love them all. Ms. McCaffrey was not only responsible for helping me see that I wasn’t alone in the world. She also, rather sneakily, introduced me to Science Fiction. Because I loved the Pern series (where some of the books have sci-fi elements) I was willing to give the Talent and the Tower and the Hive series a go.
The news that Anne McCaffrey had passed away reached me last night through this NPR piece. I was stunned. I had just finished re-reading Dragonsinger, something I do at least once a year, usually when, like now, I am super stressed. I still take a great deal of comfort in reading about Menolly’s finding of her place in the world. The idea that no new books will come from the hand of Ms. McCaffrey is sad. I’m honestly still reeling a bit. The Pern books are a series of books I always feel comfortable recommending, and a series I reach for when life feels overwhelming and I need to escape into a world where dragons are real and dreams come true (although not free).