Boy, what a great time I had with the Page & Palette folks in Fairhope, Alabama, today. We had a great turnout for the luncheon and reading. I even met a distant Daniel cousin and his wife, and was surprised by old, old friends who haven’t lived in Starhill in 20 years, but who came to the event today. My Dallas pal Bill Holston talked his Aunt Louise into coming to the event, and I was pleased to sign a book for her (thanks Bill; your commission is in the mail). How lucky the people of Fairhope, and the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, are to have such a terrific independent bookstore in town, run by people who are so enthusiastic about books.
I started the day with some good news: The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming will enter The New York Times Non-Fiction Bestseller List (extended) after only one week in print. Thank you all! You made this happen. It was frustrating to hear that NPR’s report on Starhill and the book has been delayed yet again, but I’m assured it will happen next week. I am betting that the Second Coming will happen before this sucker airs, but I could be wrong. Don’t be on tenterhooks Friday morning, though.
I was tickled today to learn that my essay making the cultural case for coming home to Louisiana has gone viral among the Bayou State expatriate community. If you know somebody from Louisiana, send it to them — but also send them a link to buy Little Way, which is a book-length version of that piece.
After the signing, I spent a couple of hours in the coffee shop attached to Page & Palette, working on a piece for USA Today, and talking to one of the women who work in the store. She lost her sister to cancer a few years ago too, and we talked about how hard it is for some Southern families to face the reality of death. I know I say this every day, but on this tour I’ve been struck, and struck hard, by how deeply Ruthie’s story affects people, and makes them talk about what they’ve been through, or are going through. On the drive over to New Orleans late this afternoon, I took a phone call from a reader in Louisiana who ran into my niece Hannah at Whole Foods in Baton Rouge, and got my number from her. She called to say she’s not usually a reader of nonfiction, but Little Way affected her more strongly than any book she’s read in years, perhaps ever. “I don’t want to take up too much of your time telling you this,” she said, and I told her no, don’t apologize, that she can’t imagine how gratifying it is to a writer to hear that his work has had such a beneficial effect on a reader.
So, onto the Garden District Book Shop on Friday at 5:30pm. Come on out, New Orleans, and see Your Working Boy (who has already today taken his son with the middle name Ignace to pay homage to the Ignatius Reilly statue on Canal Street).
Before I turn in for the evening, I want to tell you a little something about that photo at the top of the page. Here is the relevant passage from Little Way:
Ruthie began training for the Reindeer Run, a 5K foot race held during the Christmas season. Though she had never been a runner, Ruthie wanted to lose weight before Mike came home [from his Iraq deployment]. Jennifer Bickham, another running rookie, joined her, as did Abby.
“We were training three days a week for that. Ruthie and I didn’t run very fast, but we ran. Ruthie didn’t have any quit in her, but I wasn’t like that,” Jennifer says.
“In the race, we get on the last stretch, and it’s about four blocks long. It’s a straightaway. My ankle hit the uneven concrete, and I hit the ground. I thought screw it, I’m done. She was like, ‘Jen, get up. I’m going to finish this race with you. You’ve worked too hard.’”
Ruthie and Jennifer limped across the finish line together. She would not let her friend give up.
That photo above is Ruthie and her and Mike’s good friend, Steve “Big Show” Shelton, after that race. It is such a privilege to share these people with you all.