Monday, January 13, 2014

Literary Reality: Why Anne Shirley Is One of My Most Bosom Friends

When I was a girl, I read all of LM Montgomery’s books.  At least twice.  So many heroines in novels these days are superficial.  Their problems are ridiculous or, at the very least, unlikely to happen to the everyday woman.  Perhaps that is the point: novels are a form of escapism.  To be able to leave your own mundane life behind you and get lost in a lifestyle far removed from your own definitely has its perks at times.  Still, do you regard any of those “heroines” as friends?  Do you look back fondly on them years later, thankful for the experiences that you “shared” together?

It is very rare that I do.  I’ve read more than my fair share of books throughout the course of my life, the number is somewhere in the thousands.  There is little in the written word that has stuck with me, though, that has woven itself into the fabric of my “mundane” life.  The Bible, obviously, is the greatest and, I hope, most noticeable life-shaper, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, so often heard on tape that I once had it nearly memorized word for word, and Anne.  Anne Shirley.  She was so relatable, our circumstances so similar and yet vastly different.  Looking back—even as an adult, a wife and mother myself now—I still count Anne Shirley among my most bosomest of bosom friends.  Why? 

She was someone with whom I grew up, one whose adventures I shared.  The older I became, the more dear she became because her character developed naturally, her entire life literally an open book.  We both struggled with finding friends, with insecurity, with catty girls.  Anne and I both loved to read, we both lived life in a perpetual day dream, and we both went through a disastrous hair dying experience (why did I not learn from Anne?).  Anne and Gilbert, who eventually became her husband, fought and struggled through their youth and young adulthood to reach a point where they were not bickering over petty things. 

I laughed with Anne.  I cried with Anne.  I grew with Anne.  She was an example in so many ways, a positive influence that helped to shape me. Unlike so many series or books that end with the marriage of the hero and heroine and perhaps a brief epilogue detailing their utter joy and bliss, LM Montgomery chose to continue with Anne’s story.  When Anne and Gilbert finally got over their differences and got married, and there was no “happily ever after” ending, the kind that gives girls unrealistic expectations for marriage, there was the “real” story.  Anne’s history is the kind of tale that lets girls know that marriage is joy and happiness . . . but it’s also work and heartache.

Anne loved her husband, but she wasn’t perfect; her life wasn’t free from real trials and problems.  She watched her children grow and struggle, she saw daughters grow into women and get married, she sent sons off to war and anxiously waited for their return.  Anne is every woman.  Real, human, she experienced nearly every emotion possible to women.

Early in her marriage, she hit a rock that often sends couples tumbling through turmoil.  She experienced acute pain . . . the kind of tortuous pain that so many women face at some point in their lives.  When I got to the book Anne’s House of Dreams, I was devastated, even angry with my favorite author for stripping Anne of Joyce, the little girl who dies shortly after birth.  Why did Anne have to experience that anguish?  Why would my beloved Anne have to endure more pain?  Why did I have to experience it with her?  I get it now.  I understand in a way that I wish I did not.

It’s hard to love a heroine who only has minor mishaps.  It’s difficult to relate to someone who has not experienced real pain.  After I lost my little girl two years ago, I found a renewed kinship with Anne Shirley Blythe.  As women, we survived the most difficult blow, pressed on after our hearts had shattered.  Was Anne ever the same after losing little Joyce?  No.  How could she be?  Did life continue and did she embrace it to the best of her ability?  Yes.  That is what counts.  In my opinion, THAT is what made LM Montgomery such an amazing, enduring success of an author—she crafted a heroine who was capable of empathizing with women in good times and bad, a friend who would understand.   

The end of the holidays, as depressing as they always have been, now, more than ever, serves as a reminder of what God has done in my life.  I remember the little girl that God gave to me for just a whisper of time, I mourn her sudden loss, and I remember the little boy with the huge grin that God gave me to help heal my broken heart.  It’s overwhelming. 

God has given me much, and for that I am thankful.  This year He blessed us abundantly, and I rejoice in His goodness.  As silly as it may sound, and perhaps only those who have ever had a deep, emotionally connection with a fictional “person” will understand, but I count Anne Shirley among my blessings. 

Anne with an “e” has been around for most of my life, through the good times and bad.  She was there when I was a loner with my nose constantly in a book, she was a part of my wedding joy when I walked down the aisle to her theme, and she was there, in the back of my mind, when my heart was at its lowest point.  So yes, I admit that it may seem odd that I count a fictional girl, one from a book not even religious, as a blessing, but I do . . . and I can’t wait to share her with Natalie, my oldest girl who is already turning into a bibliophile.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Hi Erin, My name is Kim and I saw a comment from you way back from 2005 (yikes!) :) on a forum that you were looking for some upbeat, Christian music with possibly a Calvinistic bent. I hope you don't think me too forward but I have been working on just those genres of songs (as a singer/songwriter) and wanted to share them with you. The music is always free and it's been a wonderful, grace-filled journey. If you're still interested, here is the link. Blessed day, from one fellow doctrines-of-grace believer to another! I'll leave my e-mail address here if you wanted to contact me. Blessed Sunday! :) ~ Kim