Three things you should know about this book before continuing:
1. Julie Edwards, author of Mandy, is actually Julie Andrews, the beautiful snowflake I have adored ever since I first watched The Sound of Music; I was probably three of four years old. My love for her has never waned. Interestingly enough, I didn’t realize they were one and the same until today, when I glanced at the back cover of the book.
2. In the first few weeks of my freshman year of college, I met a new friend who remains, to this day, the only other person I’ve ever known to have read this book. Incidentally, she also loved it and we were inseparable for a long time after that discovery.
and 3. If you have ever read this book and felt anything but blissful adoration for it, I don’t want to hear about it. I would like to live out the rest of my life believing that the only people who have ever read it loved it as much as I do.
I will admit that reading it as an adult was a different experience. I remembered the story quite well (an orphan girl discovers an abandoned cottage in the forest and restores the little house and gardens herself), but I had forgotten how slight a book it is. It’s certainly not the subtlest story, even when taking into account the audience it was written for (elementary aged-children) – not that I expected it to be – but in my mind, it had taken on a legendary quality. Before I reread it, I could recall no flaws. It was iconic and beloved, and I would throw down with anyone claiming otherwise.
Now that I’ve read it more recently, I will probably leave the gauntlet untossed. I can say with certainty that this is not an “everybody ” book. It’s a lovely story for a young reader, and it’s a book that let me live out a lot of important ideas around loneliness and self-reliance when I was a child; I will always cherish it for that reason.
We all have stories like this – the ones that found us when we needed them most. I have different books for different stages of my life, and as I’ve gotten older, I would like to think the quality of my choices has improved, but when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t really matter. Special books are not always brilliant. Brilliant books are not always special. The book that made a difference to me might be, like this, one you’ve never heard of. You may sleep with a copy of a book I hate by your bed every night. That’s fine. It just serves to illustrate the beauty of having, essentially, an infinite number of books in existence.
We’re all allowed to have our favorites, our guilty pleasures, our cathartic cries. We’re allowed to love badly written books alongside classics. We’re even allowed to love books that no one else cares about, and to get a little choked up when we open the cover and see our names, badly written (and possibly…uh…misspelled) carefully printed in blue ballpoint pen…