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Of Panama, Russia, and Dixie

I indulged in my favorite kind of shopping last Saturday morning. My husband and I strolled down the frosty sidewalk to a garage sale a few doors down. We’ve lived here less than six months and hadn’t met these particular neighbors yet, so it was part social call, part business.

Soon another neighbor showed up with a box of books to sell. Fifty cents for hardcovers, a quarter for paperbacks. Such a deal. I walked off with a handful, including The Murder Room by P.D. James, which I’d read already, and The Tailor of Panama by John le Carre, which I hadn’t, but I figured it was worth a shot since I’d loved his The Russia House.

I read the first chapter of Tailor tonight and found myself remembering my friend Dixie, who’d recommended The Russia House for a book group we were both in, probably seven or eight years ago. I was skeptical because I don’t usually like spy stories, but Dixie was right; it was a very good book.

Dixie died a few years ago, far too young, but reading le Carre takes me back to book group and her exuberant laughter. Oh, the freedom in that woman’s laugh! She knew how to cut loose and have fun. If I close my eyes, I can hear her now, bubbling with enthusiasm for le Carre, for good books in general, for life itself. I doubt that I’ll ever read le Carre again (or Wilkie Collins, another of Dixie’s favorites) without thinking of her and smiling. The connection has been wired into my brain.

What about you? Do you have any books that seem to connect you with a particular person in your past or your present?

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