A couple of months ago, I listened to Delia Owens’ beautiful novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Aside from thoroughly enjoying it in its own right, it also reminded me of another novel: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. This is not particularly surprising. Both stories follow a young girl with a strong attachment to the surrounding swamp/marsh, a knack for collecting remarkable specimens, and a less-than-ideal home life. So, once reminded of Limberlost and how much I’d enjoyed reading it as a kid, it seemed like a good idea to revisit it.
Now, I don’t actually remember how old I was when I read Limberlost. I was young. Possibly very young, but I really couldn’t say. The book was gifted to me by a dear friend who had also enjoyed reading it when she was a kid, and rightly figured that I would as well. I bring this up because upon picking it up again, I was a little surprised to find that it was not quite what I remembered. Blame it on my tastes maturing and me growing up. That’s not to say it’s bad, per se, but it certainly doesn’t carry the same nuance that the books I most appreciate now do.
Another point worth bringing up: I have absolutely nothing against rereading books. In fact, I’m of the opinion that the best books are the ones that you get more out of every time you read them. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit at least three times each, and probably more. I recently returned to the Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Höst and have every intention of doing it again. And there’s so many others. Like Frankenstein, which I didn’t particularly enjoy the first time but want to see if I get something more and different out of it now that I’m older. Or Fahrenheit 451 which I did enjoy both times I read it. Or a dozen others that come to mind without my having to think about it all that hard.
But not every book needs to be reread. And not every book needs to be reread by everyone who read it once. Especially not when we’ve all got more books we want to read for the first time than we can reasonably expect to get through in one lifetime. With more written every day.
With this in mind, it’s reasonable to ask why I’m bothering to finish this read-through. With so many things I want to read that I haven’t touched yet, why spend the time to reread something when I’m already not finding the same wonderment between its pages that I did the first time? There’s several reasons, of course. And fortunately, this isn’t one of those questions with a right or wrong answer.
In this case, the easiest answer is that it’s a mix of curiosity and nostalgia. Curiosity because I want to see if reading through to the end again lets me find now what I found then. Nostalgia because while I don’t remember many of the finer details of the story, I very much remember how it made me feel. And, I suppose, I want to spend a little while with the person I was when I was a kid, and maybe to . The slightly more cynical answer is that I want to poke at the story to figure out why I feel differently about it now. Both answers have at least a grain or two of truth.
As of the writing of this post, I’m about halfway through my read of Limberlost. It’s going relatively quickly, and the fact that it isn’t a terrible slog certainly helps. Whatever else it is, it’s not a difficult read. It’s also proving more enjoyable than I was afraid it would, though whether that’s because of my own revised expectations or the story itself gaining its feet I couldn’t say. Possibly, too, finding out when it was written helped shift my view as well; the book is more than a hundred years old, and reading it almost more as a piece of history than with the critical eye I might turn on a piece of contemporary fiction has its merits.
At this point I really have no idea how I’ll feel about it by the time I finish. Certainly right now I don’t regret picking it up again. Just as certainly, though, the experience is entirely different than the one I was expecting. But then, I’m tempted to say that’s one of the best reasons to reread something at all.