The Book That Changed My Life

Anne Rice, whose latest addition to her ghoulish repertoire is Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles, responded in an interview that “the book that changed {her} life” was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  Pip was her favorite character, and inspired her “lifelong struggle to be a writer…”

A quick google search yielded a book with the title – The Book That Changed My life: 77 Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them.  “For Doris Kearns Goodwin it was Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, which inspired her to enter a field, history writing, traditionally reserved for men.”  And the National Book Foundation, home of the National Book Award, has “The Book That Changed My Life Project,” a website linking authors to a life-altering read; for Stephen King, it was  The Lord of the Flies.

Although the question seems to be straight out of a Sunday supplement magazine, it had me thinking.  I have enough trouble remembering the books I have just read – a major reason for this site.  You could find me in a bookstore anytime, book in one hand, iPhone in the other, searching my site for the title that sounds vaguely familiar.  But one book from childhood is a still a favorite memory – although I’m not sure it9780385015837_p0_v1_s260x420 changed my life – D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. Beautifully illustrated and full of adventure, I remember going back to reread the stories of my favorite heroes and heroines.  It’s been awhile and this might be a good time to lose myself in it again.

Do you remember a book from childhood that may have “changed your life”?

The Wolf Gift

Anne Rice’s vampire stories never held an interest for me, but a story about a wolf was another matter; I’ve always had an affinity for the wolf.  I started Wolf Gift late at night, thinking a few chapters would displace thoughts of Mallon’s Watergate, my latest read,  and all the “what if’s” going around in my head.  I did not expect to read through the night, hypnotized with Rice’s language and story-telling.

Rice immediately fulfills the expectation of a “man wolf” in the first pages, and adds a Gothic mansion and a forest of preserved California redwoods to the set where Reuben, a twenty-three year old newspaper reporter on assignment, meets his fate.  The transformation is gradual as Reuben’s hearing and vision become acute, and his family notices a healthier glow about him as he recovers from a near fatal attack – until one night, a distress call triggers his final change to superhuman wolf savior.

Mixing in ancient cuneiform tablets and a kidnapping of a bus full of children, Rice elevates the suspense.  Reuben reverts back to human form at dawn, but his vigilante night disguise seems to be taking over earlier and earlier, until he discovers how to control his morphisms.  Rice cannot resist imbuing the man wolf with vacillating emotions as he struggles with good and evil.  She even has Reuben going to confession to his brother, a priest.

The story yields to the fantastic science fiction of werewolves, but this time with no full moons or silver bullets and no memory loss the day after.  Lots of blood, gore and horror, and some steamy sex add to the mix as the story hits its stride – not a tale for the queasy or weak-hearted.  After an exciting climax with the good guys winning,  Rice falls into a long uninspiring monologue on abstract theology, philosophy, and ethics – her justification for the story, and the quiet balm that finally put me to sleep.

The Wolf Gift is a mix of suspenseful adventure and grueling horror, and for me, a good primer to the world of Anne Rice.  She’s promising zombies for her next book.