Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Busy Young Mom: Pettigrew Brought My Love for Reading Back to Life

Sarah Porterfield of Read To Succeed admits that this year's One Book selection started out slow for her - at first:

When you have a one-year-old at home and you work full-time, finding precious time to read is a tricky task. If my daughter, Adelyn, is awake, there is to be nothing in my hands that is off-limits to her. My phone, a glass of water, scissors, a book—all are seen in her eyes as things she is entitled to. And this entitlement can lead to a lot of crying, and temper-tantrum-throwing, and all-around not fun stuff for a mother who doesn’t particularly love loud noises.

When she is awake, I keep these things away from her. Often, the TV is on, because as much as I hate loud noises I sometimes hate silence more.

When she goes to sleep, there are dinners to be eaten, rooms to be cleaned, laundry to be done, work to be finished, a husband to be talked to. I get in bed and often I am too tired to read. I want to turn on the TV. I want to watch reruns of shows I have seen hundreds of times.
I want to sleep.

And this leaves little time for reading.

But the thing is, I love to read. I consider myself a writer; I’ve been in love with books since I can remember; there are more books in my house than food; my father is an English professor and published author; I work at a non-profit dedicated to literacy. Books are in my blood.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, this year’s choice for Read To Succeed’s One Book Community Read, has brought my love for reading—reminded me of the solace I find in it—back to life.

I’m on the One Book Committee, and I’ve been integrally involved in the event for months. It has taken me as long to finish Major Pettigrew. This is partly due to the aforementioned list of reasons that reading has taken a backburner in my life, but it’s also because—and I’ll just be honest—it’s not exactly a page-turner. Not in the beginning.

Major Pettigrew is a story of subtlety. Major Pettigrew, himself, is a man who finds power in delicacy and nuance. He is not a man of great excitement. He is, however, a man who loves tea and literature, living a quiet existence in a peaceful English village filled with characters equally preoccupied with manners and dignity and tea-drinking (although they don’t all pull these off as dutifully as Pettigrew).

Reading this book is like being transported into a world in which the TV is never on, where the protagonist would always pick up a book before going off on an adventure, where one-year-olds know more about tea and etiquette than they do about Mickey Mouse and McDonalds.

Major Pettigrew doesn’t become a page-turner until you become engaged in the relationship between Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali, a local Pakistani shopkeeper, and its many challenges begin to infuriate you as much as the couple themselves. You start to root for them, and before you know it you’re going to bed and staying up too late because you want to see them happy, and all-of-the-sudden a seemingly dull story has stolen your heart.

And reminded you why you loved reading so much in the first place.

Sarah Porterfield is the Family Literacy Program Coordinator for Read To Succeed. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Journalism. While at MTSU, Sarah was the editor-in-chief of MTSU's student newspaper The Sidelines and she interned for and was published in The Village Voice in New York. She is newly married and the mother to a one-year-old girl, Adelyn Belle, who provides never-ending content for her parenting blog,

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