Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Reflection Upon a Talented Writer

As a bored student in a high school Spanish class, I remember looking at anything and everything other than my classwork and/or my teacher. One day my eyes strayed to a glossy bound library book on a desk in front of me. The cover was standard issue gothic romance, but the title didn’t sound particularly romantic or suspenseful. Still, Michael’s Wife, by Marlys Millhiser, seemed much more interesting than my classes at Jefferson High School. When the bell rang, I asked my friend about it, and she told me enough that I knew I just had to read it. Mom, who was ever encouraging of my reading habit, made sure that I soon had that library book in my hand.

Nowadays, writers must have a great “hook” or a novel doesn’t make it to publication, but in those days, most readers had more patience. However, Millhiser’s debut novel grabbed me from the first pages, and I absolutely loved it. In fact, it was one of the books that I read and re-read during the summer break from school. I think I wore out “copy 1” at the Piedmont Regional Library; but if that first edition hardcover is still there, it is worth hundreds of dollars, and the reader rating at Amazon is a perfect five stars. Millhiser’s second novel, Nella Waits, didn’t do much for me, but I read the library’s copy of her third novel, Willing Hostage several times, until I finally found a paperback copy to purchase. Her next novel, The Mirror, was a bookclub selection, so I purchased a hardcover when it came out. While it is said to be her best known work, I remember it because it was the first time-travel romance that I ever read.

I read a few of Millhiser’s later novels, but none of them held my interest the way those earlier works did. Although I enjoyed The Mirror, the contemporary stories, Michael’s Wife and Willing Hostage, remain my favorites. Of course, the problem with any “modern” story is that times change and many details from the story invariably become out of date. Still, I fondly remember the Siamese cat named Goodyear, and it has been more than thirty years since I first read Willing Hostage. That’s talent.

For any of you who want to check out the gifted Ms. Millhiser, use the links within this entry to visit Fantastic Fiction’s website.

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