I just received this letter from a reader concerning an experience they had involving my recently published book Vagabond Boy:Memoir of a Youth's Journey Through a Heartland of Chaos. I thought it was so fetching that it should be shared in its entirety without further comment from me. Why not add your own amazing story involving books you have read, blogged about or authored?
Dear Mr. Harding,
I read “Vagabond Boy” and was filled with differing emotions throughout the story. I laughed, I cried, and was filled with awe as to how you managed to capture in words, all that I have been feeling about my own life.
Then I shared your story with a 92 year old investment management client of mine. She was of a Jewish family living in Germany when Hitler seized power. Her parent's business was confiscated, and she watched her parents killed in the concentration camps. Somehow, as a young girl, she was hidden by friends, and later ended up in England, although she doesn't remember how she got there. She was placed in an orphanage, and after the war emigrated to live in the kibbutzem of Palestine. She married an American tourist, and eventually settled in New York City. She was widowed at age 40, had no children, and never remarried.
To this day, she is the most bitter, hateful woman you could ever meet. I am one of only a few people who can stand to be around her, because she is so bitter and negative 24 hours a day. But, I have always felt that somehow we were kindred spirits and I could understand the painful life she has had. I did not want to abandon her as everyone else has. I have been tempted many times, due to her rudeness and disrespect, but I always come back and patch things up. This woman has always had a strong will, speaks her mind, and loves to argue. When her husband died, she was told by friends to just “…get on with your life,” and show or feel no emotion, which she has certainly learned to do. Whenever I've told her of a family crisis, illness, or emergency, her advice has always been to suck it up and move on. Even when [name deleted] had her cancer surgery, she showed no compassion.
The reason I mention all this, is that while I have never really gotten her to discuss details of her life in the orphanage, after reading the book, she called me and asked me to come over to see her. When I arrived, she gave me a hug, and began to cry. In reading “Vagabond Boy” she realized there were things in the book that reflected similar events in my own life. All these years of thinking she knew me; she finally gleaned things about my past that in some ways, paralleled hers. She thought no one else in the world could understand her, because her past was so unlike anyone else in America. And yet, when she read the book she felt true compassion for another human being.
My mission now, is to get her to tell me more of her story. Your book was invaluable in helping a bitter elderly woman find inner peace before she dies, after many years of being emotionally disconnected from herself and the rest of the world. Not many books can claim such a thing, but it is true that yours did—for me and at least one other reader whom I know. Thank you so much for giving the world such a wonderful book.
Anna Maria Island, FL
Joel Everett Harding
That's great Joel! Well done.