I’m usually a voracious reader. I go on kicks— thriller kicks, mystery kicks, and occasionally a literary kick. But the pandemic more or less zapped my desire to read.
At some point during this pandemic, I found myself constantly stressed and looking for an escape. I usually escape into a book, but nothing I tried seemed to offer me something I could throw myself into.
Countless books have landed in my DNF (or did not finish) pile— I just couldn’t get invested in these books. I wanted to. Reading the synopsis of these books on Goodreads made them look very intriguing. I combed through reviews before starting a new read, because I knew I needed the right book to draw me into the plot and make me care about the characters.
Each time I started a new book, I would get part of the way through— sometimes a third, sometimes halfway— then I would put the book down and never pick it up again. How could I get out of my reading funk?
The Butterfly Effect
There was one book that I’d been looking forward to reading, but I’d been holding off on starting it because I was worried I wouldn’t finish it either. And that simply wasn’t an option with this book.
You see, I’d already read this book once before. My friend and amazing writer, Rachel Mans McKenny, trusted me to be a beta reader for her debut novel, The Butterfly Effect. The draft I’d read was solid and enjoyable, so I knew when I opened this published version that it would be even better than the version I’d read before.
The book follows Greta, an entomologist who is supposed to be studying the Glasswing butterfly in the rainforest, see her plans and future shattered. Her twin brother, Danny, suffers an aneurism, and Greta makes the decision to come home. Restarting her life in Iowa leads Greta to contemplate a far different future than the one she had planned and forces her to address all of the problems that leaving the country would have erased: Her disapproval and distance from her twin and his fiancee, Meg; her one-sided friendship with Max; her ex-boyfriend, Brandon, who she really isn’t over; and of course the question of what to do with her career now that its trajectory has changed.
Greta is prickly and unapologetic. I was equally horrified and jealous of her ability to put herself first in every situation, and her NSFW title for her term paper made me laugh. It sounded like something I would have done, if I’m honest.
I felt like all of us living through this pandemic have dealt with the panic and heartache that comes from readjusting the expectations of our lives. For that reason, I related to Greta even more than I could have before.
Watching Greta, who was a loner by choice, grow and accept others into her life felt therapeutic. I was cheering for her and wanting to see how she would change by the end of the book.
Why 2021 Might Be the Year of the Reread
Finishing this book felt like a godsend. It was the first book I’d finished in months. Somehow, the pandemic had sucked away my desire to read, and I felt nothing but gratitude for being able to reclaim this part of myself.
Now I needed to know why I’d been able to finish reading The Butterfly Effect when I’d dumped so many other books. I realized I’d enjoyed the comfort that came with reading this book again. Reading the familiar is like slipping into a favorite sweater or eating your favorite comfort food. You know what to expect, and you know it will be enjoyable.
I’d felt like I’d lost part of my identity. How often had I lugged a book with me, even when I knew I probably wouldn’t have time to read it? How often had the book I was reading influenced the size of my purse? When I carried multiple books around New York City, my then-boyfriend (now husband) gifted me with my first Kindle to help lighten my load.
After finishing The Butterfly Effect, I turned to another old friend: Agatha Christie and her Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. I’ve always enjoyed Christie’s works. I can reread them every few years without remembering all the brilliant details hidden throughout the book. I began with Sad Cypress and followed it with Thirteen at Dinner (alternately, Lord Edgware Dies). Then I moved on to one of her Miss Marple mysteries, Body in the Library.
After that I imagine I’ll go on to some of my favorite Stephen King and Tana French books, and most likely Harry Potter. A slightly odd collection of horror, murder mystery and YA for comfort, but it suits me.
I still have a very long list of books in my TBR (to be read) pile which I’ve never read before and still hope to. But for now, as the pandemic still makes a mess of our lives and the goals and hopes we had, I just need some comfort food. I need my favorite sweaters, my favorite teas and coffees, and I need to be comforted by my favorite authors.