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The Life-Changing Magic of Reading

April 5, 2018

Making Peace, Fiona McCallum’s latest and tenth novel, opens just one year and six days after the cataclysmic accident that has ruined Hannah’s life.

It’s Christmas and Hannah’s newly rescued cat called Holly and her kittens, Lucky and Squeak have become her Christmas miracle.  Apart from being cute and cuddly, they need her, and being needed is a wonderful distraction from a broken heart. As Hannah reminds herself, Holly and the kittens have saved her as much as she’s saved them.

With the help of staunch and loyal friends and her own very best efforts to stay strong and look forward, Hannah has tried her hardest to piece her life back together and recover from the shock of suddenly losing her husband, Tristan and both her parents. She returns to her normal job, but feels restless, confused, let down that the world that has been ticking over as normal, while she’s been wrapped in her own bewildering world of loss.

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Words || Fiona McCallum

Books were always a presence in my family home growing up and reading has been a part of my life for as far back as I remember. I have a strong memory of being about five years of age sitting on my brother’s bed listening to my mother reading from Winnie the Pooh before bedtime. I still have a battered copy of The Hungry Caterpillar from 1972 and a stack of treasured and well-worn Little Golden Books. I remember my dad reading a lot, too, including listening to cassettes of audio books while driving the tractor on the farm back in the eighties.

My relationship with reading has undergone several phases and meant different things at different times to me, but it’s always been something I can rely on to provide me pleasure, comfort and an escape when needed.

As an older child and teenager, reading provided respite from the pain of being bullied at school and the feelings of loneliness, abandonment and crushing homesickness that came with being billeted with family and friends while my dad was ill and my parents spent weeks away in the city with him having treatment.

After leaving school and embarking on employment, I don’t remember reading much at all until I had a horse riding accident at twenty-five and was laid up with a fractured ankle for several weeks. Again, I turned to books. Not long after that my marriage ended and it was my renewed love of reading that helped me through the ordeal of heartbreak and fear of what to do next.

At university as a mature aged student, reading became a bit of a chore due to the prescribed nature and the style of the reading list and afterwards I again stopped. This was also the reason I initially decided not to be a writer – but that’s a story for another time…

When I re-realised my passion for writing, in particular full-length fiction, I turned to books to educate myself on the market to which I one day aspired to contribute. It was during this time I suffered another series of heartbreaks and traumatic circumstances and reading again became my therapy.

While I’ve always loved to read – sometimes forgetting how much so – there have been times when I don’t think I would have survived if it were not for reading. I’m so grateful that my parents introduced books into my life from day one. I don’t think you can be truly lonely with a book in hand and a love of reading. How do non-readers get through the harsh realities of life? For me, reading is a best friend – always there to comfort, cheer me up and distract from fear and uncertainty. And just like a true best friend, you can come back together after a long absence and your relationship is just how you left it – strong and unwavering.

Thankfully right now I’m in a happy, secure place and my reading is for pleasure and forms part of my writing process – a sort of meditative way to spark my creative juices for the morning’s work. But I know reading will be there for me if and when I need it for another reason too…

Happy reading, everyone!

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