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Spoiling a Good Thing

December 4, 2014

We all have things we loved as children that have lost their magic. Admit it – it’s true. There’s the movie you remember being full of mystery and wonder, and you locate the old VHS, pop it in, and are sorely disappointed with the reality compared with what you remember.

Recently, I undertook the “study” of about twenty-five books and movies – all of them well-treasured – before I embarked on writing my next book. Well, I’ve checked off all of them from my list except for one, and I know why I’m avoiding it.

I’m afraid. This book is among the top contenders for books that inspired me to become a writer, and I’m worried it won’t be what I remember. And maybe, just maybe, the mystery of it and the memory is worth more than my experience in re-reading it as an adult.

In case you’re curious, the book is THE WICKED PIGEON LADIES OF THE GARDEN by Mary Chase, which you haven’t read because of its awful title and the fact that it’s been out of print for a good thirty years. I found it at a church library sale back when I was about ten years old (a whole bag of books for two bucks!), read it, and have loved it ever since. It’s a story of a loud-mouthed, lying little brat who finds herself trapped in a mansion on her street that has been abandoned ever since the beautiful daughters of the house went missing decades ago. Only somehow, she’s trapped in the mansion at a time before the daughters went missing. She might be able to spare the parents the pain of losing their daughters, but how? And how does she get back?

After law school, I went on a mad hunt for this book at my parents’ house, only to find it missing. Recently, however, my mother found it tucked away in a box in our lower basement, and I can’t begin to express how happy I was to see that ugly, hard-backed cover. Seriously, I couldn’t even find this sucker on eBay.

But something in me still hesitates. A few years ago, when I re-read WAIT TIL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn, which I read at least twenty times as a kid, it had lost its magic. The voice didn’t connect with me, and it didn’t have the same mysterious, ghostly quality I remembered sending shivers down my spine. And I hate that that’s the last memory I have of HELEN. I can’t bear for that to happen with WICKED, too.

So maybe it’ll stay on the shelf a while longer…


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  1. Hart permalink

    Sarah, is it the same book as “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House”? If so that is easy to find. The publisher might have changed the title, for good reason!

    • Oh yes, I should have mentioned that. That’s a better title, but I’m not sure by how much! It’s on Amazon (just checked – thee entries), but it’s out of print and you can only buy used copies and none with the original title. But a copy is a copy is a copy.

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