My kids’ last day of school was on Friday, March 13, four weeks ago today. They left class that afternoon not knowing that they wouldn’t be seeing their friends or teachers again for who knows how long. They seem worried sometimes, confused. So am I. But we’ve finally been able to settle into somewhat of a routine here at home: we made a vegetable garden in the backyard last week, bought some baby chickens and built a brooder for them. It gives everyone something to do.
And I like to spend the first hour or so of each morning—when it’s still dark outside and quiet—reading before everyone else wakes up. I’ve always done this, but now the act seems more meditative, more important than it ever has before.
You see, the day after the schools closed and I went to working remotely from home, I picked up Stephen King’s The Stand from my bookshelf. It’s an old copy and the dust jacket is torn off, tucked between the yellowed pages as a bookmark, but still I’ve been reading it every day since all this started.
It’s a long novel, just over eight-hundred pages, and I’ve spent this last month reading it for what is now the third time (I read the unabridged version, which is over a thousand pages long, in 1998; then I read it again about fifteen years later).
But now, on this third read, it seems more poignant than ever: not necessarily because it’s about a plague that wipes out most of the human population, but more because it’s a novel about the inherent sense of hope that people tend to have, about the faith we place in the goodness of others—even in the darkest of times. Which is something to remember now more than ever.
The Stand by Stephen King. Anchor, 1978.
Reviewer bio: David Armand’s latest novel, The Lord’s Acre, is forthcoming this fall from Texas Review Press.
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