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December 28, 2013

Jason Mott on Lending Books and Finding Yourself

Posted by emily

In Jason Mott's debut novel, THE RETURNED, readers are introduced to Harold and Lucille, whose son died tragically at his eighth birthday party. When Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep years later, they must navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human. In his Holiday Author Blog, Jason talks about one soggy Christmas when he received THE ODYSSEY --- after going on a real-life cow-chasing odyssey --- and how he found a new world, and himself, in the Homer classic long before he was creating worlds of his own.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I remember the rain. It was one of the wettest Decembers on record in southeastern North Carolina. Everything was soggy. The world smelled like water and loamy earth. But at least it wasn’t as cold as it could have been. It was just after sunup --- we hadn’t even finished opening presents --- when my uncle called and told my father the cows had escaped their pasture. I can’t remember exactly how it happened. Somehow it was the rain’s fault. But, whatever the reason, the rule of life in the country was, and still is, a simple one: When your neighbor’s cows escape, you go help. So I went.

The next few hours were a blur of mud and rain and large, easily frightened animals, confused about exactly where home was. Over it all, I sometimes caught the scent of the Christmas dinner that my mother had prepared, and that sat, uneaten, at the kitchen table while my father and I helped my uncle pursue cows.

When it was over I came home, tired and frustrated, and found a small pile of unopened gifts. The first one I opened was a copy of THE ODYSSEY by Homer. I always loved mythology, but had yet to read Homer. Though I couldn’t have known it then, this was a book I would come to love in a way that I still struggle to explain. THE ODYSSEY was a gateway, as so many books are, to a world I loved but, at that time, could not create for myself. I had not yet tried to write short stories or anything else, but I knew that I loved stories about gods and monsters and heroes and various other wonders of that ilk. And so THE ODYSSEY was a place where my imagination could be fed, a place where it could grow and, eventually, lead me to discover the most valuable thing any child can find: his or her self.

In the years since that Christmas, I’ve owned several copies of Homer’s masterpiece. I buy them and loan them out and they are oftentimes never returned --- just as that original copy was loaned out and never given back. But I never weep for a book given away and never returned. Not even for one so deeply connected to memories of my father, my family and my childhood.

Books are never meant to be kept by any single person. Not really. They are meant to go out into the world, to make friends, to make enemies, to inspire and create conflict, to challenge and to comfort, to fan the flame that gives some young soul license to dream.