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May 5, 2022

The Most Important Story in the World

Kimberly Brock is the award-winning author of THE RIVER WITCH and her latest novel, THE LOST BOOK OF ELEANOR DARE, a sweeping tale in which the answers to a real-life mystery may be found in the pages of a story that was always waiting to be written. It’s only fitting that Kimberly’s Mother’s Day blog post is about stories --- more specifically, the ones that her mother told her. Although her mother read all kinds of stories to her and her siblings, including the Little House on the Prairie series, there was one story in particular that Kimberly will never forget. Because it’s the most important story in the world.


My earliest memories are of my mama’s stories, a lineup of fairy tales and memories, starting with our own story. It wasn’t an easy start for us --- a traumatic, premature birth that led to years of illness into early childhood, long nights, worry, exhaustion. But when she told me the story of us, it always felt like the most important story in the world. I listened and believed, because of my mother, that my life was a miracle. I believed in wonder and joy and possibility because she told me that it was so.

When my siblings were born, stories only became more important. She would play make-believe with us --- always the fairy queen, the witch, the prince to my princess. She would read to us at naptime, at playtime, at bedtime, at any time. I remember falling asleep with children’s books narrated by records and listening to them over and over with her. I began to learn to read with those books. I began scribbling illegible masterpieces into notebooks and making up plays. By the time I started school, I’d learned to be the storyteller. I was fully prepared for an unsuspecting playground audience.

We moved into a farmhouse, then, built in 1912. In the heat of one summer, I remember sitting on the bed with her, an electric fan stirring the humid air while she read the Little House on the Prairie series to us. We played in bonnets and braids for months, and I began to think about how a girl could write her own story, make a book for a little girl like me, living so many years later. I began to see my own life in a different way while my mother was showing us how to see through the cracks in the paneled walls from beneath the stairs where someone else might have secretly peered out once, showing us the attic where a pair of very old lady’s shoes had been left behind, discovering glass milk bottles from a long-ago dairy on the farm.

I grew up watching her read and then sneaking to prowl through her stacks of romance and historical fiction novels until she finally put a book in my hand and I fell in love with the Georgia coast, reading Eugenia Price. When we took a family vacation and stood at Christ Church cemetery in Saint Simon’s Island where the families from Ms. Price’s books were buried, I saw Mama cry over the names on the centuries-old headstones, and my own throat ached, as if the people they remembered were dear friends. And I suddenly recalled that first story she’d told to me --- our own story of survival --- and I believed again in miracles and wonder and life. We were all connected by story.

Stories were the home my mother built for us. Here are the rings in the oak, just like the years in your lives, telling a story, she’d say. Here is our garden that grows from a seed, to flower or fruit, then go back to the ground, with a beginning, middle and end. A story. Here is a way to understand the world in the pages of a book, where there is order. Here is a way to remember who came before you and to imagine what might come next. You are a story, she said, that this world needs to hear. And she showed me how to tell it.