When I cracked the cover of The Haunted Room, the author’s preface caught my attention. Writing under a pseudonym, A.L.O.E. (A Lady of England) penned this preface in 1889 more than a century before I picked up a reprint of her book. In the preface’s second paragraph, she says, “If there be, as she fain would hope, something of a tie between a writer and those familiar with her works….” Ties between author and reader? Yes, I, for one, found some connections with A.L.O.E. even though her life and mine are separated by time and (usually) the vast Atlantic Ocean.
As she opens her novel with what could be called a kind of snail-mail letter to the reader, A.L.O.E. confides that she will soon be moving to India where she hopes to work in the “evening hour” of her life. I can definitely relate to her feelings on leaving home since I, too, have come and gone from both of my homelands, the land of my birth and the land of my family. I wonder if A.L.O.E. ever came to feel as if India were her homeland just as much as England? I know Guatemala will always be home to part of my heart.
With her move, A.L.O.E. of course anticipates learning a new language and asks for prayers from her readers in this new venture. Ah, I have stood in her shoes (and even still do) as I’ve tried my tongue at learning a new language or two. A.L.O.E.’s words also bring to mind my Spanish students who I’m sure can empathize with her as well. Let’s state it plainly: learning a language is hard, hard work. However, what a joy it can be to communicate with someone in the language that not only makes sense in his head but also sings in his heart!
Lastly, A.L.O.E. referred to “Indian gems”. This reminds me of a book my dad read to me when I was a little girl about Amy Carmichael, another woman who worked in India. The Hidden Jewel is a historical fiction novel that tells of Amy’s struggle to rescue young Indian girls from temple slavery. Perhaps I’ll have to pick up that book again. At any rate, I connected with A.L.O.E. because of her view of people. She called these people “gems” – that is, something of intrinsic value. Like A.L.O.E. I also believe that each human being has worth whether they be an English lord or an Indian leper.
Thus, thanks to A.L.O.E.’s short note to her readers, I have discovered these ties between us across the decades and the ocean and am rather excited to keep reading her book. It’s appearing to be just the thing you’ll want to pick up for a good read on October 31st. After all, it is called The Haunted Room!
And, perhaps, more authors should write to their readers in their books. Do you think A.L.O.E. ever envisioned a Guatemala-born girl reading her book in the year 2015? Who knows? Who might read what you write some day in the future? Now that might make us be careful what we write..