A Must Read: Anne Michaels

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine told me about Anne Michaels’ book “Fugitive Pieces.” I had only recently decided to follow the writing path, after years of denying the want, and “Fugitive Pieces” became the standard I set for myself—if I become half as good as Michaels, I will count myself a success. Her prose is flawless and heart-breaking. There were times I had to put the novel down in order to catch my breath and regain my equilibrium—the story of Jakob, Athos and Ben is not for the faint of heart, but it is a beautiful one that, as far as I’m concerned, has no equal.

Michaels’ new novel “The Winter Vault” was recently released. Though not as poignant as her first, it is well-done and worth a read. The author’s true gift is her ability to create prose that resonates for the reader—you find yourself nodding in agreement, relieved that someone has tapped into the knowing that nestles deep inside all of us.

Great writing challenges, forces open places that we never knew were closed. The following lines are from “The Winter Vault” and when I read them, a jarring in my chest let me know that Michaels had, once again, hit the mark. I had to stop and consider where my true home lies. 

“I do not believe home is where we’re born, or the place we grew up, not a birthright or an inheritance, not a name, or blood or country. It is not even the soft part that hurts when touched, that defines our loneliness the way a bowl defines water. It will not be located in a smell or a taste or a talisman or a word…

            “Home is our first real mistake. It is the one error that changes everything, the one lesson you could let destroy you. It is from this moment that we begin to build our home in the world. It is this place that we furnish with smell, taste, a talisman, a name.”

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