Abel’s Island

Abel’s Island

Abel’s Island by William Steig hit me with the full force of a large gluten-free love muffin. 

I read this Newbery Honor Book on October 11, 2022 because I was supposed to read it on October 11, 2022. It was just there, where I put it, so I wouldn’t forget a closer look. And on October 11, 2022, I picked it up and that was that. 

Abel’s Island was published in 1976. I was six. Our saltbox in Porter, Maine was being built. I was a reader but don’t think I ever read it. This is because I was supposed to read it October 11, 2022. 

Early in August 1907, the first year of their marriage, Abel and Amanda went to picnic in the woods some distance from the town where they lived. The sky was overcast, but Abel didn’t think it would be so inconsiderate as to rain when he and his lovely wife were in the mood for an outing. 

I snuck the first chapters in between tasks and ball with uu. The storm that moved the plot described how I experienced the pandemic. Abel, too, spoke to things people wouldn’t ordinarily consider conversationalists. Steig’s framing of their response held space for belief and doubt: 

The star seemed to answer, “you will do what you will do.”

“The star seemed to answer.” Oh, the bulk in those five words.

When I asked my friend Anita if she had read it, I experienced a few tense moments thinking she might swipe it before I was finished. (I imprint on books. It’s my one challenge with library books that hit my mark. I can’t bear to let them go.)

When our house stilled again October 11, 2022 and the Phillies had taken the first game in the National League Division Series, I picked up Abel’s story again and read it through to its most perfect end. The latter is no funderstatement. It’s perfection. And I won’t tell you how.

But I will tell you this: Naomi Shibab Nye’s “The Art of Disappearing” was included in her 1995 Words Under the Words. Two lines are ballast: 

When someone you havent seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Ordinary days pivot quick, my friends.

Everything else is up to you.

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