Friday, October 17, 2003

The joy of finding a beloved book...

Some time ago, on an Internet forum I used to post on, there
was a thread about favorite books of our childhood. One of mine was
a book titled "Red Knights from Hy Brasil," by Christine Savery.

My parents bought me the book in Beirut, Lebanon, circa 1966. (We
were a missionary family at the time.)

I loved that book so much. It was about a British family whose
parents had been missionaries to Brazil...they all had flaming red
hair. The kids have to spend the summer with relatives in Ireland.
The story also revolves around a young boy named Shane O'Coghlin,
who the townsfolk in this little Irish village believe is the second
coming of the Irish legendary hero, Cuchulain.

It all sounds kind of obscure, I know, but it completely captured my
10-year-old imagination! In the course of the story, the five kids
learn lessons about faith while adjusting to life in Ireland without
their parents, and Shane ends up realizing he's just a normal boy
who needs Jesus.

But the book was lovely, mystical and fascinating, and I believe it
was the catalyst for my obsession with Ireland...which began at that
time and has only been stoked by the discovery that much of my
family history is rooted in Ireland and Scotland, on both sides of
my family tree. family was evacuated out of Lebanon suddenly during the
Six-Day War in 1967. I lost the book, and have never been able to
find it again.

Until I mentioned it on that forum, and someone suggested the
following site to me:

Sure enough, alibris had a copy of the book! But did I order it?
Regretfully, no. At the time, I did not have a credit
card, and I put off ordering it. When I went back to the site, the
book was gone. :(

In the meantime, I did find a book for my mom. She had fondly remembered a book
called "The Gauntlet" by James Howell Street, which she had loaned
out in the early 60's and never gotten back. I ordered it for her
from alibris for a few bucks, and she received a used copy that was
in very good condition. She was so pleased!

Well, a while back I started thinking again about "Red Nights from Hy Brasil" and how much I would love a copy of that book. I did a Google search and found a British
publishing company (Lutterworth Press) that has a few Savery titles
available...apparently, Christine's sister Constance was also a
prolific writer.

I e-mailed Lutterworth and got a very nice reply from an Adrian
Brink there. He told me that Lutterworth did not publish the book,
but he gave me the name of the publishing company that
did...Children's Special Service Mission. Armed with that info, I
was able to do another Google Search that led me to the following
British used book site:

They had three available copies! Yay!!!

Well, yesterday I arrived home from work to find a small parcel in the mailbox. It was "Red Knights from Hy Brasil." I can't describe the little surge of happiness and deja vu I felt as I saw that book. The copy was EXACTLY like the copy I had as a child...I mean, exactly.

I threw together some lunch, popped on my reading glasses (a recent addition to my mid-40's life!), and plunged right in.

The book is as good as I remembered it, maybe even better. I'm in love once again with 14-year-old Shane O'Coghlin, and I want to go to Ireland more than ever.

I'm also delighted that the Internet can enable a person to reach back and touch a happy piece of one's past in this way.

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