I’ve just completed a quest I started nearly two decades ago. I’m worried that once the elation of unlikely success fades I’m going to feel as sense of loss and possible purposeless. Probably not, since the quest itself hardly consumed my mind and is unlikely to result in my shifting to pursuit of life as the next Dread Pirate Roberts. (It’s the name that counts, not the person, you know.)
Let me start at the beginning of the story.
It was probably 1992 or 1993 when I first read the book. I don’t remember exactly, but I do remember reading it. It came from the library. I believe Dad had picked it up on the recommendation from the reviewer in the Buffalo News—the sort of city paper book reviews that are uncommon now.
Like most books I read, a lot of did not stick with me. Unlike most books that I have read, this book inspired a sense of longing, comfort, and a desire to read it again. It’s not that the book deserved a stack of literary rewards, but it had expanded my experience in unexpected ways and it made me want to go back to that place again.
The trouble is I couldn’t remember the author, the title, or many details about the book. I read the book long before the name of the publisher would have registered with me as a fact remotely worth knowing. I didn’t know what the cover looked like. I couldn’t remember where we got the book from.
In fact, about all I could remember about the book was that it was about an Irish family in the 20th century who lived in a poor neighborhood. I knew there was a story about a sweater, about a brother who was a boxer, an egg that was mailed to starving children because it was a despised food, and a family who overcame adversity. Oh, and something about the name Patrick, which doesn’t help very much when dealing with stories about the Irish.
My quest for this vaguely remembered book began as an idle curiosity, but it has continued since I was in college. I’ve looked in every used bookstore I’ve ever been in. I used to scour the memoir section of my favorite used bookstore ever, The Book Barn, in Niantic, CT. I’ve come up empty every time I tried.
As the internet has grown and search functions have expanded, I’ve occasionally searched on different key terms. However, as readers will recognize by the paucity of my descriptions above, I really didn’t have much to go on. Add that to the fickleness of search engines that tend to reward readers looking for something on the road well-traveled, and you’ve got a recipe for a quixotic effort.
Nevertheless, I persisted.
I’m not sure why, but about a week ago, nearly twenty years after beginning my search, I typed the right combination of words in in the right order and Google Books rewarded my search with the text I’ve been looking for. It was the second option down.
Being an addict, I immediately found the book on an electronic marketplace and got it on its merry way. It’s now safely in my possession, an ex-library copy that shows too little wear to have been honestly used. Frankly, I may be the first to crack this copy of the book since the checkout pocket was pasted in.
However, I’m reading it now. I have to say that I’ve not been disappointed. Sometimes you come back to a childhood memory and are saddened to find that the initial experience was valued more than its due because of a lack of discernment or the varnish of a hazy memory. I’ve been pleased to find, on this reading, that the book in question, Patrick’s Corner by Sean Patrick, is perhaps better than I remember it.
Sometime in the future I’ll review the book, but today I just want to share my experience. It offers hope to many who continue search for that one book they vaguely remember. Ultimately, success is possible and the reading of the long-sought-for book is all the more pleasing for the long search for it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have a few chapters left to savor.