Reading ‘Outlander’ for Nancy

My coworker Nancy was a ravenous reader. For every novel I’d pick up and set down, satisfied with my reading habits, she’d probably have finished two. Her favorite author was Diana Gabaldon — and, despite Nancy’s frequent persuading that I just had to try her “wonderful” work, I’d never been able to get over my fear at the sheer size of her books. At more than 600 pages, they seem so involved — what with their being a Scottish setting and time travel and military battles. And an epic love story.

But Nancy was so passionate about them, I told myself that I would read at least the first, Outlander, so we could chat about it. Despite its seemingly solitary nature, reading is never a truly solitary pursuit for me. Part of the fun of reading a book is getting to talk about that book with others — like with all of you. Working at the newspaper, I’m fortunate to hang around many literary-minded people; we often discuss books, authors, writing. And since we usually talk about the books I like, I figured I could give Gabaldon a try.

But the months went by, as they often do — then years. My shelves have become overstuffed and crowded, dropping paperbacks like dead leaves. I never got a chance to pick up Outlander. I never made it a priority.

Nancy — powerhouse Nancy, cranky-but-loveable Nancy — died on Sept. 18 after a heart attack. A community fixture, she was a staff writer at our paper since 1991 and covered local politics, mostly, but a variety of other goings-on, too. She was 55.

Her presence is already deeply missed in the newsroom — and among her loving family, which included her husband, son, his wife and their four daughters. Those granddaughters had a permanent presence in our newsroom, too; their photos adorned her desk, and stories about them were always lilting through the halls.

Though 30 years my senior, Nancy and I had a connection through literature. Books united us and provided constant conversation and enjoyment for us both. I’ll remember her best for her love and support of the written word, and her own ability to objectively cover and bring life to the happenings in Southern Maryland.

And I’ll miss her as a literature buddy. I plan to pick up Outlander this fall, and Nancy — that read will be for you.

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15 thoughts on “Reading ‘Outlander’ for Nancy

  1. Sorry to hear this, Meg. It’s nice that a legacy of sorts has been made in that you’re going to read the books she loves and that her life effected so many people. A very good way to remember a book lover.

  2. oh gosh. Incredibly, I was recently at a quilt show and was buying a raffle ticket and the woman representing the quilt guild noticed the Nook in my bag. She asked about my favorite authors and then proceeded to tell me that I just HAD to read Diana Gabaldon’s books and suggested I start with Outlander.

    I wrote it down and picked it up at the library with good intentions. But as you mentioned the sheer size and depth of the book was intimidating so it sat on my reading shelf until I exhausted all my library renewals. I returned it yesterday — unread.

    Now I’m thinking maybe I should go back and borrow it again — with the goal of actually reading it this time. If only for Nancy! I’m so very sorry to hear of her passing and your loss.

  3. I am so sorry to hear your news. That is so sad and so sudden.

    If you wanted to do a readalong in her honour, I would definitely join you as I have a copy sitting on my shelves too.

  4. That is so so sad. She was so young (my definition of young gets younger and younger as I get older) and is tragic. Reading Outlander is definitely a worthwhile tribute to this lady. It is a tome, but you are going to love it. Although I’ve listened to most of the series on audio, I will never forget the magic of that first installment.

  5. I had a college friend who died at age 30 of cancer. At her memorial service, there was a table of her favorite books on display, and I remember trying to memorize the titles so I could read them. I only remember two – and I didn’t care for either of them 🙂 – but they made me remember Felicia and wish I’d been able to discuss them with her.

    Coworkers who are book buddies like Nancy was are very special indeed. I am so sorry for your loss.

  6. I’m sorry about your coworker. That’s so sad. She was younger than both my parents.

    Several years ago my elderly neighbor (who was like a grandmother to me) sent me to the library with books to return. One of them was
    “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”…which kind of surprised me. I was used to returning Janet Evonovitch and John Grisham books for her. She then told me that that was one of her favorite books. I made a mental note to read it sometime so we could talk about it but she passed away before I got around to it. I finally read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” this winter and was sad when I finished as I couldn’t discuss it with “Mommom”.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss – losing friends, especially when it’s sudden can be very difficult to get over. I really feel for you. Believe me though, the Outlander series is well worth getting into and you should listen to Nancy and read it. You are in my thoughts.

  8. Sorry to hear about your loss. I like how the love of books and book discussion can bind people together. This is a beautiful dedication to your coworker, friend, and fellow book lover.

  9. What a lovely post, Meg, and such a nice way to remember your friend. I’ve never really been tempted to read Diana Gabaldon’s books- but I know her fans are loyal and legion, and I certainly understand and admire that loyalty!

  10. Outlander is an incredible book (I’ve actually just finished re-reading the whole series for the third time). It sounds like a wonderful way to memorialize your friend. I’m dealing with the death of a friend, myself, and wish I had some concrete thing I could do to remember her. We made matching Halloween costumes once – maybe I could drag out and wear my tutu?

  11. Meg, that was a really beautiful post. I believe that through your reading you’ll get the chance, in a way, to connect again with Nancy. It’s a beautiful way to say goodbye, as others have said before me. I’m looking forward to hearing you thoughts on Outlander, which I enjoyed… but that was a while ago. I need to re-read it!

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