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.