Tag Archives: Carol Shields

Mightier Than the Sword

27 Oct
World Without End, Ken Follett


Last week I finished World Without End by Ken Follett. At 1024 pages, it really had to earn its daily 10-lb spot in my purse.

A lot of people have made the very important point that if we all got Kindled, hotties on the bus would have no way of knowing if we were reading Dostoevsky. In my case, I think publicly flaunting a hefty book served an even more practical purpose – it made me look tough. I’d flounce onto the tube and whip out this encyclopedic brick and people would know I meant business. No more stranger-danger! And it’s not the first time I’ve witnessed the awesome self-defense power of a nice, meaty hardcover.

My family once took a little trip down Ukraine-way. It was not exactly a bustling tourist destination at the time (1996), but we managed with my dad’s so-so Ukrainian skills and a local guy with a 9-seater van. One night, dad and Misha the driver went off to look for a hotel and my mom was left alone with the three of us kids. Suddenly a man threw open the side door and jumped in. There was a heated English/Ukrainian exchange, and miraculously, the man finally took off. Five minutes later, more men, more door slamming and yelling. Did I mention the door wouldn’t lock from the inside?

By the time a pair of purple-haired ladies hit the scene, we started to think we might’ve misjudged the situation. We eventually learned that not only was our vacay-van a public transit mini-bus, but we were also parked in the actual mini-bus stop. It was all worth it though, because somewhere between the KGB lookalikes and a group of pale Chernobyl kids, my mom frantically hissed, “Girls, get me my book. Get me my book!” and then sat crouched beside the door, clutching her hardcover.

It was pretty scary for a couple minutes there, but even my six-year-old sister wasn’t about to miss out on the comic potential of my mom actually clocking some unsuspecting Ukrainian dude with a copy of The Stone Diaries or something.