The Relevance of Reading

Sometimes you love a book because of the relevance to your life. It might be a book that ordinarily wouldn't move you the way that it does, or would be a fun read but isn't particularly meaningful to the way you live. This is one of those books; a book that ordinarily I would have enjoyed reading. At the time that I read it, however, this book held great significance for me.

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

While it doesn't seem like I would have much in common with a retired Major living in a quaint English village, amazingly, I did. Major Pettigrew is obsessed about the heirloom gun set in his family. As I read about his obsession, I remembered my grandma. When I would visit my ninety-year old grandma in her apartment, she would go around the room and point to each piece of furniture. She would tell me the history of the piece and remind me that it should stay in the family after she was gone. Just like Grandma, Major Pettigrew comes back to the subject of his family guns time and time again, and how this set of guns should be owned by him after his brother dies.

After my grandma died, we did indeed hold onto the furniture that she held so dear, and it is scattered among family members. I was fortunate enough to inherit the sewing machine cabinet that had been my great grandmother's. It is not in the best of shape; the wood is broken in some places and it has been used, but it sits in a place of honor in my dining room.

Grandma's sewing cabinet detail

In Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the death of the Major's brother comes as a shock to him; just a few years earlier, he lost his wife. Surprisingly, it is a shopkeeper in town who becomes a comfort to Major Pettigrew. Mrs. Ali has also lost her spouse. Their unexpected relationship grows from a fondness for literature and their enjoyment in each other's company. Here enters more relevance to my life at the time that I read this book. This past summer, 18 months after my mother died, my father married again. Through the eyes of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali, I was able to accept the idea of love after loss. The Major and Mrs. Ali's new relationship doesn't diminish the love they felt for their respective spouses. Major Pettigrew at one point even tells Mrs. Ali that he wishes he had known her husband.

With grace, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand explores the idea of a second love in life. Quite different than a first love, as my own father would say, but also worth pursuing. While I think I would have liked this book no matter when I read it, 2011 was the ideal year for me to read this enjoyable book.


Ginny Marie blogs at Lemon Drop Pie about becoming a mom after breast cancer.


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