Sharyn Smith
Eagle Valley Library District

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March 7, 2012
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Librarian finds some great reads by accident

Accidental finds provide some of my most memorable and favorite reading. I call them "accidental finds" because I often discover the books when I'm about to re-shelve them after someone has returned them.

One of my recent finds was "An Invisible Thread." Author Laura Schroff was a New York sales executive. One day as she was hurrying down the street an 11-year-old panhandler named Maurice asked her if she had any spare change. Ignoring him, she rushed on by. But something made her turn around, go back, and speak to him. Finding out he was hungry, she took him to lunch at a nearby McDonald's. This chance encounter was the beginning of a several-year relationship. Although these two people lived near each other in New York, they lived in worlds previously unknown to the other. Maurice embraced family conversation around the dinner table from Laura's world. Laura admired Maurice's street savvy that protected him in his world of drugs and violence. The two unlikely people and the invisible thread that connects them is a memorable story.

The second find came when I accidentally recorded a middle episode of "Downton Abbey," a Masterpiece Theatre classic shown on PBS. Luckily, Eagle Valley Library District owns DVDs of both seasons of this series, so I was able to see the entire program, which I highly recommend.

"Downton Abbey" is the story of an English nobleman, the Earl of Grantham, his American wife, three adult daughters and the family's servants. The story begins prior to World War I when the Lord's male heir dies when the Titanic sinks. The lord's cousin, a young lawyer, is invited to the manor as the potential new heir.

A book, "The World of Downton Abbey" includes photos and interviews with the actors and in-depth information on the costumes and props. The text also explores the political and social history of the period.

Once I discovered "Downton Abbey," I noticed a book, "Below Stairs." Julian Fellowes, the creator of "Downton Abbey," credits this book with inspiring the series. Margaret Powell tells her story of being in service and starting as a kitchen maid at 15. Some of her duties included blackening the stove every day, ironing shoe laces, and scrubbing the front steps. Kitchen maids were also required to serve the other servants. This treasure of historical facts is filled with personal insights and humor.

Another perspective on serving the rich and powerful is a new book entitled, "Rose" by Rosina Harrison. She tells her story as personal maid of Lady Astor for over 30 years. Rose's job was to manage the jewels, endless clothing changes, travel plans, as well as her iron-willed and unconventional employer.

Recently my reading took me from the streets of modern New York City to a historical manor in Great Britain. No telling where my next accidental finds will take me.

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The VailDaily Updated Mar 7, 2012 12:33PM Published Mar 7, 2012 12:32PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.