And when reading a really good story, you may even find you got sunburned.
That’s what just happened to me reading my friend Tri Robinson’s new book The Committee for the Reburial of Liver-Eating Johnson: Memoirs of a Dyslexic Teacher.
Tri left me a galley copy to read right before my vacation.
I totally spaced packing it. I didn’t think about it again.
Until yesterday when I saw it there, that thin little spine beckoning me. “Take and read. Take and read.”
Okay, that email reminder helped, too.
It’s a brief yarn of only 125 pages, so, seeing it beckoning and hearing Tri’s voice, quite literally saying “Take and read,” and having a spot of time, I dipped in. Maybe a chapter. Maybe two. So I thought. I read the first three and was hooked, though that was as far as I got before being summoned to our Friday night dance.
Even Tri’s book will wait for the dance.
But the first three chapters had me ready to launch with the rest today, effectively setting the stage for this story of twenty-four junior high students who under Tri’s leadership in 1974 campaigned and brought about the re-internment of the remains of John “Liver-eating” Johnston.
Listening to Tri’s teaching for a decade and a half in Boise, I had heard this story and several others he relates in the book, but I had never seen them in their entirety woven together as they are in this rawhide tapestry of a book.
It had me.
Picking up the book a second time, I joined my loverly wife on the lawn under a balmy May sun, and I couldn’t stop. Being my first serious exposure to sun this season, the thought occurred to me as I started in, “Lotion. Lotion.” But I couldn’t stop. I did step out of the sun eventually, standing in the shade of one of our apple trees as I continued reading, but I have no idea how much time had passed.
As it turns out, it was just enough time to burn.
You know it’s a good book when it makes you burn.
This one did.
Yes, I know Tri. Yes, I count him a friend. Yes, he was my boss – but he’s not now, so I can say whatever I want and could even write a scathing review if I wanted to (oh yeah, I write those all the time) or just flat ignore the book.
But I fell in love with this class.
I fell in love with him as it’s teacher.
I fell in love with the story.
I knew how it ended, but I didn’t know all that happened in the process of getting there, of getting those disinterred remains there. And it had me.
And dang it, now I want to watch Jeremiah Johnson again (and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, for that matter!). I saw it on the big screen in 1974. I was old enough at the time to have been a student in Tri’s class when I watched it.
I remember few of my teachers from those years.
Those twenty-four students will never forget theirs.
Every teacher – that is, every one with the vocation and calling of education in any way shape or form – should read this book.
And so should anyone who wants to get lost in a good story, a true story, through which you will rediscover eyes to see possibilities where others only see closed doors.
Could the book have been longer?
Sure. He could have stretched it.
But the best stories are often the short ones (don’t tell Tolkien or Peter Jackson).
Good storytelling, my friend.
Good read, everyone.
It’s even worth the burn.