Please forward to: THREE PINES
I am running away from home. Or maybe I’m running away to home. Don’t worry. I’ve left a forwarding address. For as long as Louise Penny’s books last me, I’ve moved to Three Pines, the fictional pastoral village in her Inspector Gamache series. I promise I won’t go political on you, except to say it was politics that drove me to make the move. But any bout with darkness might drive an otherwise seemingly sane person in the same direction. When we are confronted with conflict, disappointment, sadness, betrayal, or any of the other black holes into which human beings occasionally plummet, we naturally seek order, peace, and calm. Calm for me was the operative word. In recent months, I’ve had the urge to withdraw. I want to scream, “Make it all go away” or just plain, “Go away.” My new overused word has become, “Seriously?” I’ve had the reoccurring image of myself as a toy figurine my kids used to play with, known as a Weeble. Every time you tried to knock it over, it managed to set itself straight. I have become a Weeble, exhausted from trying to find my footing after repeatedly being felled to the ground by news that makes fiction seem real. I needed a safe place to retreat. To be soothed. A place where I could restore my belief that people are inherently good and kind, even though they occasionally fall into darkness. Where I could find order triumphing after chaos. I needed to go to Three Pines. Three Pines for anyone who has not entered the bucolic village is a fictional town near the eastern townships of Quebec, not far from the northern Vermont border. I first visited Three Pines a few years ago when I read the then current Inspector Gamache adventure and was enchanted. I was also a little scared. I am an addictive reader and knew Penny had written a bunch of these novels. I immediately understood I could not read another in the series unless I went back to book one. At the time, I was downsizing my home and my life and didn’t have room for a new addiction. Besides, I knew there would come a day when I would want and need Inspector Gamache and Three Pines in my life. That day has arrived. Readers, writers, and reviewers have long wondered why people are drawn to reading mysteries. Why are intelligent, law-abiding citizens entertained by tales featuring murder? One theory, which I believe is true, is that people are drawn to stories where chaos and evil are resolved and order is restored. I know as I enter Three Pines that I can trust Armand Gamache to get answers to the puzzling questions about why seemingly good people can end up doing such awful things. Inspector Gamache shares my feelings about Three Pines. “Gamache had been to Three Pines on previous investigations and each time he’d had the feeling he belonged. It was a powerful feeling. After all, what else did people really want except to belong?” (The Cruelest Month) But it’s not only the place I am fleeing to. I want to hang out with the people. The regular supporting cast consists of gentle misfits gathered around a green where the absurd feels normal. “This place. How do you explain a village like Three Pines where poets take ducks for a walk and art seems to fall from the skies?” (The Cruelest Month) Where relationships are rich and repartee merciless and “here you old hag” and “you are queer” are statements of affection? I don’t question the genius of Louise Penny, creating a haven. I’m just grateful to have found it and that there are seven more books set in Three Pines for me to hide in. I promise an occasional postcard. And what about you? Where do you escape to as a reader? As a writer, do you intentionally try to create a place where your readers want to come and stay?