The pages are yellow, the cover brittle. The book came out in 1974, the year I was a junior in high school Thirty-seven years later, Patricia Penton Leimbach’s A Thread of Blue Denim still moves me and touches my soul. It’s a book that takes me home to northern Ohio every time I read the essays.
I normally don't review a book that's out-of-print. If you want to read it, you'll have to track it down through a public library or a used book site. But, I didn't have the best week, and I needed a comfort read. A Thread of Blue Denim is the book that does that for me.
Patricia Leimbach was a school teacher, a farm wife and mother, a woman who lived at End O'Way Farm on the banks of the Vermilion River in Ohio. She wrote a weekly column in Elyria's Chronicle-Telegram, articles for Farm Journal, and attended world-wide conferences for farm women. And, the title of the book, A Thread of Blue Denim, comes from the thread of blue denim that runs through the lives of farm women. Leimbach was a woman who shared that life with so many in the course of three books, but this one, the first, remains my favorite.
The book contains essays about farm life, about her family; her husband, Paul, and her three sons, Dane, Teddy, and Orrin. Leimbach incorporates poetic visions of rural beauty, and laugh aloud stories of dealing with boys and mud, tractors and pig-headed men. And, time after time, she's made me cry with essays about family, and what we miss in life.
And, Patricia Leimbach makes you think. The essay, "Rumble at Rugby Corners," is about the planned war between groups of twelve and thirteen-year-old boys, a fight that split families as brothers and sisters sided with different people, a fight that involved slingshots, and chemical warfare (a microscope). And, it ends this way, "Yes, Rugby Corners is about the most unlikely place in the world for a war - unless you think about the bridge at Concord, the courthouse at Appomattox, San Juan Hill, the island of Iwo Jima, or the quiet jungles of Phnom Penh...."
I've cried over Leimbach's essay, "Letter to a Son on Mother's Day," every time I used it for readers' theater in Florida. Her article about the family trip to Cedar Point, northern Ohio's amusement park, always makes me remember our family trips. I was one of those kids running all over the park with my sister and a friend.
My book has a note from the author, "For Lesa Growel, who, I understand, also has a love affair with books (as I), with the hope that some of this will speak to your heart." And, it has a note from the librarian who gave it to me. "Dear Lesa, As I listened to Mrs. Leimbach talk about her love of the farm life, her family and her love of books and the wonderful experience of working with editors and publishing her own book - my thoughts turned to you and your love of books which will lead you into the library field."
Pat Leimbach was the first author I ever invited to speak at a library. She spoke at my hometown library for me when I was a young library director. Her books have meant so much to me over the years. They mean home, memories of my grandfather's farm, of Cedar Point, of the roads and places of northern Ohio. I've used her essays for readers' theater, and I read her books for comfort.
And, I read, and have used, one particular essay because it spoke to my soul, my childhood, and my life. It's called "Literary Landscapes." Because this essay defines my youth, I'm going to quote the opening.
"There is a very special sort of young girl who will pass the summer oblivious to heat and household routine, picnics and pool parties, vacation and vexation. She is the asocial creature suspended in the stage between baseball and boys, whose all-consuming passion is books.
"She eats her cornflakes with a book, washes dishes in the shadow of a book, and spends the balance of the day sprawled sideways in an armchair with a book. At night she kicks her jeans across the base of her bedroom door to conceal the fact that she's reading in bed. Hauled off on vacation, she will look up from her book long enough to remark, 'Oh, are those the Grand Tetons?' It's an insufferable stage; I'd love to live it over again."
Patricia Leimbach's A Thread of Blue Denim is always there for me, taking me home, when I have a bad week, or just can't read. She truly touched my soul.
And, you? What is your comfort read, the book that takes you out of yourself, and makes everything just a little better?
A Thread of Blue Denim by Patricia Penton Leimbach. Prentice-Hall. ©1974. ISBN 0-13-920280-3 (hardcover), 241p.
FTC Full Disclosure - This book was a gift from a librarian.