We’ve hit the end of the week, so that means it’s time for another First Line Friday! Each week I pluck a book from my shelf and share the first line or so. They might be quotes from my TBR pile or an old favorite or even a book I’m not particularly fond of.
This week’s selection comes from a book I’m saving for a special occasion.
Caney switched on the light over his bed and reached for the last of last night’s coffee … one cold oily swallow at the bottom of a chipped stoneware mug.”
In some ways it seems silly to save a book. They aren’t like a special outfit, only brought out for job interviews and weddings. Or a bottle of wine just looking for the right moment. Or even “the good towels” for guests only. No, books are intended to be devoured, their stories passed into readers who, even years later, can think back on a particular favorite and tap into the world those words produced.
Yet I’ve been unable to read The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts even though it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for around a decade. My mother introduced me to Letts’s work when I was in high school. We read Where the Heart Is together, and I became enamored with the idea of a young woman secretly living in a Walmart. But more than that, I was drawn to how Letts wrote with such an honest folksiness— she teetered on the sentimental while planting herself in reality. Her work was like a family story ping-ponged between members, though with a better throughline than most family tales could ever hope to achieve.
I sailed through two of her other books next, Shoot the Moon and Made in the U.S.A., and I remained captivated by her unique American portraits. But then I went off to college, got lost in other reading, other worlds, all while The Honk and Holler Opening Soon waited on my shelf.
And then Billie Letts passed away in 2014.
She wrote four books in her lifetime and, having read three, I’m not quite ready to finish off her work. Eventually, there’ll be a time when I finally crack open the paperback and read beyond this first line. Could be next week. Maybe next year. I’ll know the right moment when I’m in it.
And then I’ll be right back in an Oklahoma world only Letts could create.
Title: The Honk and Holler Opening Soon
Author: Billie Letts
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: May 1999
Classification: General Fiction