After reading a good book I like to find and read the appreciation page. It has to be in that order: finish a good book, even better, a terrific book, then see who helped the author achieve that wonderful thing: writing a very good book, a fine book, one that stays with me for weeks.
It’s no easy thing, I’ve learned, to thank all the right people, not to forget your husband, for instance, or another pretty important person whose role may have been so significant that you forget to mention them. It doesn’t go without saying.
I recently sent my publisher my appreciation page for my upcoming memoir then three months later remembered someone I don’t want to leave out, so will be writing them into the galleys. How many more, I don’t like to think about.
The authors of the five most recent novels (and one memoir) I’ve read suggest what I’m talking about. They reveal a range of expressions—some I like better than others, but it’s only a matter of degree. They’re for someone else, after all.
James McBride ends his terrific Deacon King Kong with this one sentence: “Thanks to the humble Redeemer who gives us the rain, the snow, and all things in between.”
Charlotte McConaghy ends her Migrations with two pages, beginning with her editor, publicist, her UK editor, her “team of amazing friends,” and her family, and ends rather surprisingly close to McBride, with the “wild creatures of this earth” and “regret for those that have been wiped out and for love of those that remain.”
Laura Coleman’s pretty wonderful memoir, The Puma Years, closes with a more intimate two pages that begins with thanks to her parents and her “first readers,” her mother, her sister, her friends. She thanks the workers of Ambue Ari in Bolivia, the rescue center where she volunteered for years and where she met Wayra, the puma she developed such a powerful relationship with. She mentions all the animals by name, she thanks her editor, and says, “lastly, but never last, to the jungle.” The last paragraph is a reminder that wild animals are not pets and ways you can help.
Very different is Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland Elegies, whose Acknowledgements place is a list of names only, a long sentence that ends with “and the American Academy in Rome—and always and for everything, Annika Boras.”
Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain, about a boy’s difficult struggle to save his mother from alcohol, closes with a short page, which begins, “Above all, I owe everything to the memories of my mother and her struggle, and to my brother who gave me everything he could. I am indebted to my sister for encouraging me to set this into words and share it with you.” That, after you’ve read the poignant, sad, brave story of Shuggie, will just grip you. It did me. His last sentence is a thank you to his partner: “The last words of this book belong to Michael Cary, he read it first, and nurtured the heart of it, like he always does.”
A good book will make you feel good, and a good acknowledgement will remind you that you do.
(*The picture that goes with this post shows two of the people at the top of my appreciation list, with me. It was a fun day, Alex’s 13th birthday. I like our silliness, too.)