“Do you know, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like a stranger in Avonlea now? It makes me sorry – but it’s true. It’s quite appalling to see the number of children who have shot up into big boys and girls – really young men and women– these past two years. Half of my pupils are grown up. It makes me feel awfully old to see them in the places you and I and our mates used to fill.”
Anne to Gilbert, Anne of the Island

Place Read: Auckland, New Zealand
Source: Reid family bookshelf (currently housing many of my own books)
Date: 29-31 March, 2016
Version/Edition: Left it in Auckland, but you can read it here (it’s public domain)

I promised myself I would read sixteen new books, and even mentioned Anne of the Island as one of those to specifically avoid. I read it at least once a year. Come on, find a different book to read, Kayla! Hah. In between a double birthday party with extended family and my cousin’s wedding, I squeezed in the Kayla-classic. Well, I devoured it. Yet again. Was it because it’s the love story? Well, not just that, I realised.

It’s a home story, too.

Now, let’s get this straight. There are seven books in the Anne of Green Gables series… (bear with my book-snobbishness for just a paragraph). If you have only seen the movies, know that the first one is quite accurate to the book, and its sequel is an amalgamation of three books. The last movie borrows hints of the seventh book, which is actually about Anne’s daughter. All this to say, Anne of the Island, third in the series, does not follow the events like you might think.

It commences with Anne’s college years in a city called Kingsport (this is after her teacher-training, and teaching in small-town Avonlea). Of course, it’s the height of drama with Gilbert– at this point, they’re good friends, but she’s just a tad in denial and cannot handle the thought of romance, at least not with him. (Enter all sorts of heart-revelations, and so on and so forth). Yes, I feel like a soppy romantic every time I read it. But this time, in my transition between life in Australia and life in New Zealand, I realised another reason why I have loved this story for so long.

It’s about being at home in more than one place.

For Anne, this journey starts in university– the giddy excitement of a new place, unyielding homesickness, the trips back to her hometown, and the gradual realising that she didn’t belong there as much as she used toOr, she didn’t feel any less at home– she just realised that she belonged in two places.

For me, I definitely experienced this home-diversifying process through my university years, and it continued on DTS. It’s young adulthood, it’s post-school, it’s that awkward time of choosing where you want to be for yourself and not just your school or your parents. So, as a child, did I love Anne of the Island as prophecy for today? Well, certainly. I loved it before I fully knew I was going to be a teacher and writer and college-goer. I loved it before I knew I was going to be going in school in one place, going home to another. It spoke to my future in the way that our favourite stories do.

However, up until now, I didn’t realise that Anne of the Island spoke to my childhood’s present, too. It spoke in a way that our favourite stories do, even if we don’t have the eyes to see them, even if we just say that the character is “so completely different from me” (aka, in my case, Anne was grown up, me, a child). Why did it speak to my present?

Home has always been in more than one place. 

Childhood trips to my grandma’s house in New Zealand, teenage expeditions to see my brothers at YWAM Newcastle in Australia– always, always born and raised in Hawaii but being as white as they come. You know the story.

Anne felt that life partook of the nature of an anticlimax during the first few weeks after her return to Green Gables. She missed the merry comradeship of Patty’s Place. She had dreamed some brilliant dreams during the past winter and now they lay in the dust around her…

So, what’s your story? What are those books that spoke to your past, present, and the dreams of your future? And what dreams do you avoid dreaming– because think you really should just move on to something different? 

As I’ve remembered, sometimes the tried-and-true is best.

“Oh, dreams will be very sweet now.”
Photo: Exploring Historic Village, Tauranga, New Zealand by Emily Reid. 2 April, 2016.

More #16books2016:
#1 Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
#2 When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado
#3 A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
#4 C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller by Janet & Geoff Benge