Your significant other leaves and --- whether or not it's true --- you're certain it's for greener pastures. Or your best friend --- the one you could allow in the dressing room while you tried on bathing suits --- moves to Nepal in search of spiritual unity. Or you're facing a long weekend alone, because everyone you know is going out of town, and you would too, except for the fact that your cat is sick and needs medication every three hours around the clock. Or --- well, you get the picture.
At times like these you need a book. A big book --- a book that will take you out of yourself and draw you to its bosom like your grandmother used to do. A book that will pull you into the story and sweep you along with larger than life characters, and a plot so full of twists and turns that you can't wait to turn the pages. A book in which the main characters have so many problems that yours seem minor by comparison. A book that will wrap its cover around you and comfort you while you laugh and cry.
You need GONE WITH THE WIND.
No matter how many times you have read it before, you need to read it again, now. And if you have never read it, this is the time to pull it off the shelf and plunge into the trials and tribulations of Scarlett O'Hara.
You think you've got problems?
Scarlett was a widow with a small child when she was seventeen years old. She was twenty when the Civil War ended. Singlehandedly she rebuilt the family plantation, Tara, while she cared for her ailing father and sisters. In a few short years she went from wealth to poverty --- from being a spoiled Southern belle to plowing fields and picking cotton.
Ashley Wilkes --- the man she loved --- married another woman and broke Scarlett's heart. To add insult to injury, he asked Scarlett to take care of his wife when he joined the Confederate Army and went off to war.
And laced through the book, like a bright gold thread running through a tapestry, is her relationship with Rhett Butler --- the only man whose heart she could not capture --- and the only man she really loved.
She was a woman who suffered heartbreak, who dealt with change, who did things women weren't supposed to do --- a woman like so many of us.
I won't bore you with the crisis that, most recently, sent me flying to my bookshelves to find my copy of GONE WITH THE WIND. Mine was printed in 1936. It belonged to my grandmother, who gave it to my mother, who passed it down to me. The cover is worn, the pages are yellow, and some of them are so brittle that I have to be careful when I turn them.
I will tell you that, as always, the book cast a spell over me. While I watched Scarlett as a young girl, flirting with every boy in the county, followed her to Atlanta at the beginning of the war, saw her deliver her sister-in-law's baby, flee the city while it burned, return home to pain and heartbreak, and heard her say, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again," I was reminded of just how strong we can be.
And if another crisis strikes, like Scarlett, I won't thing about it right now --- I'll think about it tomorrow, after I re-read GONE WITH THE WIND.
Reviewed by Judith Handschuh on August 1, 1993