There are many answers I give to the question what’s your favorite book, but for the last five years The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows has been the first title on my tongue. It has also been my most-given gift. I’m pretty sure I gave away at least ten copies in the last year alone. Friend’s birthday? You should probably buy them a copy of Guernsey. Mother’s day gift for your grandmother? Guernsey will be perfect. Christmas present for your boss? Guernsey.
I first read Guernsey as a freshman in college. There’s one section in particular that I remember reading for the first time: within the span of two pages, it had me sobbing into my pillow and then laughing so hard that my stomach hurt. In the truest sense, it’s a story about friendship: about the solidity of old friendships, the delight of new ones, the way our friends shape us, the way we shape our friends, how they make any place feel like home… and the impact a single friend can have on her community.
Every time I pick it up, I think I can’t possibly love it any more than I already do. And every time I start reading, I am overwhelmed by how absolutely untrue that is. This book grows more and more dear to me with every read, whether a full read-through or a few letters here and there when I need a quick pick-me-up (admittedly, those quick pick-me-ups do tend towards me finishing the rest of the novel instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour). These characters are old friends I can’t wait to see again. I want to be Juliet, talk about books with Dawsey, cook with Miss Amelia, and (of course) smack Markham V. Reynolds, Jr., with whatever is closest at hand the second he comes onto the page.
This book makes me feel much as Juliet must among her new friends: comforted and welcomed, excited but curiously at ease–surrounded by people who already adore you and are only determined to love you more and make you feel at home in a new place that will soon be familiar. In the world of metaphors, Guernsey is a quiet afternoon on a rainy day, a glass of lemonade after sitting in the sun, an unexpected letter from a friend you haven’t seen in ages. It’s comforting and encouraging and engaging and delightful, and I hope you love it as much as I do.