Opening a good book is like sitting down to visit a good friend. Some of my best friends live in worlds I will never visit. In my wildest dreams, I sit down for coffee or a pint with Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Jane from Jane Eyre. I’ve come to know these fictional women as though they were real.
Opening Giant Days, in contrast, was like taking the TARDIS back through space and time to my favorite year in college and getting to spend time, unencumbered with my best college friend. Instead of meeting fictional characters whom I want to meet in real life, I felt as though my real life was being brought to me in the fiction.
My friend A and I met my last year in college when we both worked on the school’s online magazine which met in the basement dungeon of one of the dorms. In so many ways, we were so different. She was exotic and worldly. I was from the town next door to school. She dressed all in sophisticated black. I wore jeans and flannels (ok, she still does and I still do, some things don’t change even after nearly twenty years). We used to spend our afternoons drinking coffee at the on-campus, artsy bookstore. On nice days, we’d sit on the short wall outside the coffee shop, take our respective cups (hers an espresso, mine a café mocha), and smoke cigarettes. We spent weekends doing homework, met each others’ families, and became nearly inseparable. We worked late nights with pizza in the Journal office and bemoaned our relationships in our dorm rooms. Those were our giant days – we were bigger than life in our own minds.
This is what Giant Days brings us. We have the stories of Esther, Susan, and Daisy. Each young woman brings her own distinct personality to the story with almost a hint of stereotype just under the surface. Esther is the wild goth girl who knows more about the nightlife and conducts herself with a bravado that hides some of her bigger fears. Susan is the cigarette smoking (but she can quit anytime!) flannel-clad cynic. Daisy breathes the fresh air of naïveté into the story as she negotiates the change from homeschooling to college social life and her realization that she likes girls.
But that’s the thing about Giant Days. It brings us these characters who are near enough to stereotypes that we almost dismiss them. Unless, they speak to you as the person you were when you were their age. Inevitably, in each new issue, I post a picture on Facebook and tag A. Despite the nearly twenty years since our days of coffee drinking and esoteric conversation, we still get together like long lost family once in a while. Giant Days, despite the physical distance, is like having her in my home once a month.
The depth of the characters lies in their ability to transform us as readers. At points, I can read Daisy and be my 20-year-old self hanging out with people who smoke for the first time. Other times, I can be Susan, cynically detesting the power structure of the campus. At points, Esther is A. With drama and trouble constantly following her despite her best efforts, Esther is the one that also brings the fun. A was always the one who brought me into new worlds of music, art, and literature. Simultaneously, A has the sardonic powers of a Susan, much as I did, which always brought that sense of humor to the mundane tribulations of college life.
That’s the true power of literature, though. Literature has the power to transform us. It has the power to be our own personal TARDIS, sending us to worlds we cannot visit. What makes Giant Days different, for me, is that it brings me back to a place in my own life that I really loved. My friend and I may live far away from one another now, but whenever I read Giant Days, we are back in that year where we spent our days bemoaning work and boys and stress. That kind of a connection to a book, one where the book really grabs your personal experience without even knowing you, that’s the magic of this book.
If you’ve ever experienced the emotional intimacy that comes from living in that weird not-adult-yet-not-child limbo living in close quarters, then you know it’s a special kind of magic. Giant Days gives me the chance to transport myself back to those days once a month. That is the magic of wonderful storytelling.