A number of years ago I wrote a blog post about regretting not going to a wedding as a 6th grader. Over the Christmas holiday, while being shown around Atlanta, I realized I had another regret.
When we lived in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s I’d discovered the works of Anne Rivers Siddons. I’m sure I read her first three novels (Heartbreak Hotel, The House Next Door, and Fox’s Earth) while living in Pittsburgh. When I read that she was going to be visiting a local bookstore, I was excited and planned to go to the event which was taking place sometime in the middle of the day.
I am unclear on the actual date. If Siddons was promoting a book, then it had to have been Fox’s Earth because the next published book was after we’d left Pittsburgh. That would make it 1981. I am also unclear on the bookstore. My memory puts it in the ritzy part of Shadyside — an area I was not very familiar with. I don’t remember if I walked there or drove. Whatever, I am 95% sure the author was Anne Rivers Siddons.
What I am clear on is walking into the bookstore shortly before the event was supposed to begin. I looked around the store and saw no area set up for a book reading (although I’d never been to a book reading so I am not sure I knew what I was looking for). At the time I was incredibly shy and found new experiences to be painful. I am sure I was nervous just going into the bookstore, but I suppose I assumed there would be welcoming staff or at least a sign telling Anne Rivers Siddons fans where to go for the reading. Being shy, I was terrified of asking one of the book sellers about the reading, so, after a few moments of walking around the bookstore I turned around and began walking out of the shop.
As I headed towards the exit I saw a harried looking woman enter the shop. She said something to me as I passed her about it being hard to find the bookstore or something. I smiled and nodded and left. Moments later I realized it was Anne Rivers Siddons but I was too shy to go back into the store.
I’d mostly forgotten about that event/non-event until we were leaving for our recent semi-spontaneous trip to Atlanta. I ran downstairs to my bookshelf of books I’ve been meaning to read and grabbed my thirty-something year-old mass market paperback copy of Anne Rivers Siddons’ Peachtree Road.
Peachtree Road was the last Anne River Siddons book I read — and I never finished it. I picked up a copy of The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and fell in love with a new author. I remember telling people about it, saying that it had some of the same themes as Peachtree Road, but Kingsolver didn’t waste a word in her writing. Since I don’t remember much about the 170 or so pages I read in Peachtree Road, I don’t know if the themes were similar. I do think that Kingsolver’s writing is more concise.
The reason I grabbed my copy of Peachtree Road is because I always thought that the day I finally visited Atlanta, I would visit Peachtree Road and then read the book to the end.
My regret is that I didn’t stay to see Anne Rivers Siddons at the bookstore in Shadyside. If I had, perhaps I would have continued reading her works (and still discovered Kingsolver’s books). I regret that perhaps her only fan that could make it to the reading in the middle of the day in a work week was too shy to ask about the reading. That could not have been very pleasant for her (if no one showed up).
So to honor the author who I didn’t stick around to hear her reading, I posed near Peachtree Road in Atlanta with my copy of Peachtree Road. And now all I have to do is read the dam thing.