The Annotated Three Pines – The Nature of the Beast

From Pg. 30
“Partly, but I run a bookstore,” said Myrna, looking at the row upon row of books, lining the walls and creating corridors in the open space. “So many of them were banned and burned. That one,” she pointed to the Fahrenheit 451 Clara still had in her hands. “To Kill a Mockingbird. The Adventures of Huck Finn. Even The Diary of Anne Frank. All banned by people who believed they were in the right. Could we be wrong?”
“You’re not banning it,” said Clara. “He’s allowed to write and you’re allowed to pull your support.”

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ongoing questions, uncomfortable questions I struggle with but always seem to clear to others, of where the line is. What is taking a strong stand, and what is violating the rights of others? People I disagree with. People whose opinions I vehemently disagree with and even believe might be dangerous? When is it ok to cross the line between vocally disagreeing, and censoring? Mark Twain once said, “Your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins”. This seems like a reasonable and clear definition of the limit of rights. But – we all have different sensitivities. Where something might hurt me, it might not hurt someone else. My “face” perhaps should not be the deciding factor. (Clearly here, I’m not talking about physical abuse, where a fist in the face is not debatable.)

From Pg. 34
If anyone believed in second chances, it was the man who sat before her. She’d been his friend and his unofficial therapist. She’d heard his deepest secrets, and she’d heard his most profound beliefs, and his greatest fears. But now she wondered if she’d really heard them all. And she wondered what demons might be nesting deep inside this man, who specialized in murder.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I love writing the scenes between Armand and Myrna. Their conversations about the human condition, about what drives people to do what they do. Their mutual respect, and complete trust.

From Pg. 53
This isn’t our parents’ generation, Armand. Now people have many chapters to their lives. When I stopped being a therapist I asked myself one question. What do I really want to do? Not for my friends, not for my family. Not for perfect strangers. But for me. Finally. It was my turn, my time.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Now this is a question that, on the surface, should be easy for a person in late middle-age to answer. What do I really want? What gives me pleasure. And yet, I’ve found it’s surprisingly difficult to answer. We’re just so imbued with the expectations of others. Of parents, of teachers, of neighbours, of the broader society. The start of this realization came shortly after I met Michael. We were at the Montreal Symphony, using his season tickets. As we left he turned to me and said, “I don’t think I like going to the symphony.” He went on to say that he’d sat there and realized his parents had taken him, then his first wife had taken him, and he’d never asked the question….what does he want? He was 61 years old at the time, and I was astonished. Then I began questioning my choices, as an adult, and realized how much of it was driven by what others told me I should be doing. What do you want? Hmmmm.

From Pg. 136
But suspicion was inevitable and often turned out to be true. People were almost always killed by someone they knew, and knew well, which compounded the tragedy and was probably why, Gamache thought, so many murder victims did not look frightened. They looked surprised.

Louise’s Thoughts:
One of the challenges of writing the books and, as it turns out, the great pleasures, is getting inside Gamache’s head. Seeing what he sees. Feeling what he feels, or imagining it anyway. What has been his experience? Trying to imagine years and years of investigating murders, investigating people.

From Pg. 168
Clara knew that grief took a terrible toll. It was paid at every birthday, every holiday, each Christmas. It was paid when glimpsing the familiar handwriting, or a hat, or a balled-up sock. Or hearing a creak that could have been, should have been, a footstep. Grief took its toll each morning, each evening, every noon hour as those who were left behind struggled forward.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I wrote this passage, this book, as Michael slipped further and further into dementia. As horrific as that was, there was also some comfort in knowing this pain brought us closer to others. That far from being alone, we were among the majority of people, who’d lost ones they loved. And lived in grief. I was, and am, so lucky on so many levels, including being able to turn that grief into a book. Rather than just writing from the head, I can write from the very core.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – The Nature of the Beast

  1. Ann Zeigler says:

    Grief- with ALZ there are many “griefs”. One loses their loved one bit by bit. From lack of recalling usual daily activities to not knowing who you are to showing anger to you to no longer able to eat, swallow, etc. Each loss a death. So painful. Always in prayer for those dealing with ALZ
    Moving on. I am on pins and needles as I await A BETTER MAN.

  2. Gina Bianchi says:

    I love these notes! Would love to purchase annotated books in ‘this series!

  3. Margo Patrick says:

    This morning’s breakfast question arising from this essay, was” I wonder how much the original characters were thought out when you set out on your first book”. Myrna was the character on topic. Did you start out to have this large, black, soft, embracing woman with a backbone of steel who used to be a therapist be a confidante and sounding board to Armand, or has this evolved through the years? How far ahead have you mapped out ‘our friends’ or are they constantly surprising you?

  4. Carole Carraro says:

    I have been re-reading the whole series this summer and really appreciate all these comments in the annotated 3 pines. I have found that I had forgotten a lot about the books, and I am now able to better appreciate the character development since there is no waiting gap between the books. I have been writing my favorite passages of each book in a notebook, so that I can later refer to them quickly and also explore them more fully. I love murder mysteries, but the Gamache series offers so much more…it really makes you think deeply about human nature and especially about your own self. Thank you Louise for being such an inspiration.

  5. Karen Lewis says:

    I love reading your annotations, Louise! thank you.

  6. Jana Nazari says:

    Like so many others, I am re-reading this series since I raced through them the first time. There is so much to savor in Louise’s writing and I am enjoying them even more this time. I, too, enjoy so much these comments on the annotations since Louise seems to attract such eloquent writers and deep thinkers.

  7. Dorothy Golz says:

    As a mother who lost a son I found Clara’s thoughts on grief on page 168 to be the most perfect description of grief that I have ever read. She made grief real, tangible in those few short sentences and it still brings me to tears to read them.

  8. Walked up to the chair for my pedicure, the woman next to me, “Is that new?”, I looked down at my dress, thinking, I don’t even know that woman. She snorted, “Not your dress, the book.” She’d moved to NC from Atlanta, read all Penny’s books, as had I. When she spoke to her old friend in Atl and they spoke of Armand Gamache, they both used their deepest French accents. We’ve never seen each other since but that’s the magic of a shared love.

    • Carol says:

      Bright adult minds at play, Carroll…these friends having fun with their “best French accents” made me smile. Hope Louise reads your comment in particular, to get another slant on how her Three Pines books have touched so many of us out here.

  9. Fran says:

    I’m curious to know whether Michael (and you) continued to go to the symphony after he realized he really didn’t like it. I sometimes feel guilty for not going to the symphony, now that I have time and resources and a husband who would go, but deep down, I just really don’t want to go.

  10. Carol May says:

    Loved the book. Love all the books and the use of poetry recipes music appeal at every level and to every sense. Inspiring

  11. Barbara Bole says:

    Louise, your thoughts on choices (page 53) struck a chord with me. Now, in my 70’s I find myself asking “what do I really want to do with my remaining years?” and what’s appropriate or feasible. Now there is no one to influence or determine my choices (my husband would support my decisions). My parents are no longer here; my children are all independent, and society has changed so that almost anything is possible! I want to play percussion in a band!! Not a very lofty ambition but “what would give me pleasure!”

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