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Let every man shovel out his own snow, and the whole city will be passable, said Gamache. (Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, A Fatal Grace, page 135, Trade Paper Edition)

Ralph Waldo EmersonA fitting quote for A Fatal Grace, which takes place in the dead (with the dead?) of winter. Emerson, the author of “Self -Reliance” and “Nature” among other essays conceived the idea of Transcendentalism and was a pillar of the American Romantic movement. The eminent literary critic, Harold Bloom, called Emerson the “American version of Montaigne” and like the irascible Ruth, Emerson was a poet!

Strangely enough, Emerson wrote that line sometime in the summer of 1840 so, as one would expect, Emerson is being purely metaphorical here and is, in fact, referring to civic duty. Gamache seemingly uses the quote flippantly to refer to the inclement weather, even engaging Beauvoir in a very funny tête–à–tête about Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, the 70’s prog rock super band (Sadly, I just learned of Greg Lake’s passing as I write this). But, I digress.

John Adams simply and succinctly defined civic duty as, “To be good, and to do good”, adding it’s “all we have to do”. And, Gamache himself, echoes a similar refrain on civility when quoting Gandhi later in the book (page 219):
Mahatma Gandhi
Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your destiny

Should we take Gamache’s Emerson and Gandhi references on face value? Or, is Louise giving us, by employing these maxims, a direct look into the very character and constitution of Gamache himself?

I submit the following quotes from the Three Pines canon as evidence of this:

Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed the light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. (How the Light Gets In)

Our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. (Still Life)

Emerson himself certainly would have defined Gamache as a “great man”, one who sees that the “spiritual is stronger than any material force–that thoughts rule the world”.


question: How did El ( the mother of CC) see Clara’s art work? Because she told Clara that she always thought that her art work was beautiful.

I am loving all the comments and the enlightened conversation…. and…. excuse the mundane question… but does anyone know why Gamache had goosebumps when he unwrapped a piece of lemon meringue pie from Billy Williams at the end of Fatal Grace? It’s driving me insane trying to figure out why!

He referred to the old fisherman with the radiant smile (who might have been God) as eating lemon meringue pie and now Billy sent him a piece. Does Billy have divine connections? Of course this reply is YEARS after your question – you’ve likely sorted it out by now.

The village of Three Pines comes alive with each book. In my minds eye I see all the characters and imagine that I walk amongst them. Gamache moral code is doing the “right thing” no matter the cost, but, he is benevolent and patient with some characters that would drive me batty. Ahh, August 29!

I too have been reading constantly since I received my first Bobbsey Twinb 86years ago. Three pines is definitely a place to come home to. I am not as articulate as the rest of you, but I do enjoy your posts, and. agree whole heartedly. Thank you for saying what I feel.

I love the beauty of the descriptions, the surprising facets to characters I thought I knew. Most of all, I love the idea that good will triumph and how characters who choose to be brave, to do good, to reach out in compassion and love even when it is not the easy choice.
So many authors deal with the frightening and the ugly, the hurt and despair. Like Clara’s art, writing about what is good and right is not necessarily fashionable, but it touches a chord. It resonates. Reading the Gamache books immersed me in a place that feels like home with people who feel like friends. I look forward to my annual visit. Thank you Louise and Paul and the others who put together this discussion group where friends of friends can gather.

Appreciated these quotes and readers’ comments. I always look forward to Ms Penny’s new book. But, I’m always very annoyed that books in Canada come from the publishers in the US. This means reading with American spelling instead of Canadian. Why is this? I’m sure your UK publications do not reflect that. Best regards,

I love these books, Three Pines, Gamache, and Louise Penny, and these wonderful comments and analysis by fellow readers. Very interesting…but please leave out the politics.

I am just beginning the series, and enjoyed all of these reader fans’ comments almost as much as I enjoyed “Still Life”. Can’t wait to read all the rest of the series, and imbibe the message of hope.

The beauty in Three Pines is that although there is darkness here, as there is everywhere, the light always overcomes the darkness. Gamache is a light-bearer, to borrow a phrase from Madeleine L’Engle.

I find Louise Penny’s works considerably more than the fictional adventures of a detective that we would all like to have as our personal friend. She offers within all of her characters an opportunity for hope, for redemption, for awareness and, most of all, for acceptance. One of the characteristics that I personally find so captivating about Gamache is his willingness to accept people as they are (while searching for a murderer, no less). Add to that his warm and embracing relationship with his wife, and Ms. Penny has created a larger-than-life character that we take inspiration from.

I believe I have one book that I haven’t yet read in her collection and then I am going to go back and read them all in order.

They are all, literally and figuratively, books I can’t put down once I start reading them! Thank you, Ms. Penny for sharing your gift with all of us!

I have just finished reading them all a second time, and I find new things that I hadn’t noticed on the first reading. I may eventually read them again.

Reading a Louise Penny book is like going home for me. The quotes change in meaning for me depending on where I am personally and professionally and whether or not I relate them to the book’s characters or my own life. For this reason, Louise’s books may be the only series I would consider reading more than once.

“Life is found in layers”. And also in Louise Penny books! I find that the first read, I’m rushing through, caught in the excitement of the mystery at hand…I am so happy to go back, and read again, and discover more depth and inspiration in each story. Thank you Louise!

The bottom line for me is that this series of books entertains me like no other.
I am re-reading them all and find something new in each book.
I am so proud that Louise Penny is a Canadian and an Eastern Township resident!

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