I confess I love those stupid social media questions where they say ‘you’ve been kidnapped – the person coming to rescue you is the character in the last book you read’ or the character from the last movie you watched. Those questions always get me thinking about all the wonderful characters I’ve come across in books.
Plus, I always answer with Amos Burton, a character from The Expanse books, and now the television series. He’s a fascinating character because he had this horrific childhood that’s alluded to in the books but never, thankfully, detailed, and that background left him with no sense of right or wrong. He recognizes that he’s broken so he finds someone that he thinks is a good person and follows them as his moral compass. ‘No trouble unless there’s trouble, then lots of trouble’.
All that got me thinking of characters from books that have stayed with me long after finishing the book, and what made them so memorable.
Homily Clock. The mother from The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. She lived a life of safety and security in the semi-darkness under the kitchen floorboards. She never saw ‘human beans’ and never saw the outdoors so when her family had to escape into the fields she was terrified of everything. She would cry and grumble and delay and try to avoid, and in the end she always did what needed to be done to keep her family safe. She showed more courage than any other character in those books.
Amelia Peabody. Because, well, if you know me, the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters has been a steadfast favorite for many years. I loved how her opinion of herself and her hero abilities were so different from the opinions of the others who loved her. And it was great how the author showed those different opinions even though the books were written in first person, from Amelia’s viewpoint. For example, she always carried a little pistol and would pull it to save the day, convinced in her mind that she was a marksman, only to terrify her family and send them fleeing.
Mole, from the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. He looked at life with such wondrous innocence and joy. Every tiny little thing was something to be fully experienced and I think as we get older we lose that sense of wonder and magic and the simple happiness of a picnic basket by the side of the river on a spring day with your friends.
Lynn Schooler. This is kind of cheating as technically he’s not a character. He’s a real person who wrote a memoir called Walking Home. But that book stays with me because of the unbelievable courage it took to decide one day to step out into the wilderness and go for a walk.
Faina. The child from The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. She stays with me because of how the story allowed me to remember the magic of fairy tales. And the book left me with the mystery of who she really was.
Winnie. The teenager from The Geography of Water by Mary Emerick. A beautifully written story and a young girl who walks away from her life in order to live, and then returns.
Obviously this could be a really long list. So I’ll keep it short with just the ones that come immediately to mind, and ask you to remind me of more characters that come into our stories and don’t leave us.