I love The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett. In fact, I love it so much I re-read it at least once a year. I am not sure if you have any books like this, ones that are old and treasured friends, but for some reason I really love this book.
Recently I had an opportunity to get my copy leather bound so reading is even more of a pleasure--you can see my fabulous copy here. If you want to come by my house sometime I will let you look at it if you ask me nicely.
I think I love this book so much because while being mysterious, it conveys some important values that are missing in many books. It drives home the message of selflessness, honor, courage, looking out for others, sacrifice and so much more. The characters seem very real and symbolize the best and worst of society.
Two of the recurring themes have become part our family lore. One is when large tears roll down Huon's eyes several times when he considers the injustices of society saying, " Alas, alas, the sorrow of the world," and the other is more or less the main theme of the book, "What must be done, can be done." Simple, yes, but oh so powerful!
I remember one time when Kari was deciding on a college minor and was facing having to take an extremely difficult class. She called me while Bob and I were out of state on a business trip. She said she simply could not do it, it was too hard. And I said, "What must be done, can be done." I knew she was smiling at the other end--she knew the reference and we both knew it might not be easy, she might need a tutor, she might work hard for a "C" but it could be done.
Several years ago I lent my well read copy to my neighbor. She called me the very next day and said, "Oh, Jill--I have to tell you I sat right down and read this book. When I finished, I sighed, had a cup of coffee and read it again." And since then she has read it numerous times to varying grandchildren--she has 17! How many books make a grandma sigh while at the same time inspire grandchildren to truth, sacrifice and courage? One of her grandsons, a few years later asked, "Where is that really good book--you know the one...?" And though she has lots of quality books, as she brought out her own copy of The Great and Terrible Quest, his face brightened and he said, "That's it! Can I read it by myself?"
It is a book that when you read it, you want to read it again so you can catch the clues and nuances you missed the first time. You want to savor the story, but all the while you can't wait for the very satisfying ending.
Whether you are grandma or about ten years old, I highly recommend this book. It is a fairly quick read, only 187 pages at about the 5th-6th grade reading level, but can be read aloud to children as young as 8 years old.
May it inspire you as you face your own great and terrible quests. What must be done, can be done.