I didn’t even bother trying to park in the lot. The word was seventy-five people had RSVPed to the launch of Whisper Hollow. I walked in and saw Chris Cander, the lady of honor, in the back. The smile on her face could have been patented. She looked not just happy, but proud and as if she were radiating joy. I scooted around her husband, who was pointing out his wife to a couple that had entered right before me. Familiar faces were everywhere. This was the Houston writing and reading community, these were the friends who had been there for Chris since the beginning.
After saying hi to a few people, I made my way to the back where wine was being served with a huge sheet cake, celebrating the book with its cover on the front, albeit rather neon. Brazos Bookstore–what I often think of as the new Brazos–may be my favorite place in the world, only improved by a place to sit and read and write and drink tea. But then, if that were possible, I might never leave. I passed by the staff at Brazos who feel more like family than paid employees for how often I see their faces, how friendly they are, and how long I’ve been in and out of the store since I started writing in 2007.
The sun came in through the windows. Rows of chairs begin filling rather quickly, puzzle pieces connecting themselves into one large network of book lovers. Not a seat was vacant when seven p.m. approached and Jeremy, the store’s manager, gave a warm, loving introduction of the author. She smiled, she welcomed us–each of us, it seemed. The book sat comfortably in her hand, the green cover reflecting against her skin. We could have been in her living room for how familiar and easy her words felt.
Chris is radiant, thoughtful, and well-spoken as she introduces the title, the setting, and the characters she’s about to channel through her reading. Then she begins to read from the chapter where John and Alta meet again, this time in the woods just outside a cabin. She is painting, he is watching her paint. We are listening. Afterwards, she laughs a little and tells a little more about the other characters not present in what she read but present in John and Alta’s lives. Having read the book myself, I know personally that it would not be possible to convey the richness of the story, how adept Chris is at weaving the lives of multiple people together so that it feels as if you are watching every scene from above. But the reading does give us a touch of her sense of place, her way with description, and her steady, gorgeous pace with creating a world all her own.
A few questions were asked afterwards–about her writing process, how long she’d been writing the book, how she researched place and industry and occupation–and then she sat down and got ready to sign. People can wonder why authors read and why readers watch them read, but sometimes words are just not enough.