The Forsyth Reads Together series will continue with events this month focused on “To Dance with the White Dog,” including book discussions, a film showing and a scrapbooking workshop. Visit www.forsythpl.org or call the library at (770) 781-9840 for more information.
The small-town Georgia feel of “To Dance with the White Dog” reminded library board chairman Mary Helen McGruder of a Forsyth County she once knew.
During the kickoff Monday night of this year’s Forsyth Reads Together, McGruder said the committee selected the novel by Terry
Kay for the annual communitywide reading initiative for its “gentle charm and bittersweet exploration of life and death in the American South.”
Kay’s ability to spin a yarn was evident during his visit as he drew laughs and tears from the crowd while telling stories of his childhood in north Georgia, his start in fiction and his experiences in penning “To Dance with the White Dog.”
About 200 gathered at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center for the first author visit held as part of the fifth annual community reading event.
Kay, who hails from Athens, said he was “stunned” at the turnout.
He spoke on the impact his 1990 novel has had on the lives of others, which he admitted he didn’t quite understand.
“I didn’t know what was in the book,” Kay said. “I’ve never known. I don’t want to know because if I know, I’m going to tell you what you should think. As a writer, the writers who leave it to the reader to do the thinking, they’re better off.”
The story follows a man in his 80s who is coping with the death of his wife and begins to see a white dog that he believes is her.
Kay said many readers have told him the book helped them deal with the death of a loved one.
The novel originated from two magazine articles Kay had written after his father’s passing, but he said the story is not about his dad.
However, the two months spent writing the book led to creation of a work that is very personal to him, he said.
It’s the only novel he has ever written in one draft.
“I wept a lot in that book,” Kay said. “When I finished it, I just could not read it, and I never have.”
He enjoys hearing the feedback from those who have read it, though, and Kay said he is often surprised at what others see in the book.
Bonnie Besterfeldt said she related to the story based on her own life experience of losing a spouse.
She read the novel because it was the selection for Forsyth Reads Together.
“The idea of everybody reading it together is really fun,” she said, adding that she was excited to be able to hear Kay speak.
Michael Griffeth attended the event from the opposite perspective. Having read many Kay novels, he brought a bag of books to be signed and several of his students.
A literature teacher at Mill Springs Academy in Alpharetta, Griffeth invited the middle school children to hear an author speak. The class will read one of his other novels this year.
He hoped his students would make the connection that “really excellent writing” can be created by anyone, after hearing from the “down to earth” author.
The success of the author event excited officials with the Forsyth County Public Library and members of Literacy Forsyth, which helped put on the annual community reading effort.
Library Director Jon McDaniel said the turnout was one of the largest seen for this type event, and the committee likely will select a Georgia author again next year.
Kay finished his talk by encouraging the crowd for taking journeys in the written word by reading from one of his works.
“While reading, I have been boy and man, girl and woman. I have been young and old. I have died and been reborn. While reading, I have become people I cannot be, doing things I cannot do, and I don’t know of another experience that could have given me such a life,” he said.
“Thank you for reading.”