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Bookworm: Oh, the places books will take you

By Kathleen Duncan
March 19, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2014 at 10:19 p.m.

Jeanean Williams, 54, and her macaw, Sebastian, on the back patio of her home in Ganado.

Jeanean Williams, 54, sat on her sun-dappled porch stroking the vibrant feathers of her red, green and blue macaw, Sebastian, with a sweating glass Coke bottle and a book on the table in front of her.

The book, "Mistress" by James Patterson and David Ellis, was a paperback she was reveling in on her day off at her Ganado home.

Patterson may be one of her present favorite authors, but J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" was her first love.

"I was 13 or so, and I can't recall if it was required reading or not, but it just stuck with me. After that, I read Huck Finn and Green Gables and Jane Austen. ... I just kept reading," she said.

Though she devours books now, when she was a child growing up in Port Lavaca, reading was not something she was brought up with. Williams' parents worked hard to support their family and were not often seen with a book.

Then, around the time Williams was 13 years old, her grandmother, Maggie Belle Searcy, moved in with her family.

"It was usually the Bible, but she was always reading. So that's what we'd do in the evenings together," she said.

Books have stayed with her long after those quiet evenings with her grandmother, becoming an essential piece of her adult life.

They've been with her in times of joy, and they've helped her cope when she most needed it.

"Books got me through divorce and losing loved ones that have passed away," she said. "They put me anywhere I want to be."

Williams is currently married but has two ex-partners that didn't always understand her love affair with novels.

"One of them once told me that a house could burn down around me, and I wouldn't know it," she said, laughing. "He was right - total tunnel vision."

These days, she and her husband, Kevin Williams, can be found sitting together with Sebastian on their porch or in their den - her with a paperback and her husband with a Kindle - after a long day of work.

Her three sons, Marshall Smith, Nathaniel Smith and Nicholas Smith, grew up around Williams' ravenous reading habits. Despite always having a book at hand, she said she doesn't think her sons really learned to love books from her. They found literature's allure after they grew up and left home.

"The book that got my son Marshall to really read was 'Up Country' by Nelson DeMille. It was his father-in-law that got him to pick it up. He fought in Vietnam, and when my son asked about it, he passed the book on to him," she said.

Williams understands because she loves "Up Country" herself. "When you read it, you're in the the jungle; you're there," she said.

Today, she watches as her sons recommend books to each other on Facebook and chat about what they're reading.

She remembers them loving Tonka trucks and taking off for the outdoors in their free time as children.

"They were all avid fishermen. That was their pleasure," she said. Today, she thinks they're developing an enthusiasm for books as individuals.

Just as she found her way to books as a young woman, she appreciates that sometimes one just has to find their own way in their own time.

And eventually, hopefully, there will be that one author, like Salinger, that makes an occasional reader into a lifelong one.

Kat Duncan is the photo and video editor at the Advocate. She loves to read, travel, run and play with her pup, Panda. Chat with her about books on Twitter @Kat Duncan_VA.

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