A book that you’ve read more than 3 times.
If you saw my to-be-read shelf (350+ unread books that are physically on my shelf) or flipped through the notebook where I keep an alphabetical never-ending list of the books I’d like to read, you’d laugh at the notion that I have actually read a book three times. But I have.
The hands-down winner is Kristin McCloy’s 1988 novel, Velocity. I purchased this book around the time it was published at The Strand in New York City. I was really excited to find it because I hadn’t been able to find it at any book store in my hometown and this was before the days of ABE and Bookcloseouts.
Velocity is the story of Ellie, a young woman who leaves her life and boyfriend in NYC and returns to her teensy hometown after a car accident kills her mother. Her father, a local police officer, is lost in his own grief and he and Ellie spend their summer tiptoeing around each other. Ellie doesn’t, however, tiptoe around Jesse, the Hell’s Angel biker who lives down the road; her grief manifests itself in an all-consuming sexual relationship with him.
I tell myself, Once he was mine, and that was enough. But it wasn’t. It was never true, and it was never enough. You hunted down your needs – simple and precise – and in those days it was me.
So, back in the day, Velocity spoke to me because I was madly, crazily, obsessively in love with the quintessential bad-boy. Her story was my story (without the dead mother.) Her crazy, reckless lust for Jesse mirrored my own doomed relationship and I couldn’t get enough. My relationship ended, but my love affair with this book did not. I still read it once a year and have done for over 20 years.
Why? I think it’s the quality of McCloy’s writing and the story’s emotional weight. Ellie’s story has stayed with me all these years because ultimately this is a story about loss and reconciliation and Ellie is intelligent and fragile and so desperate to be strong that she implodes. Jesse is not just her sexual foil; he is not without shades of gray and he’s impossible attractive.
Kristin McCloy, as far as I know, has only written one other book and I haven’t read it. I don’t know this for sure but I’ve always felt that Velocity was a very personal book for her. I have passed it on many times – but only if the borrower promises to return it!