from A Year of Morning Thanks
The Secret Place
It came in the mail not long ago, direct from an Amazon-linked, used bookstore somewhere, a forty-year-old paperback titled A Secret Place, the novel which single-handedly changed the course of my life.
Years ago, I picked that novel up in a bookstore, almost on a whim, when I’d just started college. I’d heard of the writer, a man named Frederick Manfred, a tall novelist born and reared in the area, a writer who'd become, I'd heard, deeply hated by the real locals.
For reasons I only partially understand, when I read it I loved it, studied it closely, wrote a paper about it for my Freshman English class, and then determined—on the basis of my reading and study of A Secret Place—that someday I wanted to write books myself.
The Secret Place--also published as The Man Who Looked Like the Prince of Wales--is a real Siouxland book, featuring real Siouxland characters, Dutch names, Dutch Reformed conflicts, and, for the time at least (late 60's), some considerable steaminess, all of which I found mesmerizing. In it, I found my people--I guess I'd have to say it that way, now, in retrospect. In it, strangely enough, I found me.
It cost me $2—I mean, last week when I ordered it. Cost me $.75 forty years ago.
I read it again recently. Honestly, the novel simply wasn’t all that good, a fact which made me chuckle a bit at my own 19-year-old, impressionable self.
Here's what I think: how lucky I am—and thankful too—that God almighty doesn’t let me make all the significant decisions of my life.
It's on the shelf now, with the rest of Fred Manfred's books, a man who became, later on, my friend.
Only cost me two bucks. Someone else's trash, I suppose. Not mine. Not at all.