So I began to search for her name in my jaunts to used bookstores, seeking the elusive, out-of-print titles. I found some. Through the pages of these dusty novels I was transported to Ireland, Spain, France, New England, Washington D.C. But more importantly, I met people I will never forget.
That, for me, is the beauty to Frances Parkinson Keyes’ novels—her characters. They live and breathe. When they speak or act, it is exactly what you expect them to do, given how well you know them. They encounter difficulties. They struggle. They change. But it is their realness that strikes me. I would expect to meet them on the street someday.
Other writers create characters like this, too. But Frances’ span generations and nations and never falter in the beauty of their creation.
So I had accumulated and read several of her novels. Then we went on a weekend trip to Austin with some friends. A large used bookstore had moved to a new location. Its grand opening happened to be while we were there. We spent hours perusing the shelves for that great find. The store was as full of people as our arms were of books. We made our way toward the snaking checkout line, passing a non-fiction shelf on the way. I glanced over the titles as I passed. One spine caught my eye—navy blue with gold lettering. A very “libraryish” book. The title: All Flags Flying, Reminiscences by Frances Parkinson Keyes. In one swift motion it was off the shelf and in my hands—all 655 pages of it.
And in those pages I learned the rest of the story . . .