One of the things I love most about used book stores is the possibility of unearthing a jewel. Sometimes a jewel is a book I’ve been searching for and haven’t been able to find. Suddenly it’s there, glittering like a diamond. I snatch it up before someone else sees. But even more exciting are the hidden jewels, the books I’ve never heard of but that catch my eye and capture my interest. At the time of purchase, they are simply an interesting rock. But sometimes the reading of them chips away at the unknown and leaves a valuable gem I am glad I didn’t miss.
Such is the case with a book I recently found. The Women of Troy Hill: The Back-Fence Virtues of Faith and Friendship is a book I will cherish. Clare Ansberry, the Pittsburgh bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal wrote this book eight years ago. It is the story of a Pittsburgh neighborhood, Troy Hill, and the women who live there—some of whose families have lived on Troy Hill for three or four generations. It is a story of ordinary women’s lives, and yet, none of their stories seemed ordinary. It is stories of family ties and of friendships strengthened over the course of decades, not just years. It is the story of faith that is lived daily, practically, not just on Sundays. It is a reminiscence of earlier eras, of daily life as our mothers and grandmothers experienced it. It is a celebration of lives well lived. And it is a challenge to raise our sights and standards to encompass some of what we have lost.
Oh—and the bonus? My current novel is set in Pennsylvania, my husband’s home state. This book happened to have a couple of tidbits of information that actually helped with my characters, given that my characters, too, are long time Pennsylvanians of German descent!
This beautifully written tribute to women who spent their lives loving their God, their families, and their friends, will always remain on my library shelf.