I first encountered the book 'Skallagrigg' in the late 80s when it came out in paperback. I can vividly remember finishing it for the first time. I was riding on a train back to London from Nottingham, and as I reached the final pages I was sitting there, tears streaming down my face.
I have lost track of how many times I have read the book now, I know I have read it more times than any other work of fiction. It never fails to move me.
The back of the book says:
Skallagrigg unites Arthur, a little boy abandoned many years ago in a grim hospital in northern England, with Esther, a radiantly intelligent young girl who is suffering from cerebral palsy, and with Daniel, an American computer-games genius.
Skallagrigg - whatever the name signifies, whoever he is - will come to transform all their lives. And William Horwood's inspired, heart-rending story of rescue and redemptive love will undoubtedly touch your life too.
I just finished reading the novel again, and I allowed myself to sit upstairs and gently weep. The first time I read the book I think it brought me to tears only once. I was younger then and very trained at denying my emotions expression - one of the 'benefits' of growing up in the U.K. when I did.
This last reading reduced me to tears many times, but not tears of pity for the characters, but tears of recognition, of finding myself within the pages.
This quote has stayed with me this time (from page 718)
Life is usually a self-made maze whose walls are fears and prejudice, a maze through which there is no perfect route, whose final stages demand acceptance of weakness, not display of strength. Where you must accept that one day your child may lean over and take the spoon from your hand, without your having the strength to resist. In the end strength lies in acceptance, hope is in truth not fantasy: peace cannot be in craving, but in the giving up of desire.
A strong thread of contemplative Christian Spirituality flows through this book and William Horwood's later works 'The Duncton Chronicles' which I also made sure I brought with me from the U.K. and read constantly.
I sit here right now, dried tear stains on my face. Aware of God's incredible grace and my own limitations. I am emotionally drained, and yet I am at peace, because I have found the Skallagrigg.