17 March 2008
I know this is not the first letter from a well-wishing stranger you’ve received over the past months, but I want to extend to you my sincerest condolences for your loss.
My father gave me the Eye of the World for Chanukah 1997 when I was 12. Before then, I believed that books shouldn’t be presents. After all, parents want their children to read, so getting books should be a given, not a gift. Maybe he thought such a long book would last me until the holiday the next year. I read the first seven books of the series in two months. I stayed up late nights unable to put down the vivid, immersive world your husband created.
I was in a bad time back then. I’d moved across the country and never felt at home with the new place, the school, or the people. And maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but falling so hard into the Wheel of Time, escaping day after day in those long paperbacks, helped me finally get my feet on the ground. Gave me a way to funnel all the awkwardness of growing up into a love, kept my escapism firmly on the page and let me learn to be myself—let me think on who that person should be. And this is the silly part: they were so in-depth, so detailed and drawn out, that I felt like an adult reading them. I grew up because of Rand, Perrin, and Mat—because I saw bits of myself in each of them and couldn’t help but mature as they did in the face of circumstances beyond their control. Overnight, they left the quiet comfort of their village, their home, for a journey where they are tested again and again. If the companions could make sacrifices for their village, learn to trust, and struggle forward into the future, then surely I could deal with living in Texas.
And as I read, it convinced me that what I loved about words, books, games, and music—that new frontier, that exploration—wasn’t just about escaping reality; it was about finding the reality in that other world. The truth in fiction. I saw the different people, cultures, interactions, with each character so vivid and real in a universe as thick and vibrant as our own, and I could look at my own life more clearly than before, see the people in it as characters unto themselves. I could take the time to notice the facets of my world, to appreciate them, just as I did to take in the thick grass of Emond’s Field or the high wall of Inner Camelyn.
I read the entries on the website recently. I saw pictures from the service, and the entry you wrote to all of his fans. I saw the thousands of notes, got lost in them, hearing from people who cried, who read the books over and over again, who plan to dedicate their first novel to RJ. I’m writing to say, as others have said, that people felt like a part of your husband’s world, that people felt a connection to his work. And we appreciated the openness the two of you shared in sharing it with us.
Sincerest thanks and condolences,