A New Test of Rowling’s Magic

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The book world is buzzing.

True, there is always a buzz of some sort going on, but it is usually at a housefly-trapped-in-the-windowpane level. The current buzz has now reached a swarm-of-angry-bees-right-outside-my-window-type peak.

We owe all the hoopla to the fact that the much anticipated new, and entirely unrelated to a certain teenaged wizard, novel by J.K. Rowling is set to hit shelves on Sept. 27.

Her first novel written with adults in mind, “The Casual Vacancy,” tells the story of the small town of Pagford, England. While Pagford seems at first glance to be a quaint and idyllic country town, it in reality is a town at odds with itself – wives vs. husbands, rich vs. poor, children vs. parents.

When town councilman Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly passes, he leaves a vacant seat on the council, bringing about the biggest war the town has seen yet:  a small-town election complete with all the hallmarks of modern politics: secrets revealed, passionate promises, and duplicitous behavior.

While information surrounding Rowling’s latest outing has been kept pretty hush-hush, I have every confidence that this new chapter will be just as engrossing as the last.

Rowling holds a soft spot in my heart, in no small part because her words have provided an immeasurable bonding experience for my boys and I. Emotions aside, however, there is an equal part of my admiration reserved for the fact that she truly is a skilled storyteller.

Never in reading her books did I feel that her writing was sophomoric, or patronizing, despite the fact that her intended audience was less-than-sophisticated consumers. Never did I feel that she sacrificed the development of the story to keep it kid-friendly, and she always had her finger on the pulse of her readers. As they grew and matured, so did the characters and the writing, so that by the end of the journey, it felt as if we had all grown up together.

I believe that, having known from a very young age that penning tales was her calling, Rowling is able to keep her writing so relatable by imbuing it with her own rich life experiences.

While writing “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” for example, Rowling’s mother passed away, never having seen the book. As a result, she focused more on Harry’s sense of loss at the death of his parents, and not being able to share his experiences with them.

As someone who lost a parent before having done most of the things I am proud of in life, I was always able to relate to that sense of something being missing, even in the happy times.

Although now a very wealthy woman, Rowling has not always led a privileged life. As a one-time single mother receiving financial assistance, and worrying about where the next meal would come from, she has remained in touch with the work-a-day world, making her characters across the board more relatable to us normal folk.

She has also kept those memories in mind, as she has devoted herself to her philanthropic work, largely through her own Lumos Foundation (“lumos” is a spell used in the wizarding world to cast light), which helps disadvantaged children.

Rowling has said that she doesn’t believe in fate, but rather in hard work and luck, with the former often leading to the latter. Like the felix felicis potion used by my good friend Harry, her hard work has brought about much luck, both to Rowling and her readers.  Here’s to that streak continuing on to the town of Pagford, making “The Casual Vacancy” worth all the buzz.

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