It was raining in Ireland, and it was starting to get me down.
Before you say, “It always rains in Ireland!” let me tell you: I’ve been to Ireland many times, and yes, it rains. It rains, and then it gets sunny, or it rains, and then it stops. Many’s the time I have worn sunglasses and had the windshield wipers going because the weather couldn’t make up its mind.
But this trip was different. This trip was all-day-and-all-night-and-all-day downpours.
It might not have mattered that much, but my husband and I were there to hike.
In the remote village of Allihies where we were holed up, rain streamed past the windows of our B&B and flags snapped in the wind. The trails we had planned to walk squelched with standing water, the mountaintops we hoped to cross were enshrouded in fog. We couldn’t hike, and so we read.
Allihies consisted of a tiny grocery, a cafe, a pub and a scattering of houses. There was no bookstore, no library. Fortunately, we had crammed our suitcases with books.
So I switched on the tea kettle and dove into “Say Nothing,” Patrick Radden Keefe’s nonfiction book about the Irish Troubles. It was so good that it made me wish we were in Belfast instead of West Cork, though it was also raining in Belfast.
It rained the next day, too, and I turned to “She Said,” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times reporters who had broken the Harvey Weinstein story. Meanwhile, my husband was steadily reading Kevin Barry’s “Night Boat to Tangier,” a novel about two aging Irish thugs.
Each afternoon, the rain eased, we went for a hike, the rain started up again, we returned to our books.
Would we rather be hiking the planned 15 miles from town to town? Of course; that was why we were there. But when something gets in the way of your plans, you have to make new plans.
So we tried to look at this forced relaxation as a good thing. When, other than during vacation, do we have hours of uninterrupted time in which to read? When else do we get a chance to sink into a book and consume it in a day?
From Dublin to Cork City to Allihies to Wicklow and back to Dublin, it rained hard almost every day. Instead of hiking over the mountains to the next B&B, we rode in taxis with our luggage and took shorter hikes in the afternoons. The rest of the time, we read.
In Wicklow, my husband chuckled over “The Shakespeare Requirement” by Julie Schumacher. I finished Charles Portis’ “True Grit,” which I loved so much I wished I hadn’t yet read it, and started on Patti Smith’s “Year of the Monkey.”
We ended up in Dublin for the last few days. Dublin, city of bookstores! (And rain.) Good thing, because by now we were out of books.
We sloshed the mile from our B&B to the Winding Stair Bookshop. Rain dripped off our hoods as we tramped to Easons bookstore. We popped into Hodges Figgis. At each stop, we loaded up on Irish books: “Diary of a Somebody,” by Brian Bilston; Joseph O’Connor’s “Shadowplay”; “This House Is Haunted,” by John Boyne; a novel by Dermot Bolger, whose play we had just seen at the Abbey Theatre; a collection of stories by Nicole Flattery.
When the rain got too wet, we hoofed it back to our B&B, switched on the tea kettle, and read.
Trips don’t always go as planned. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to tear things up and start over. For us, for this trip, books kept us going.
Do you have stories about vacations and books? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll run them on a future Sunday.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.