Her Dark Materials

20 silent years.

20 years ago this week my dad passed. I was wondering why I have been in a funk lately, and not even the groovy kind of funk.


My dad had been in a mail-order book club. I was visiting my mom one day when we went through a package in his name. I think she considered returning it as she made sure to cancel future orders. Enclosed was a soft-cover trilogy that caught my eye and I asked if I could keep the books. She obliged.

I always judge a book by its cover.

On the cover of “The Golden Compass” is a child and a mouse atop a gargantuan polar bear. “The Subtle Knife” bears two children and two felines. “The Amber Spyglass” has a mysterious cover of the same two youths, slightly older, surrounded by a sea of ghostly faces, approached by dragonflies.

I entered the books inquisitively, exploring other realities with great interest, taking a break from my sorrow. The assortment of characters is satisfying, with powerful and unique women throughout. At the core is a girl on a quest that becomes otherworldly.

Witches and hot air balloons and bears, oh my!

I think these books are worth a read for the open-minded. At the time I read them, I too was in a different world of sorts. When The Golden Compass movie was released several years later, I had a conversation with a supervisor about why I think the book is always better. If I read the book, I do not want to watch the movie (learned through personal experience). If I watch the movie, I miss out on the book. Her comment was about the series being anti-church and anti-Christian. I did see it as rebellious for the mindset I had decades ago. For someone steadfast in their faith, however, the contents should not be a deterrent.

25 year old spoiler alert! (Book 1 was published in 1995, so if you haven’t read it by now…)

If the end of book one was a punch in the gut, the end of book three was disemboweling. The saga took me to rocky places during an already difficult year. My dad had just passed. A local singer was in a fatal plane crash a few months later. Then 9/11 happened. There was so much tragedy in the “real” world and then my escape, my lifeline at the time, left me raw and bursting with unresolved emotions.

I will not say I vowed to never read these books again, because they have remained in my possession all this time. I prefer a good story with a happy ending, having grown up in a sheltered and G-rated world. Irony!

To honor what I can consider my dad’s gift from the beyond, I am rejoining Lyra and Pantalaimon and those they meet in their adventures. There will again be allies. Enemies. Pain. Torture. Fear. Cold. Twists, tunnels, treachery, puzzles and mystery. Any story is made better with witches. This sounds like my real life!

A few things have most certainly changed for me personally in 20 years. Between my smart phone and work laptop, my blurry vision is becoming a nuisance. I will need to give in and get glasses soon.

I must value and respect the journey, no matter the outcome.

I consider myself wiser now. Although I still have an affinity for a happy ending, the finality of book three was so painfully realistic and logical that I wanted to deny it, but I could not. What a significant time in my life to have read this series, “His Dark Materials,” and now at 40 I am reading it again. I often find insights and sage advice for my own life that are locked away in engrossing tales like these.

Sometimes the way forward is the way back. Sometimes the way back is the way forward.

Shortly after moving to Florida in 2017, I happened upon “The Book of Dust” while grocery shopping. Neither the cover nor the title captivated me, but the author’s name sure did. 20 years later not only am I going back, I will also be returning to the present rather quickly with this newer installment. I can always tell when my books are page-turners because they remain in relatively pristine condition from me zipping through them.

It will be interesting to me to see what, if anything, has changed in the various realms from Lyra as a child growing into an adolescent (then hopefully to Lyra as an adult since this contains the introduction of new characters).

My literary appetite has evolved and presently my go-to genre is paranormal romance. The more far-fetched, the better. Why can I not dwell beyond the edge of possibility? Epics such as these remind me I can explore realms, both seen and unseen, and I do not need to limit myself to one specific place or reality.

Thanks for reading! I’m diving in…

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