It’s no surprise that Richard Peck is connected to the house my husband and I bought last year.
I learned in August 2017 that the family from whom we bought our house hosted acclaimed children’s and young adult author Richard Peck, thus christening the guest room as the Peck Room forever after. Because of Peck’s influence on my own reading and writing life, my husband and I carried on the tradition. A plaque outside the bedroom door — gifted to us from the home’s decades-long former family — hangs there today.
You can see from the date that Peck stayed here Oct. 5-6, 2004, during a round of visits to Streator schools and our gorgeous Carnegie library.
That was nearly 14 years ago. Sadly, a week ago today, I read the announcement on Peck’s Facebook page that the 84-year-old author died on May 23 after living with cancer.
In his honor, I decided last week to search my shelves for one of his books I hadn’t yet read. Last summer, during the annual Riverfest used book sale in downtown Ottawa, I stumbled on a copy of “Fair Weather,” a gently worn copy that had been removed from circulation at Streator High School’s library and donated to the sale. (It’s the pale blue spine, eighth from the bottom, just under “Water for Elephants.”)
The title wasn’t even on my radar when I stumbled upon it at the book sale last year. I added it to my stack merely for the sake of the author’s name — I’ve never been let down yet by a Richard Peck book, and like the others, this one didn’t disappoint.
In fact, it came with a bonus surprise.
When I opened to the title page, I found Peck’s blue-inked penmanship:
The note reads, “For Streator H.S. readers – Richard Peck Oct. 6, ’04”
This book was signed for the local high school during Peck’s two-day stay at my home.
I never had the opportunity to meet Richard Peck, and his visit to Streator only accounted for two days out of his 84-year life. But I am endlessly overjoyed every time his visit ripples into my life.
This book — particular this specific copy of this book — felt like the appropriate farewell to a beloved writer. It was a fitting conclusion to my brief, distant connection to Peck.
But there will always be a bond between writer and reader when a book is in hand. Every time I crack the well-loved spine of “A Long Way From Chicago,” the divide is closed, because he’ll be right here in the home he visited for two days in 2004, telling me a story.