It is with great sorrow that I must relay news of the death of one of the bookstore’s most loyal customers, Landree Rennpage. Landree, at age 31,  was killed in a car collision Saturday night. The literary community in Mansfield is shocked at this news, and deeply saddened.

I met Landree five years ago when I took over the store’s book club and started the writing group. She was one of my most faithful book-lovers and writers. For five years I had seen her without fail at least three times a month. We were never close friends, but we shared a love for the written word, which I have found is often all you need.

To be a wordsmith puts you in a secret society with the rest of us who believe in the underestimated but unflinching power of language. Though we shared this club membership, we did not read the same kinds of books or write the same kind of stories. We shared a respect for each other, and through that respect were able to learn from each other. We each read books we may not have picked up otherwise and learned to look at our writing from new angles.

Landree was a solid, talented writer and regular contributor to our writing group. She had pieces in the works that had great potential. It saddens me so much that they will not be finished. After engaging creatively with someone regularly for as long as we had, you begin to know them. Especially in the context of writing, which necessitates at one point or another, total vulnerability, the laying bare of your soul at the feet of people you hope are kind — in this situation we had a unique, trusting, intimate relationship.

I often joke that the bookstore collects characters — both as players in the books and as the wonderfully quirky clientele that make up my regulars. Landree was one of my characters, in her pink coat, pink purse, pink gloves and Star Wars-themed dresses. She was also one of the bookstore’s biggest supporters, coming to events often and never leaving without at least three new books under her arm.

I have lost four of my favorite characters this year, each loss harder than the one before. There are so many reading metaphors to make here: closing the book, turning the page. But life is not a book, it is not a story with carefully designed plot arc. In a novel, Landree would have still been setting the scene, pushing through the rising action, which makes this real life loss particularly tragic.

I had a professor who once told me there were two kinds of narratives: the Quest and the Then Nothing Was Ever the Same. Today we find ourselves in the latter. It will take a long time to realign our lives to this new reality, to pick up the plot line and keep writing our own stories. In the meantime, keep Landree’s family in your thoughts and hug your loved ones.

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