Shelf Life: Eighth tome in Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series worth the wait

Published on Saturday, 21 June 2014 23:07 - Written by Vanessa Pearson vpearson@tylerpaper.com

I waited five years for “Written In My Own Heart’s Blood” to come out. Then, I read every word in eight days. (It’s about 850 pages in hardback, so it’s also known as a brick.) But anyone who has been drawn in the world Diana Gabaldon created in her best-selling “Outlander” series will understand my devouring the eighth book so single-mindedly.

“Written In My Own Heart’s Blood” released on June 10 and already sits atop several best-selling lists, including The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. But I expected nothing less — Ms. Gabaldon has more 25 million books in print since the first book was published in 1991, and the books are coming to television Aug. 9 on Starz.

Of course, I’ve been on the Internet talking about everything “Outlander” with about 25,000 like-minded fans on Facebook.

In one group, Outlandish Texans — started by Jacksonville’s Tiffany Wilbourn — nearly all we can talk about is Tuesday, the day when many of us are heading to Dallas to see the author in person and get our books signed at a Dallas Museum of Art event. (Seats for live video simulcast and book signing were available as of press time for $46 plus fee. Visit dma.org for more information.)

If you could sum up the storyline of eight main books, four off-shoot novels, a handful of novellas and a companion reader, it would be this: Claire, a World War II nurse, goes on a second honeymoon with her husband just after the war, visits a mysterious standing stone circle (think mini-Stonehenge) in the Scottish Highlands, falls back in time 200-plus years, and during her trials to get back through the stones, she is forced to marry a Highlander for self-preservation and winds up in love with him, too.

Since the first book, which started 1946/1743, we’ve been back and forth through the stones and across oceans with Claire and Jamie Fraser, through young and enduring love, battles, heart-wrenching separations, growing families and the trials of being a modern woman in a decidedly not modern world.

When “MOBY,” as the author calls it, opens, we’re back in 1778, smack dab in the middle of the American Revolution in a sweltering Philadelphia summer, with Claire barely reunited with just-back-from-the-dead Jamie.

The novel follows eight main characters and takes one of them to a place (and time) with people I wasn’t expecting to ever see outside of the recollection of memory.

I’ll keep this fairly spoiler-free because not everyone reads as fast as I do.

The book delivers some of great moments fans expect from the series (Claire divulging some premarital advice and kidnapping a patient; Jamie getting himself into another pickle of responsibility and out of it in classic style; more mysteries to solve).

“MOBY” has a couple of the most emotional deaths I’ve experienced in a few books — one literally left me gasping for air and making this horrid gasping honk sound (I have never been more glad to be reading at home).

I loved some of Claire’s medical procedures, but if I ever get injured, I hope no one ever packs my wound with stinky cheese. It’s Claire — she improvises.

I can’t remember a time I was so jealous of a fictional character. Jamie and Claire eat dinner with one Gen. George Washington. (The genre-bending series has featured several real-life historical figures; “MOBY” also has Benedict Arnold.)

In all, I loved it. (I may have hugged my Kindle when I was done.) It’s a definite must read for series followers.

And if you haven’t started the series, you have plenty of time to catch up — the next book won’t come out for about five years.