On the Shores of Fincayra
Updated: Sep 23
Every month, author T.A. Barron shares a newsletter with readers that are each unique in theme and in how they spark goodness and fill the day with a dose of magic. August's theme centered on how books can build a community.
Community in itself is a very profound word built on connections and shared experiences that bond our common sense of humanity. 2020 has unfortunately been a year that has drifted us to a predominantly virtual sphere where distance, out of safety and necessity, are set in place to help counteract the dystopic virus which has impacted us on a global scale.
So, how do nine strangers from different geographic regions across the US build a community?
They start by embarking on the shores of Fincayra.
As a part of Mr. Barron's Books Build Communities campaign, Mr. Barron shared nine copies of The Lost Years, the first book in the Merlin Saga, to share with readers with the aim of building a virtual book club. After spreading the word about this project, nine readers expressed their interest in being a part of the book club and, shortly after, the books were sent out to the far reaches of New York to Burbank, California which is just a beat away from my own reading corner in California. Once the books arrived to the club members, we were soon whisked away by Mr. Barron's ability to transcribe the journey of a young boy named Emrys who was in search for his true name and destiny.
As the chapters continued, the messages retrospectively lengthened with thoughts on the passages and reactions to certain events. The time for our first Zoom meeting came and I honestly can't describe our excitement to be able to talk face to face with each other after reaching our agreed chapters. By following the prompts from the Merlin Saga Discussion Guide, in addition to section specific questions I put together, the conversation bubbled and what was meant to be an hour long talk turned into a two hour and a half meeting. The children of our member, Delaware, even took part by showing off their drawings of the majestic tree Arbassa, which homes a very special young woman who enchants Emrys with her connection to nature and the land of Fincayra itself.
While our virtual book club had had a steady flow of conversation before the Zoom meeting, after the first 'face to face' talk about the world we had entered through T.A. Barron's imagination, something truly magical happened. By the grace of Emrys's journey, we all found ourselves as travelers of Fincayra who each experienced the sights and sounds of this world in their own way. Yet, the spirit of togetherness in The Lost Years inspired a fellowship between the group which enabled some members to express themselves and their thoughts more freely.
As the chapters passed, one member, Kansas, was able to identify with Emrys and his search for self-discovery, my Burbank neighbor found herself reading ahead of the group to find out what happened next, and Nebraska and Georgia even filmed some Tik-Tok videos enacting the dialogue between Emrys and Rhia. Little by little, the members were interacting more with each other, both in the chat and outside the group, and branching out in their own personal lives.
Delaware initially read the book in the quiet time of her house with her children (nicknamed Loki and Scarlet) and then shifted to listening to the audiobook to accompany her in her daily life. The voice of the story carried through to Loki and Scarlet, and after their adorable portrayal of Arbassa, they became the group's designated illustrators who did their best to sketch out a character or background. Towards the end of our book club meetings, Delaware told us about how Loki and Scarlet shared their portfolio of book scene renditions to their individual classmates and teachers during their live Zoom classroom meetings. In turn, Loki's class was assigned to share a drawing about their favorite book while Scarlet's class (a mature group of 6th graders) later had an Arthurian lore and myth class inspired by her newfound interest in Merlin.
Sometimes communities begin at home. They start with group messages and Zoom meetings, find themselves in online classrooms, and have ripple effects that continue their journey to broader horizons.
At the end of The Lost Years, New York told us how the book had given her hope during a time filled with uncertainty. Nebraska and Georgia are now in the process of starting their own fantasy book club together while Burbank and Kansas decided to continue their way through the Merlin Saga. Delaware found a new way to bond with her children and they themselves now developed a newfound interest in books. When asked what he felt about the book as a whole, Arizona said he had: "An overwhelming sensation that I found something I'd been missing in my life. I always am intrigued by books and shows about Merlin or Arthur and his court, but this is the first time I could appreciate the journey of what makes a great wizard." I think everyone in the book club was moved when Iowa warmed our hearts by saying that the book club was the highlight of her year. Shy, reserved Oklahoma surprised us all when she announced that she started up her own virtual book club through her local library to help other members of her community connect in the same way that our book club had.
As for me, if I were to condense my feelings and emotions about the Merlin Saga, I think I could fit it by saying: Fincayra is home. Mr. Barron created a welcoming space for readers to: wander through the Isles with a newfound wizard, find facets of wisdom and courage, and remember that "books are truly the stuff of miracles." I would like to close this post by thanking Mr. Barron for sharing wonder, hope, and courage for the times ahead and, of course, our dear friend Merlin for his magic continues to inspire the ages.
“A life-whether seamstress or poet, farmer or king-is measured not by length, but by the worth of its deeds, and the power of its dreams.”
― T.A. Barron
Alex Lopez is a paid endorser for T.A. Barron and Evergreen Management. Alex Lopez receives compensation, including free product, for support of T.A. Barron and Thomas A Barron, LLC and its products.
Book club members had the opportunity to review this post before publication and consented to being identified by their state when they were mentioned in this post.