The story revolves around two women and their stories. Vida Winter is a world famous British author who has never revealed her true personal story, always chooses to tell a story when interviewed over the years. As she is growing older and failing in her health, she chooses an obscure biographer named Margaret Lea to pen her biography. Margaret lives and works in a small, bookstore specializing in old books, run by her father. Margaret is an avid, passionate reader, living a rather isolated existence with only her father and books to keep her company. I will not go into any more details--you need to read it for yourself! What follows, though, is the story of the growth of Vida and Margaret's relationship as Vida shares her haunting, often disturbing story. Both women have pasts they confront and truths they finally acknowledge.
My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a good story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.
"The Thirteenth Tale" came to represent to me Vida's truth--her true story. As stated in the quote above, Vida avoided the painful truth and chose instead to live in a world of stories that could be fashioned as she wished. The reality of this path is she could not change the truth of her past, it remained the same and was always with her. Crafted personal stories can bring a soothing comfort in the midst of pain, which may be beneficial at times. As a substitute for the truth, though, stories do not suffice.
This book made me think, "What will be my thirteenth tale, my true story?" At the end of my life, how will my story read? Am I living in truth, embracing my past, present, and future in the light of God's sovereignty in my life? I am striving to live in truth and without regrets. I pray that my thirteenth tale will be one of joy, in the struggles, as well as the blessings.
This book also reminded me of the deep pain that is suffered by so many people and how that scars and impacts their lives. I felt deeply convicted that I do not seek to minister to those people as I believe I am called to do. As Christians, we must not shrink from the ugliness that is in our world, but try to shine the healing light of Christ in those very difficult situations.