Two Strangers Gain New Insights at Reader Weekend 2016
Irene Lansing and Kate Reynolds saw for themselves how taking a chance can help forge a lasting friendship.
The pair met on the Reader Weekend 2016 Facebook group when Kate posted that she had a room with two queen-sized beds and was seeking a roommate. Both women feel they were lucky that Irene, from Massachusetts, was the first to grab the spot. Irene recently said she wanted to find a roommate to make the event more affordable. She also needed assistance with her visual impairment. She was born with myopia and through the years developed macular degeneration. While Kate says she can see pretty well, she has some problems with depth perception, peripheral vision and visual clarity.
Irene lives with her husband, Jeff, and has been working with a mobility trainer to help her walk with a cane. She may learn braille and some day get a Seeing Eye dog to help her be as independent as her condition allows.
Irene didn’t mention this to Kate when they first talked about sharing a room. She says life got busy and she felt badly for not saying something earlier. When she did tell her roommate, Kate said it was no problem.
“I was thankful for that because I hadn’t mentioned it earlier,” she recalled after Reader Weekend. “But she [Kate] was wonderful. She was such a great person.”
Kate, a veterinarian at a large hospital who practices general medicine and surgery as well as physical rehabilitation, lives with her dog and cat in Michigan. She says she “totally lucked out” in getting Irene as a roommate. When asked if she was concerned about sharing a room with someone she didn’t know, she was matter of fact: “Nah, I’m pretty easy to get along with and I figured if I didn’t hit it off with my roommate, it was only for two days. Besides, we already knew we had something in common.”
Of course the something in common is Marie’s books. Kate says she downloaded Maid for Love as her first book in the summer of 2012, when she was new to the Kindle. She’s read all of Marie’s series—multiple times—and most of the standalones.
“And no, I don’t have a favorite,” she says without being asked. “Each time I finish a book I’m like, ‘THIS series is my favorite.’ So, essentially, I love them all the same, though Sam and Nick have a special spot in my heart.”
Irene also started her love affair with Maid for Love. She, too, was hooked and has subsequently read all Marie’s books.
Kate says she loves the books because they’re so well-written.
“The story lines and character development are so complete…they are realistic and ballsy, with just enough whimsy to make them light. Marie’s characters make me laugh out loud, and I need that kind of release and decompression after work!”
Once at Reader Weekend, the women had a fantastic time. Kate says she and Irene enjoyed meeting people from other parts of the country and world and Marie’s family and friends at the Friday night reception. They chatted with others the next day on the ferry to Block Island, where they toured with Jenny Beckner and Tammy Herson Beckner, a mother and daughter from Illinois. They attended the Q&A and book signing on Sunday where Marie publicly thanked Kate for helping to make Irene’s experience so wonderful.
It wasn’t really a big deal to Kate, though. And it seemed like their get-together was meant to be.
“As we got to know each other, I could see small signs of her impairment, but she’s really amazing,” she said of her roommate and new friend. “She’s worked really hard to learn to walk with her cane, and she’s a positive person. I admire her for her determination. Ironically, I had done some work with blind students when I was studying at Michigan State, and my first rotation while in veterinary school was at Leader Dogs for the Blind. One of my close friends from high school is an orientation and mobility instructor for the blind. So I had just enough experience to be able to help Irene and not get in the way, where she needed it.”
They also learned after Reader Weekend both of them have the same family nickname—Irene’s is Beenie while Kate is Beanie to her family.
Irene says Kate guided her through the hallways at the hotel, ensuring they were where they needed to be on time. She also helped her read things with small print.
She got emotional and said sometimes she doesn’t have the words to adequately express how much Kate’s help meant to her. “It was amazing to have someone to talk to and to help me out. If it wasn’t for Kate, that weekend may not have happened.”
She’s also thankful to Marie, whom she called “amazing.”
“To have this event for her readers is fantastic. When I first went to dinner Friday night I thought, ‘This is much more than what we paid for.”
—By: Cheryl Serrra, director of publicity for Marie Force