Sunday, March 10, 2013

Me Before You

On Thursday I walked down to the Fremont Branch library to pick up some holds that had come in. Six books to schlep back up the hill in my backpack, not to mention the greens and avocado I had picked up at PCC!

Where to begin? I decided to take a stab first at Jojo Moyes' novel, Me Before You. I remember I had read about it in the New York Times Book Review, but couldn't remember what it was about. The blurb-y stuff on the back jacket had me worried: looked a little too much like chick fluff.

The four-page prologue was worse. Unmarried beautiful rich people in bed planning an expensive adventure trip. She hopes he won't take his Blackberry. He lives for his Blackberry, and adventure. Blah blah blah. I figured I could quickly discard this one, and start on Kingsolver's Flight Behavior.

But he walks out of that bedroom and gets hit by a motorcycle and paralyzed. Me Before You is about what happens two years later, when a 27-year-old woman from a struggling family gets a job as his companion. She finds out he has tried to end his life, and has gotten his parents to agree that, if he doesn't change his mind in six months, they will take him to a place in Switzerland where he can enjoy death with dignity.

Our heroine makes it her mission to change his mind.

I finished it yesterday; made me late to the dance last night.

So, interesting literary followup to Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree, which is all about really hard lives being worth living. (See my previous post.)

But guess what? My next book is Jonathan Evison's Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, a novel that turns out to be about a guy who's caring for a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy! What is going on in my life, that all these books are coming to me?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Far from the Tree

A few days ago I finished reading Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon's tome -- 702 pages, plus notes! -- about families where the children are challengingly different from their parents. Deaf kids, dwarfs, prodigies, gay. One of the most moving encounters is with the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters.

Solomon himself is gay and had a rough childhood because of it. "I started this book to forgive my parents and ended it by becoming a parent," he says.

These, his last lines, are what I want to remember:

Sometimes, I had thought the heroic parents in this book were fools, enslaving themselves to a life's journey with their alien children, trying to breed identity out of misery. I was startled to learn that my research had built me a plank, and that I was ready to join them on their ship.

As I read, the question of theodicy kept coming to mind, you know, "How could a God who is both good and all-powerful create and continue a world of suffering?"

I guess Solomon's book confirmed for me the really odd truth: How can humans so love a world so flawed? Because we might want to blame God for life's imperfections, but we still want to live.

And even more, I think of how (though I never want God to hear me say this) the hard stuff is what makes a meaningful life.

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies