This summer I made a promise to refrain from reading any books about grief. I blog enough about grief, I needed to take a break from saturating myself with the topic during my down time. I also believe that we get what we think about. Maybe if I stopped blogging so much about grief, I'd be happier? Anyway, without extra funds for spending money I made a promise that I'd make do by reading the stock pile of books currently on my shelves. Throughout the year I'll pick up used books at tag sales, the resale shop or when they're on sale at the library. I have my own mini library of unread books to choose from so it wasn't that much of a sacrifice for me.
Now here's the weird part. Almost all the books I chose to read this summer ended up dealing with grief/death. A lot of the books I selected gave no clue that they dealt with the topic. There was nothing on the jacket overviews depicting that the main character was a widow or that half the characters would end up dying in the end. After I read a number of books on this topic, I said, "What the heck" and picked out a few I knew in advance dealt with death in some way.
Here are some excerpts from the books that were especially moving to me.
- "Sometimes suffering is just suffering," she told Gus. "It doesn't make you stronger. It doesn't build character. It only hurts."
From "Comfort Food" by Kate Jacobs author of "The Friday Night Knitting Club." This was a wonderful read and very insightful, well-written. But no where within the back description is mention that the main character Gus, a famous t.v. chef is widowed!
- "The rules of happiness are as strict as the rules of sorrow; indeed, perhaps more strict. The two states have diferent densities, I've come to think. The lives of happy people are dense with their own doings - crowded, active, thick - urban, I would almost say.
But the sorrowing are nomads, on a plain with few landmarks and no boundaries; sorrow's horizons are vague and its demands few. Jeanie and I had not become strangers; it was just that she lived in the city and I lived on the plain."
From "Some Can Whistle" by Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove," "Terms of Endearment," "The Last Picture Show"). I chose a book by McMurtry because quite often they are humorous and light. Now in the back description there is mention of "a murderous young man" but I guess I didn't take it literally. Those characters not gunned down ended up all dying of cancer throughout the book. I love McMurtry's humor but got overwhelmed by the amount of death depicted. I have to say the paragraph above just gives me chills in its accuracy and beauty. Anyway, the book's plot is the unsuspecting tale of a middle-aged t.v. writer who is reunited with the daughter he never knew. It is a sequel to "All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers," which was never mentioned in the reviews for "Some Can Whistle," which I felt was strange since half the characters who died off were part of the first book.
- "Do you still try to, you know, contact Trish?" He shook his head. "I still talk to her and have pictures of her everywhere but I know she's gone and, for whatever reason, I'm still here. Same goes for you. I don't know if you'll ever contact Aidan but, the way I see it is, you're still alive. You've got a life to live."
From "Anybody Out There?" by Maian Keyes, an Irish author I never heard of. This book is a mystery so I won't disclose the plot except to say that it was surprisingly freshing and kept me guessing. Well worth the 50 cents I plucked down for it!
- "Lonliness is a strange thing. It's like a yellow rubber raincoat you wear twenty-four hours a day. It's hot and heavy and awkward and you can't get comfortable when you try to sleep in it, or take a shower in it, or shop for groceries in it, or watch TV or go through the drive-in window of a fast-food restaurant to get onion rings. You can't even take it off long enough to run it through your Kenmore washer and dryer - so after a while it gets a stink to it. You think you'r hiding undermeath that bright yellow raincoat, that nobody can see you sweating bullets, your clothes pasted to your skin, which is coming loose from your bones. You think if you put the hood up and hury from place to place no one will notice how alone you are, how lost, how afraid.
It would take a friend like Mayfred to say, "Okay, girl, time's up, get that raggedy raincoat off. You look like a fool going around in that thing hot as it is. Not a drop of rain falling. I don't want to look at you wearing that nasty thing anymore."
From "Verbena" by Nanci Kincaid. Excellent portrayl of a widowed mom who remarries WITHOUT the standard happily ever after ending. That description of loneliness took my breath away.
Also read by Sue Miller, "The Senator's Wife" and "For Love." The first book deals with loss through betrayal and the second, destruction due to betrayal and a horrible fatal accident. Both were very good. "The Doctor's Wife" by Elizabeth Brundage is an intriguing mystery involving murder and a destructive affair. "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood is an amazing work set in the past involving muder as well that will keep the reader engrossed beginning to end. I loved "Big Stone Gap" by Adriana Trigiani which deals with a 35-year-old woman's loss of her mother and the secrets about her father/family.
I've just finished the fourth book in Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, Washington series. The books are quick reads and I like this series because a number of the key characters were widowed and knitting is incorporated into the stories as well. In this book (of which there are now 10), the two middle-aged single women remarry (one widowed, one divorced) as does one of the older widowed characters at age 77. While I love the happy ending we all are searching for, it seemed a little unrealistic to me that all of these women found men so easily, men ready, willing and able to remarry without anything worrisome with their characters or personalities. Now these characters live in a small town outside of Seattle. None of these women had to register for dating services or have to go through a bunch of losers before coming lucky. I know romantic fiction geared toward women isn't entirely realistic but gee, I think making it look so easy can make those of us in the trenches wonder what we're doing wrong or what's wrong with us because the dating scene isn't that easy! It was kind of like these men just dropped out of the sky - I know in my case, that the dating road has been filled with detours and potholes!