This post is for serious book aversion sufferers. Like me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suffering from a serious aversion to books. But from an aversion to serious books, if you follow me. I simply can’t settle into reading anything that mires me in apparently insoluble problems. Or awakens feelings and fears that I thought long buried.
Take, for instance, this latest book we read for my book club.
Barbara Kingsolver’s 2012 book, Flight Behavior is by all accounts a wonderful book. A serious book. And beautifully written. Everyone at our book club agreed. And the reviews I read concurred.
It’s a book about climate change, about monarch butterflies, about scientific catastrophe reimagined as some sort of godly miracle, and about poverty. Not just financial poverty, but also about poverty of the mind, and of the imagination.
Liz Jensen in The Guardian says it is a book for our time. For a world that seems to be “stumbling wilfully blind towards the abyss” brought on by catastrophic climate change. In her review Jensen talks about the themes which Kingsolver explores, not only in this book but in previous ones like Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible, themes of the struggle between faith and science, between “belief-versus-evidence,” and the tragedy of willfully “deaf ears and blind eyes.” Referring to a scene in the novel in which Dellarobia, the main character, saves a new born lamb in a violent and disturbing, but ultimately necessary, manner, Jensen extrapolates: “…only a shocking, harrowing solution – a paradigm shift of radical proportions – will offer any solution,” not just to the newborn lamb but also to our planet. You can read Liz Jensen’s entire review here.
|Endangered Monarch butterflies in Mexico photo by Edgard Garrido- Reuters|
So given the devastating floods we witnessed when we were in Peru this past winter. Given the equally catastrophic flooding in South Asia happening right now. And the chaos wrought by Harvey in the United States. Given all this, it seems that Kingsolver’s book has an even more urgent message than it did in 2012. But I could not get past chapter four. No matter that it was beautifully written. Despite Kingsolver’s gritty, lean prose that evokes so clearly the time and place, I just couldn’t force myself to read it. And maybe, now that I think of it, that’s because Kingsolver’s gritty lean prose evokes so clearly the main character’s life at the beginning of the novel. Because, when I was young, Dellarobia’s life is what I feared most might happen to me.
Dellarobia is a young intelligent woman who has thrown her life away. Or so it seemed to me when I started reading. Pregnant, married young in a “shot-gun wedding,” stuck in a loveless marriage, with two small children and no job, on a struggling family farm with unsympathetic in-laws, gossipy neighbours, and no hope of escape. And no conception of how to make her life better. Or richer. And I don’t mean just financially. That, my friends, is the very stuff of my teenage nightmares. Being stuck. In a life circumscribed by obligation and poverty. Almost makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it.
I was a bit surprised by my visceral reaction to this novel. I thought all that was dead and buried. And maybe it was, just not that deeply. I was pleased and relieved when my friends at book club told me the book was ultimately hopeful. That Dellarobia does escape. That she has her own metamorphosis. Phew. Thank goodness. And yet even knowing that, I doubt I will go back and finish the book, although I probably should. Because, as I’ve said here on the blog before, when I turned sixty, I vowed to stop feeling guilty about so many “shoulds.” Especially when it comes to finishing books that I don’t want to finish.
So, then what is the cure for my serious book aversion? Why, trot that serious book that I don’t want to read right back to the library, my friends. And come home with a new book that I’ve been waiting to read for months. And a DVD of a quirky little mystery series filmed in New Zealand.
My name has been on the “holds” list for Elly Griffiths’ new Ruth Galloway novel for months. I’m looking forward to starting it. And Hubby and I have been enjoying binge watching The Brokenwood Mysteries. Set in small town New Zealand, the humor is wry, the plots not too gruesome or violent, and the country music soundtrack eminently satisfying. Especially since most of the music in Season 1 is provided by Canadian ex-pat Tami Neilson, who, to me, is a cross between Patsy Cline and Roseanne Cash. Can’t go wrong with that according to this New Brunswick girl. Have a listen.