Crossing to Safety

Stegner, Wallace. Crossing to Safety. New York: Random House, 1987.

Crossing to Safety is a story you have to stick with in order to understand. For the first 100 pages you might find yourself asking, “what is the point?” because it seems to be about two couples who have a great relationship with one another. It’s all about the ups and downs of their friendship through the years and Stegner’s characters move in and out of prose casually, almost nonchalantly. He makes assumptions that you already know them by name. There are no obvious introductions to anyone. What’s more, there is a certain carefree attitude of the first decade of their friendship as well (mid 1930s). The women of the bonded friendship, both pregnant at the same time, enjoy champagne on a picnic. As the story moves along you can’t help but be drawn into the loyalty of their friendship; the push and pull of individual need against the fabric of their woven relationship.

Favorite lines (and there were a bunch of them), “It was a toss-up who was neglecting whom” (p 84).

Reason read: Wallace Stegner went to the University of Iowa and was in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing, “the Iowa Writers’ Workshop” and Iowa became a state in December. Yes, it is a stretch but that’s what I’m doing.

Can I just say I love the picture of Wallace Stegner on the back of Crossing to Safety? Or maybe it’s just the sweater. As an aside I would like to thank Stegner for introducing me to the 1931 Marmon. What a classy (but gangster!) car!

Author fact: There is a great website dedicated to Wallace Stegner here.

Book trivia: People either love or hate the “nonplot” approach. I loved it…once I got used to it.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 107).


Say When

Berg, Elizabeth. Say When. Brilliance Audio on CD, 2003.

Elizabeth Berg captures the heart and soul of jilted husband Frank Griffin perfectly. Wait. Can a husband be jilted? Sure enough except most people prefer to write about the woman’s side of the story. When his wife Ellen announces she is in love with someone else (the mechanic from her automotive class) and wants a divorce Griffin (as he likes to be called) goes through all the typical myriad of emotions. His disbelief, anger, jealousy, sarcasm and sadness permeate his every waking moment. Refusing to give his wife a divorce or even move out of their house Griffin forces Ellen into a roommate relationship. He fluctuates between wanting to win her back and disbelieving he has to do anything of the sort. He has floated through the years of their marriage without a single thought to the sameness of their daily lives, the routine-ness of their relationship. He has been comfortable with the predictability of their days and never considered that Ellen might not share that opinion. Adding insult to injury she admits she doubts she ever loved him, even going so far as to say she knew they never should have gotten married in the first place. Ouch. I won’t spoil the end but I can say this, not everyone has agreed with these characters. I guess that’s what makes them real to me. We can’t like everything or everyone. Ellen’s character is particularly hard to like because she is so vague but that’s one of the things that makes her real in my opinion.

As I mentioned before, one of the most refreshing aspects of this book is that it is told from the man’s perspective and it’s the woman who had the affair. I think it goes to show you that men can be prone to jealousy and childish name calling (“Mr. Crank Shaft” was my favorite) just as much as a woman. The stereotypes have been further messed with when it’s revealed that Ellen is going out with a much younger man.

Reason read: this is going to sound bizarre but I chose Say When because I am celebrating my 8th wedding anniversary this month. Reading about a relationship in trouble makes me extremely grateful mine is solid, fun and loving!

Author fact: Elizabeth Berg won the New England Books Award in 1997.

Book trivia: According to Berg’s own website Say When was made into a television movie for CBS called “A Very Married Christmas.”

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Marriage Blues” (p 162).


September ’11 is…

September 2011 will be a mess. I guarantee it.  A complete and utter debacle. For starters, the data migration I blathered about back in June didn’t happen on schedule. In fact, it hasn’t happened at all. Fingers crossed, though. It is set for October. But! But. but, that just means I continue to be without borrowing capabilities because I still to refuse to get a public library card. At least I can admit that it’s because I’m lazy. I don’t feel like driving to the public branch when many ( I need to stress many, many) of the books on my challenge list are either in my own workplace library OR sitting on my shelves at home. I don’t need to reach outside of my resources to find a read. But what this does mean (in terms of planning a list of books to read each month) is that it hasn’t been easy. I let my state of mind dictate what comes next or not. It’s chaotic and more than a little crappy. If I don’t feel like reading The Trial I won’t. It’s as simple as that.

So to spend a long time explaining a very simple thing, I don’t have an expected read list for September 2011. There. I said it. I know this much is true: I want to read something nonfiction since I neglected the didactic last month. I do know that I want to reread The World According to Garp by John Irving. I plan to Let Go of some titles I have been meaning to read; to just admit I don’t want to read them at all (The Compleat Angler being one of them). I have been selected to receive another Early Review book from LibraryThing. If it arrives in September I’ll add it to the list. I’m kind of excited because it’s about football. It would be great to read it in honor of the NFL’s 2011 season opening, but we’ll have to wait and see…

What else can I tell you about September? Hurricane season. Start of the Fall Semester for academics. Nights getting cooler. September is my suspicious month. I’m leery of perfect blue skies. I don’t trust the beauty of the day to not turn into something ugly. Fall means dying – this close to death. It means taking dares with yes and losing. The silver lining (as I must find one) is that September is also a chance to remember falling in love among the falling leaves. A chance to celebrate that love, if for only one day.


While I Was Gone

Miller, Sue. While I Was Gone.

My mother borrowed this book from a house she manages. For that reason I needed to finish it before leaving the island. Piece of cake. I was able to read this, start to finish, in two days. Mostly because I found myself thinking about it long after I had put it down.

While the plot was amazing Jo Becker wasn’t a likable character for me. Which is probably what Sue Miller wanted from me. I found her to be deceitful, conniving, and more than a little self centered and selfish. Jo is a woman of lies; an easy liar. So much so that her everyday relationships are tinged with half truths and falsehoods. Even her daughters recognize her deceit and are sensitive to her phoniness. When an old roommate from Jo’s past resurfaces more lies are uncovered.
But it’s not her falsity that hangs like sour fruit. It’s her selfishness that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. She misinterprets the intentions of the old roommate and begins to fantasize about an affair with him. When she thinks about how easy it would be to commit adultery she barely gives thought to whether or not her husband has ever thought about straying. When a terrible secret stands between Jo and having the affair she expects her husband to support her and not be upset by the turn of events.
The best part of While I was Gone was the character development of Jo’s husband. Watching Daniel struggle with jealousy and anger was like a metamorphosis. He emerges a different man.
This book made me question secrets. Which is worse? A half truth or a half lie?

Best line: “With the closing of the door I felt released from the awareness of his sorrow that had held me in his orbit” (p 8).

Author fact: Sue Miller has connections to Western Massachusetts.

Book Trivia: While I Was Gone was made into a 2004 movie starring Kirstie Alley.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Wayward Wives” (p 232).


Ain’t Nobody’s Business

Wesley, Valerie Wilson. Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.New York: Avon, 1999.

While Kisa drove from 42 8′ 55″ N/72 36′ 29″ W to 44 6′ 13″ N/69 6′ 33″ W I read Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do. Four straight hours until I ran out of daylight and I ran out of words. It was the kind of reading that had me asking what would happen next. Not because the story had me on the edge of my seat in suspense, but because I had grown to care about all the characters and truly wanted to know how all their lives worked out. The biggest emotion everyone had in common was the desperate need to find the true meaning of love. Then there was the telling of how they went about finding that love.

First, there is 44 year old Hutch who ups and leaves his wife Eva, at two in the morning. He has no idea why he has to leave but he also knows there is no way he can stay. As he says, he lost his joy. No one is more baffled by Hutch’s behavior than Hutch himself, but leave he must. Eva, his second wife of ten years, oscillates between sheer rage and utter despair as she copes with a huge house she hasn’t a clue for to maintain. Hutch runs to Donald, his best friend, who is constantly cheating on his seemingly perfect wife yet Donald’s seemingly perfect wife seems like a perfect match for Hutch, especially in his confused state of mind. Eva seems best suited for her own daughter’s ex-boyfriend. It’s a merry-go-round of emotions and relationships and no relationship combination is spared: mother-daughter, father-son, best friends, lovers, old married couples, newlyweds…Everyone is looking for something just out of reach and ignoring what’s right in front of them.

Favorite line, “Raye’s eyes could always shake loose his truth” (p 41).

Two observations: The story starts out with Eva’s aunt hoo-doo magic. There is mention of dried twigs and a Vick’s VapoRub smell. I would have liked that hoo-doo to be more present throughout the story. Also, Wesley always seemed to be one stop ahead of me. Eva works as a librarian. She started out as a volunteer then asked for a paying position and got it. I questioned where was library school and the formal degree. In the very next chapter Eva’s boss is urging Eva to go to library school. There is another scene where Eva’s car breaks down and she is left stranded on the side of the road. I immediately wanted to know where her car phone and/or AAA membership was. Wesley explained those details soon enough, as if she was reading my mind.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 13). The “She” in question being the authors.


October ’10 was…

Our nightly view

I spent the first eight days of October “stranded” on a remote, windblown island off the coast of Maine. Every morning was spent leisurely reading in bed, half listening to the sounds of surf and squabbling gulls. Cloudy afternoons were spent either hiking along rocky shores and overlooking cliff high vistas or combing seaweed strewn beaches for sea glass and shells. Quiet evenings were whiled away in front of a snapping orange glow fire with a good book in hand. It was a delicious way to end the day – just as I had started it, behind the pages of a book. Because of this simple routine it was easy to finish three books in eight days:

  • Messiah by Gore Vidal ~ in honor of Vidal’s birth month. This stayed with me as prophetic as it was.
  • The Poison Oracle by Peter Dickinson ~ in honor of October being special child month. Another futuristic story about a different kind of greed.
  • The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve ~ in honor of Halloween. Probably my favorite book of the month.

After the vacation home I returned to the daily grind and was able to finish the following books:

  • Ways of Seeing by John Berger ~ in honor of Art Appreciation month. This took me a lunch break to read so I read it several times.
  • Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape by Frans de Waal ~ in honor of de Waal’s birth month and October being animal month. At first I was bothered by the graphic Bonobo photography but I got over it.
  • Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier ~ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I have to admit – the cover of this book cracked me up (simple, yet says so much).
  • Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser ~ in honor of National Book Month. This was okay.
  • Bird Brains: the Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies and Jays by Candace Savage ~ in honor of Bird Watching month. A big, bold, beautiful book (loved the photography).

For LibraryThing and the Early Review program, two books:

  • Yes You Can! : Your Guide to Becoming an Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love was waiting for me when I returned from vacation. Since it is only 133 pages long and written for young adults it took me just a few hours to read it cover to cover.
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin was really, really good.
  •  

Confession: Autumn has always been my private hell. People think I’m kidding when I say bad things always happen to me between September and December…until I start recounting the black clouds. This year while I had a few bad things roll in my direction it was nothing like what happened with friends and family. Losing fathers, losing jobs, losing lives. The walls came tumbling down. As one friend put it, “I’m having a hard enough time recovering as is and now this?” And now this. I bury my head in books to avert my heart.


Last Time They Met

Shreve, Anita. The Last Time They Met. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

The story, divided into three parts, starts from the perspective of Linda Fallon at 52 years old. Widowed with two adult children Linda is a poet with a complicated past. Her tangled history is confronted when she encounters her former lover, Thomas Janes, at a literary festival. Thomas, also a poet, has gone on to become a legend of sorts after the drowning death of his young daughter drove him into seclusion. What the reader learns in Part I is that Linda and Thomas started a romance in highschool that ended badly.  Part II is from Thomas Janes’s perspective in Africa 25 years earlier than the festival. Linda, then 27, has married and is working for the Peace Corps when Thomas, also married, encounters her in an African marketplace. The fuzzy details of their teenage romance hinted at in Part I become a little more defined in Part II. The reader discovers a terrible accident allowed overly protective adults to separate the young highschool lovers and effectively dismantle their relationship by putting distance (and silence) between them. Part III is ten years prior to Africa. Thomas and Linda are 17 and in highschool. This final section brings the entire sage full circle. In all honesty my favorite way to read The Last Time They Met is front to back and then again, this time back to front. The tiniest of details become glittering and sharp when exposed by more supporting story.

Confession: this is a reread. As a rule, I have tried to read everything by Anita Shreve. She is definitely one of my favorite authors. Here’s the weird thing about rereading The Last Time They Met. I am remembering a scene that should have been in this book or at least I thought was in this book and there is another part to the story that sounds like something I read somewhere else. Confused? I know. I shouldn’t have said anything.

Favorite lines (and there are a few, bear with me), “The spirit sought and found the work, and discontent began when it could not” (p 5), “Thomas watched her walk away, all the blood in his veins following her” (p 125), and, “What’s imagined always worse than what is” (p 308).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Tricky, Tricky” (p 222). Pearl lists a few books that play tricks on you. In honor of Halloween I read The Last Time They Met.


What’s a Mother (in-law) To Do?

Angelich, Jane. What’s a Mother (in-law) To Do?: 5 Essential Steps to Building a Loving Relationship with Your Son’s New Wife. New York: Howard Books, 2009.

I have to start off by saying this was a May 2009 Early Review book from LibraryThing. That means roughly a year ago I was supposed to read and review this book. I received it in the mail today. Today. June 26th, 2010. I am assuming this has already hit book stores and doesn’t really need my promotion. However, because I respect the program and the review process I am still going to write about it.

My first impression of What’s a Mother (in-law) To Do? was, “wow, this is short!” Indeed, it’s an odd little book. Hardcover yet the size of a paperback and only 130 pages long. As a librarian I automatically went to the back pages to look for a bibliography of sorts. If this is a book that involved research I expected to see a works cited page. There wasn’t one.

In the end I was disappointed by What’s a Mother (in-law) to Do? because I felt like it was something any old MIL could write: all she would have to do is fill 131 pages with a variety of stories from other in-laws (mothers and daughters), sprinkle in a few personal experiences, and add a layer of common sense advice.  What would have been really interesting (and cater to a larger audience) is if Angelich researched building a relationship with your child’s new spouse. In other words, remove the specificity of the subject and make it work for any in-law relationship.

I honestly couldn’t take What’s a Mother (in-law) To Do? seriously. Angelich talks about conducting research but doesn’t provide real sources. She mentions “research conducted” but there’s no weight behind like what kind of research it was or who conducted it. She talks about taking advice from experts but doesn’t elaborate on how she solicited this advice. In short, I didn’t believe her “research.” This is a book I would have picked up and immediately put back, writing it off as “fluff” or pop psychology. I would recommend it for someone with a fair to mediocre relationship with their new daughter-in-law, but not to someone with a strained or terribly difficult one.


June ’10 was…

June was a month of reconnection. By far, my favorite musical moment was the lovely Rebecca Correia at the Iron Horse. It is awful to say but every single artist that follows her on stage can’t compare. Not that they are NailsOnaChalkboard bad, but they have nothing on Rebecca. On the professional side of things June was a very frustrating month. On the personal sides I got one of the best hugs of my life (thanks, Gracie). For books, it was this:

  • Happenstance by Carol Shields ~ this should be a movie
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen ~ this also should be a movie
  • The Confession of Nat Turner by William Styron ~ this was a hard one to read
  • Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World by Carol Brightman ~ a very thorough biography that helped with my insomnia
  • I Don’t Know Why I Swallowed the Fly by Jessica Maxwell ~ first year fly fishing story
  • Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym ~ a sociology experiment in a land of anthropologists
  • Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brien ~ this took some time to get into…so much so that I didn’t finish it.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ I needed to lick my wounds with something enjoyable!

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:

  • The House on Oyster Creek by Heidi Jo Schmidt ~ once I got beyond the first chapter I loved it. Beautiful writing.

For the fun of it:

  • Winning By Losing by Jillian Michaels ~ I’m most interested by the subtitle on the cover of her book, “Change You Life.” I’m up for that. Really.

House on Oyster Creek (with spoiler)

Schmidt, Heidi Jon. The House on Oyster Creek. New York: NAL Accent, 2010.

Probably the most distracting aspect of Schmidt’s style of writing was her almost fanatical need to portray Henry as the older, colder, and uncaring husband. I get it. Schmidt wants the reader to cheer Charlotte on when she meets a man more to her liking, more to her temperament, more to her everything. You aren’t supposed to hate the damsel in distress. You aren’t even allowed to dislike her. In order to make the damsel’s potential affair acceptable said damsel’s husband needs to be bad. Very bad. If the husband is really awful you wind up begging, praying for that knight in shining armor. In an attempt to make Henry bad I think Schmidt went overboard. As a result Henry became a caricature of the very worst. In the first chapter alone (we’re talking 13 pages) there were over 24 negative words associated with Henry. Here are some, but not all, of the words and phrases used to describe Henry’s words, actions and demeanor. I left out dialogue with Charlotte:

  • irritation
  • seething
  • contempt
  • staunch
  • “heart seemed to harden” (p 3)
  • bleak
  • rebellious
  • stark
  • “nothing pleased him” (p 6)
  • fury
  • bitter
  • “fit to kill” (p 7)
  • “real hatred” (p 8.)
  • rigid
  • suspicion
  • jeer
  • scorn
  • irritated
  • contemptuous
  • darkening
  • “glance was poison” (p 11)
  • infuriating
  • infuriated
  • “patience stretched to breaking” (p 13)
  • shuddered
  • “spasm of disgust” (p 13)
  • icy

To make matters worse, on the other side of this marriage is Charlotte and her demure, sweet, sensitive, caring, loving, “made of empathy” personality. Schmidt is not as fanatical about driving that point home. But, you get the point just the same.

However…once I got beyond page 14 I loved The House on Oyster Creek. Charlotte is a little self-righteous at times but after putting up with Henry all those years she deserves to. While House on Oyster Creek focuses on Charlotte as she makes her way the book is really about the entire community she joins. Schmidt is extremely accurate when introducing Charlotte to the new community. when it comes to a tight-knit community there will always be this Them and Us attitude. You could be in a community for over 30 years and just because you are the first generation to do so, you are still the newcomers in town. The more generations you can brag of, the more clout you have in the community.

Of course, I had favorite lines that I really hope Schmidt keeps in the book, but I won’t quote them here.

I have to admit I never rooted for Charlotte to have an affair. There was something so broken about Henry that I think Charlotte owed it to him to work it out. When Darryl ends up marrying someone else I was happy. I can admit the story ended exactly how I wanted it to end.


Happenstance

Shields, Carol. Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition. New York: Penguin, 1994.

The very first thing I noticed about this book is how it is arranged. I understood that Happenstance had originally been two very separate stories, published with two very different names. The husband’s side of the story was the original Happenstance (published in the early 80’s) and the wife’s side of the story was called A Fairly Conventional Woman. The wife’s story was published sometime later. The version of Happenstance Nancy Pearl suggested was the combined stories of the husband and wife. So, back to the arrangement of the book – her side has a pink cover with a photo of a woman’s upper torso in a frame. To see his side you have to flip the book upside down and over. His cover is blue with a photo of a man’s lower legs in a frame. Clever. I started with the wife’s story because if the book were to sit on a shelf properly (spine displayed correctly) it is her cover you see first when you pull it off the shelf. I’m sure this is the way Shields meant it to be read even though the husband’s story was written and published first.

In the first 50 pages I couldn’t tell if I liked Mrs. Brenda Bowman. She seemed too persnickety to me. Too particular. Too fussy. I am prone to comparing characters to myself, especially if we have something in common like upbringing, hobbies, schooling, age, or certain circumstance. In Brenda’s case, it was age. We are almost the same age. So, by default her actions made me seem fuddy-duddy. I don’t act that old, do I? Her husband seemed more laid back in an odd, disconnected kind of way. Together, they made up a marriage that needed some waking up, some simultaneous letting go. Both husband and wife had the opportunity to cheat on the other. I don’t think it’s a plot spoiler if I say the wife comes closer to doing so than the husband, even though the husband has a better excuse.

The most honest line in the whole book, “You could become crippled by this kind of rage” (p 49). How true.

What I liked the best about Happenstance is the idea of two sides of the same marriage. Both husband and wife notice small things while separated: Brenda notices small accomplishments like going out of town by herself. Jack notices small changes in the family he has practically taken for granted.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Carol Shields: Too  Good To Miss” (p 197). I have to say I am sad that breast cancer took the life of this great author.


June ’10 is…

June is a weird month for me. I might have a Monhegan plan. I’m not sure. The one thing I know about June is that there will be music. Plenty of music and books. As two constants in my life, I doubt anyone is honestly surprised by that remark. Music and books. For music it is the lovely Rebecca Correia at the Iron Horse in Northampton. June 11, 2010 at 7pm. That same weekend it is the eternally talented Sean Rowe at the DreamAway Lodge in Beckett. June 13, 2010 at 8pm…I think. There is Phish somewhere in there as well…I know, don’t say it.

For books it is:

  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brien ~ in honor of National Ocean month
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen ~ in honor of Adventure fiction month
  • Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron ~ in honor of Virginia becoming a state in June
  • Happenstance by Carol Shields ~ in honor of June being the most popular month to get married in…
  • Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World by Carol Brightman ~ in honor of Mary McCarthy’s birth month.

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:

  • The House on Oyster Creek by Heidi Jon Schmidt

For the fun of it:

  • Master of Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels

Nothing Right

Nelson, Antonya. Nothing Right: short stories. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Antonya Nelson’s humor comes at you in a slow and subtle way, almost like a Mona Lisa sly smirk. The entire collection of short stories is what a peepshow is to an adolescent boy; the reader is allowed in the living rooms and lives of the characters for only so long before the curtain is dropped and the scene goes dark. Nothing Right leaves you wanting more and always asking, “what happened next?” The perfect hook for a sequel. The one drawback to leaving so much to the imagination? The characters didn’t stay long enough for me to truly garner an interest in them personally. I wanted to know what happened next in terms of plot but not character. All of the stories circle around family dynamics; the good, the bad and most certainly, the ugly.

  • “Nothing Right” (title story) starts tongue-in-cheek although the reader is yet to see the irony. Hannah stares at brochures about taking care of babies while her own baby, 15 year old trouble-maker Leo, sees the district attorney  about a bomb threat he made at school. Hannah’s troubles only deepen when Leo goes on to father a child…
  • “Party of One” is a rather bizarre story about a woman trying to convince a married man to end his affair…with her sister.
  • “Obo” bothered me the most. I didn’t understand Abby at all. A pathological liar, she convinces her professor to take her to his wife’s family home for Christmas; all because she has fallen in love with the professor’s wife.
  • “Falsetto” – Michelle tries to cope with her parents’s devastating car accident while caring for her much younger brother and simultaneously re-evaluating her perfect relationship with her boyfriend.
  • “Kansas” is about a family’s drama when 17 year-old niece Kay-Kay disappears with her three year-old cousin.
  • “Biodegradable” is about a married woman who has an affair with a scientist.
  • “DWI” is about a married woman who loses her lover in a drunk-driving accident.
  • “Shauntrelle” is about a married woman who admits to an affair thinking her lover will be happy with taking her in. She is wrong and loses both men.
  • “Or Else” is about a man who misses the life he had with his childhood friend’s family so much that he pretends he is still part of their lives.
  • “We and They” is about a family in competition with their neighbors until they adopt a child who sides with the enemy.
  • People People” is about two sisters who couldn’t be any more different from one another.

Then Came the Evening

Hart, Brian. Then Came the Evening. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009.

At first glance I was afraid of this book. The description sounded devastating: Bandy Dorner returns from Vietnam to find his home burned to the ground, his wife having an affair and somehow he is responsible for killing a cop…Yikes.

I took a long time to read Then Came the Evening. I found myself savoring passages, rereading pages. Brian Hart has a way with words and the sentences he forms with them are devastating. In a word Then Came the Evening is grim. It is lips pressed together on the face of reality. It is looking for truth in a shattered mirror. Bandy, once a loser, is always a loser whether he tries to be or not. While his wife, Iona, and son, Tracy, come back  to him, they returned to him broken and ruined. His wife is no longer his wife and his son was never his son. History ties Iona to Bandy and haunts their future. DNA ties Tracy to Bandy and forces a relationship. In the struggle to make sense of their life together Bandy, Iona and Tracy never completely trust one another. They dance around old feelings and new guilt. Their future together looks gray and foreboding. Even the landscape is sullen and unsatisfying.

There was only one instance that bothered me. Bandy and his son are watching television, trying to have a conversation beyond talking about the weather. This is their first night together and are talking about their health problems and physical limitations. Tracy asks Bandy, “What about you? The last time I saw you, you were a beast.” (p 120) What last time? Does he mean he’s seen pictures of his father when he was healthy? When Iona left with her lover she was pregnant. Bandy didn’t even know he had a son until Tracy was 18 years old. When, exactly, was the last time Tracy saw his father?

Edited to add: Someone pointed out to me Tracy saw his father in prison (thanks for catching that). Here’s what bothers me now – why was that scene so forgettable? Why didn’t I remember it? Was it because it made me uncomfortable?


If No One Ever Marries Me

weddingday
My faith in marriage has been rocked. Everything I believed in previously is a myth, a lie, a mirage set up to hurt and disappoint and destroy.

What do you do when you marry with the understanding, the trust that what you are doing is forever and suddenly you find out it has been one big, humongous lie? The house with the heavy mortgage is really built out of cards, not love. Suddenly there is a big bad wolf at your door ready to huff and puff and steal your happiness away. Your 9-5 to support your loved ones was a waste of time. Working hard for the failing.

They say hurtful things like I Never Loved You. I Used You. I Have Been Waiting For Someone Else. Someone Else. All This Time. Ten Years Means Nothing To Me. I Will Get The Kids And The House. Mine. All Mine. Head spinning. Heart in a tailspin. Is there any way to pull out of this freefall? Is there a way to snap out of this stunned disbelief and wake from the nightmare?

Friends shake their heads in shock. Didn’t see this coming we all mutter. Who sides with whom? Rumors of the evil kind circulate among the unkind. Cocaine. Cheating. The accusations are so outrageous how could anyone not see it coming? It’s just right there if you know where to look.

Kisa and I look at each other differently. That thing we argued about yesterday seems so petty today. We tiptoe around our relationship like it is a sleeping child. What we once considered a rock is now a wispy, translucent spider’s web. What we once took for granted is back in consideration. We are considerate. Nothing lasts forever.
There was a reason I stood behind my veil and shook like a leaf. There was a reason why I kept him waiting at the alter. Kept him waiting, but didn’t leave him. I waited for the nerves to calm, the strength of love to flood my veins. In light of recent developments I can’t help but be reminded of that day I almost said I don’t.

We say no one saw this coming. Doesn’t matter. We are all in still in shock.
Or are we?