On this long Easter weekend, I am looking forward to enjoying some good weather, a good family visit, and some quality reading time. Right now, as I sip my cup of chai tea, I have a couple of books I want to tell you about. Also, Julie’s Reading Corner is 3 years old this weekend – Happy Birthday!!
I finished reading The Ever After of Ashwin Rao earlier this week, and I felt that the ending somewhat redeemed the otherwise wandering, rather directionless narrative and story. If you recall, the main character of this novel is Ashwin Rao, an Indian-Canadian therapist who, nearly twenty years after the Air India bombings, returns to Canada to interview some of the relatives and friends of the victims who died in the crash that killed 329 people. Using his Narrative Therapy approach, Rao intends to tell the stories of the ways in which these people coped with their loss and to write a book, with the intention of possibly helping others cope with similar loss. When he becomes close to one family and set of friends in particular, he identifies with them in various ways, and learns to deal with his own loss. I really wanted to love this book, but felt it wandered off-topic too often, and the inclusion of too many historical and political details seemed to derail the direction of the story. I’m glad I read to the end, though, as the last couple of chapters really focused on the plots and characters I was most interested in, and brought the story to a satisfying conclusion. I would say it was a worthwhile read, but any potential reader should be warned that patience is required to get through this book.
Then I picked up Ray Robertson’s novel, I Was There The Night He Died, which I read for several reasons. First, it is a book I will review for the local paper. It is also a book we may consider for the committee I’m on. And the author’s hometown in Chatham, Ontario, where the book is set – this is also my hometown, so I was curious to read what he has to say about it. This book is told from the point of view of Sam Samson, a novelist who lives in Toronto but who returns to Chatham to help out his father, who is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. Sam has recently experienced the loss of his wife and dog, and seems to be stuck at a particular stage in the grieving process. He meets Samantha, the teenage girl who lives across the street, with whom he regularly shares a joint in the park. This, and their late-night conversations, including the discussion of the dead musicians about whom Sam is writing, seems to help them both deal with loss and loneliness, and gives them the courage to face their lives and endure whatever will come next. This novel is about middle age and returning to a hometown you thought you left behind long ago, about coming to terms with who you are, and about finally accepting it and moving on. Robertson’s depiction of Chatham is spot-on, a place where nothing much ever changes, but where you can always feel at home. In this simple story told in a straight-forward style, there were, as times, moments of insight that came as a surprise to this reader. Like when he writes, near the beginning of the book, “Poetry isn’t big words saying not all that much… Poetry is a magnifying glass that makes the stuff that makes up the world come closer so that the reader can see it better and know it better and live it better. Even the bad stuff. Maybe even especially the bad stuff.” Perhaps because most of the novel is written in a simplistic style, these moments of insight are so significant and memorable. I’m biased about this book, since every location and event he writes about or describes, I can picture, because I grew up there at about the same time as the author. I also lived in Toronto around the same time, so reading about his experiences was almost like reading about my own experiences, which was pretty strange, but fascinating, too. Not great literature, and not sure how much a reader would enjoy this novel if not familiar with the town, but I thought it was a worthwhile read if only for the journey Sam makes throughout the novel until he reaches his destination in the end. It was a bit like being in a 223-page Country song, where you lose the farm, you lose your wife, you lose your dog, but somehow you just keep going.
Not sure what I will read next, but I have a few books to choose from. I will wait to see what kind of mood I’m in later today, but for now, I think it’s time to get outside and enjoy the overcast, but relatively mild, day. Happy Easter everyone!
Bye for now…
PS If anyone noticed something different about the format of last week's post, sorry about that. I had some technical difficulties, so did the best I could to make it readable without having to rewrite the whole entry. I think I've got everything resolved for this week.