It’s been lovely and cool these past few days, after several sticky humid “end-of-summer” days last week, and I think that most people are feeling refreshed by the change in weather. I know I certainly am, and am looking forward to a long walk later today. But first I have a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea (I didn’t even know I had this type of tea in my cupboard, as I don’t really like Earl Grey!) and a huge bowl of local fruit as a morning treat while I write this post.
My book club met yesterday to discuss Ruth Ozeki’s book, The Book of Form and Emptiness. I mentioned this book a couple of weeks ago, and commented that I was finding it too long, and that was the consensus of all my book club members. This book, which is narrated by the book, tells the story of thirteen-year-old Benny Oh and his mother Annabelle, who are struggling to cope with the loss of husband and father Benji, an Asian jazz musician who, on the way home from a gig one night, was run over and killed by a truck full of live chickens in the alley outside of their house. They are mired in grief, and can’t seem to get out of it. They cope in different ways: Annabelle hoards while Benny begins to hear voices, something that began when he watched his father’s casket go into the furnace of the crematorium. They have no connections outside of their own small family unit, which is breaking down as Annabelle tries to smother Benny and Benny runs at every attempt. What follows is an exploration into the daily lives of these characters as they spiral gradually out of control to a point of near-collapse. Who will intervene, in what ways, and how will it help? These questions and more are answered in this thought-provoking, heart-wrenchingly sad, yet ultimately uplifting book about social connections, creativity, grief, loss, and letting go. The first member of my book club hadn’t had a chance to finish it before the meeting, but her comment was that there were “so many words”! I agreed wholeheartedly. For a book where a major theme is decluttering and letting go of things, this book was certainly full to bursting with words. I think it could have used a bit of decluttering, but that’s just my opinion (and the opinion of my whole group). Here are some of the other comments my group members made: The book was about having too much information and not knowing what to do with it. We discussed Benny’s voices, where they came from, whether they were signs of mental illness or just a coping mechanism, were they from inside Benny or from outside, or if the source of Benny’s voices were his dad. Another member was struck by the deep sadness in this book, which was steeped in loss and loneliness. Someone said that there was so much chaos, which may have been a manifestation of Annabelle’s feelings. There was frustration because there seemed to be no discernable plot, that it just “lurched from thing to thing to thing", or that it just followed Annabelle and Benny from day to day to day. We found it rather challenging to figure out the timing of the story, and over what period of time it took place. We felt that the wrap-up was too quick and that the resolution was too neat, but I think our main criticism was that the book just took too long to get going and that there was just too much “stuff” in between all the important bits. Still, overall, I think everyone was happy to have read it, and for those who didn’t have a chance to finish, I think they plan to do so (since they heard that there is actually a story and resolution at the end!).
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the cooler weather!Bye for now…