Sunday 29 October 2023

Short post on a busy weekend...

It’s been a hectic weekend and now it’s Sunday night, it’s dark, I’m feeling sleepy, and I have a kitty crashed out on my shoulder, purring in my ear, so this will be a short post.

I wish I had more time and energy to write this week, as I read a  eally wonderful novel last week, Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.  I have read other books by this author, Bel Canto  and State of Wonder, which were also wonderful, and this one definitely lived up to my expectations.  During her brief stint as an actress, Lara Kenison had an even briefer relationship with up-and-coming TV and film star Peter Duke, but she’s been happily married and living on a farm with a cherry orchard for the past three decades.  During the first summer of COVID, her three daughters, one a veterinarian-in-training, one an aspiring actress, and one who will someday take over the farm, return to the farm to help pick cherries and to hear about the romance between their mother and Duke, whom they all loved watching on TV growing up.  The main settings for this novel are present-day and the summer spent at Tom Lake, where a small but well-known summer stock theatre troupe are rehearsing “Our Town” and other plays, and where Lara meets Duke.  What follows is an exploration into youth and love, aspiration and chance, luck and the power to control the direction your life will take, all told in the context of a time of unprecedented restrictions due to the pandemic and lockdowns.  Patchett lays out for us the pros and cons of the pandemic:  on the one hand, farms suffered due to limited migrant workers, actors suffered due to the inability to work on films and shows, students suffered due to college closures as well as limited jobs for recent grads;  on the other hand, some families grew closer and regained or strengthened ties since there was so much forced togetherness.  This reader felt like she was taking a break from cherry picking or working out in the fields with these women as the story of Lara’s summer at Tom Lake unfolded, and I regretted getting to the last page, as these are some characters I won’t easily forget. I especially liked one of he passages near the end of the book, when Lara, after considering how you can have hope at a time like this (ie COVID), says something about how loneliness and despair and joy and sunshine are all equally real and important and can exist alongside one another - she put it much better than this, but it’s a sentiment that will stay with me and help me get through tough or desperate times. It felt a bit like I was watching a play, not just reading a book. It’s a fabulous novel that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys domestic fiction. That's all for tonight. Stay warm and keep reading! Bye for now... Julie

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