Last week, I posted about my #abookaweekforlent personal Lenten discipline/project. This week, I am going to share with you about the first book that I read for it. Because of the lag time in the posts (the introductory post coming about during the first full week of Lent, which is actually the week that I read the second book), posts will come about two weeks after the week I read a book. So, the first book, which I read the week of Ash Wednesday, is being posted during the second full week of Lent. Clear as mud?
The main reason for this lag is that it gives me a little bit of time after I read a book to digest it and think about my reaction to it and develop more fully some thoughts about it.
So, here we go.
I picked this book up on a whim, actually, one evening as LittleMan and I were drifting aimlessly through the aisles of Target. There it sat on the shelf and, as much as they say that you can't judge a book by it's cover, the reality is that sometimes you buy a book just based off of the cover. And the cover drew me in.
I took it home, and it sat for a few days, until, one evening, as I sat near LittleMan's bed as he drifted off to sleep, I started to read.
And, from the beginning, the story drew me in as much as the cover had. The book is told in two stories, the story of what happened in the house in the 1890's, and the story of what is happening in the house in the current day. It is also told from the perspective of a number of different characters, which the author does quick successfully.
There's a few places where the author I think lost a few great opportunities to expand the narrative, trim the narrative, or a make a character more sympathetic. There's also a character who gets dropped out of the conclusion entirely, leading me to wonder where he went...as I had fully expected him to return to the house shortly, and his arrival would have changed the course of the story significantly.
All that said, though...those are minor nitpicks. Because the real gift of this story is the underlying narrative of dealing with grief, and the lengths that people will go to in order to avoid losing a beloved person (particularly a child). It also delves deeply in the affect that grief has on us, our physical, mental, and emotional state, and how it can mess with our entire sense of reality, morality, and self.
Of course, I can't give away too much without giving up the whole plot of the novel, but I think that the very concept is thought provoking and worthy of a bit more reflection and thought....particularly the idea of how far we are willing to go to avoid dealing with loss and grief.
I am particularly intrigued by this aspect of the book because I believe that grief and loss is something that we, in our culture today, do not deal with very well. We have distanced ourselves from death quite significantly, and, in many ways, we have sanitized death to the point that it seems unreal. We do everything within our power to put off death, often to the point where I question if it is more about avoiding the loss than giving the person life.
Children, in particular, are not exposed to death, or often even illness, so that the first time that they end up attending a funeral, often as an adult, they don't know what to do or how to react.
The goal of living forever has become the ideal (or perhaps always has been), but we don't think about the cost of immortality.
I think that, as hard as it is to lose someone (and trust me, I have experienced great personal loss in my own life), grief is compounded by our cultural avoidance of it...and, as a result, the pain and the emotional cost is growing.
On the other hand, if we were able to work towards a healthier sense and understanding of death, dying, and what we believe and understand about it all...well, I think that it would lead us to, in general, a healthier grieving process and, overall, a healthier and happier outlook on our own lives.
What do you think?
Warning: This book does have paranormal themes and has a bit of violence, some involving children. Also, it describes the death of children. It's an important plot point, which the novel hinges on, but if it's something that acutely bothers you, you might want to give the book a pass.
***crossposted at pastor's musings over at shpcrocks.org