I wake up at 3:30am, wide wide awake like it’s noon and the sun is shining on my face. At first I try to go back to sleep but then I watch all three episodes of Girls from this season and remember why I love it. I look for a new show of Shameless, but no, not yet.
At 5am I turn towards the next book on my pile. I was about to start a different book, one I’d seen in stores and heard of; one that my daughter proclaimed she’d read and loved. But I make a last minute switch in the line up. My last two books had been translated from French and taken me through the world. I wasn’t ready to settle back into English and America, so I chose the book translated from Japanese.
The author catches my attention with the opening paragraph like a bell ringing at a tea ceremony. I fall mesmerized into story after story of love, loss, and horror and haunting. It’s sooooo good.
This book is not an easy read. Every name was a challenge to remember, every place a new point in the universe that recalled nothing familiar in my world. If I thought I’d be taking a rigorous exam on this book there is no way I could have finished it in less than three days.
Many years ago – seriously, I might have been in elementary school – I saw a show on speed-reading that said if you could hear your own voice narrating the words in your head you are reading too slowly. So instead of pronouncing crazy places in exotic books, I just see them as a symbol, remember them and move to the next paragraph.
About halfway through the book my eyes burn and I get a great idea. Any other day I’d have to be getting the kids up, running in circles for hours. Today I have a choice, and I choose to pull a thick comforter over my head and fall into a dreamless sleep.
My son wakes me up with a loud MOM! in my face. I get the impression he had set off on a hunt for me and that moment was the end of his game. He won, I lost. Yay.
I make myself a bagel and coffee (and nothing for him because he woke me up, thank you very much) and fall back into Book #12.
Each chapter holds my attention then fades into gray like an episode of Twilight Zone. Every story on its own is perfect and enough, but strung together they hold me breathless.
I race towards the end to see how the author strings together people across times and lives, pulling them together like a drawstring.
It turns out this isn’t THAT kind of book. There is no moment where it comes together. This isn’t Cloud Atlas or Forrest Gump or anything that simple.
The last spooky amazing smart cool ghost story ends simply and as I finish I realize the entire book feels like one big Zen koan story. This author wrote for a smart, creative and reflective audience, one that lets stories grow in their imaginations like bamboo.