Thursday, January 23, 2014

32 Books My College Students Assigned Me: Chapter 10: Book #8 - Grief, Mercy, Joy

I bring a stack of four books to my Tuesday/Thursday afternoon class. I see this class so much less than I see my MWF classes, so I try harder to connect with them.

After getting the first slide up so everyone can copy what they need to copy before lecture, I read the books out to the class.

A bunch of students who appear to be intelligent, warm and good people tell me to read a certain book. No one comments on the other 3. I take that as a sign and dive into Book #8 while waiting in my first round of carpickup at the elementary school.

I spend more time dropping kids off and picking kids up than I do actually teaching college, and I know this part of my life is passing, so I try to make the most of it.

The cover doesn't look like a book I'd buy.
From the Title, I'm expecting a teenage slasher book, where people go somewhere and then someone murders them all.

I quickly find out from the tone and the topic how wrong I am.

I'm transfixed. The author pulls me in page by page. I barely make dinner, barely notice my kids.

This book is amazing. It grabs you at the beginning, puts its arm around you, and walks you down a steep narrow path of pain, grief, forgiveness, mercy and joy.

I cried my way through the last chapters, but it was a different cry than the other books.

This isn't a romantic love story; it's a love story for anyone who has faced tragedy and lived with overwhelming sadness and hoped for some sort of sign, some sort of redemption.

When the book ends I stayed still on the sofa and stared at the ceiling, absorbing every bit of the lesson this books teaches. 

If I could, I would wait another week, another month before reading another book. This book is so good it needs to be savored and processed.

This is the kind of book you read, talk about, pass on, and then buy 10 copies of so you can give it as gifts to people who just know will read this story and find peace. 

It's exhausting and exhilarating and the view from the end of the book feels like standing on the top of a mountain on a clear warm night and staring at the Milky Way.

The next day I go to my MWF classes and ask who has read Book 8.  Several students raise their hands then look at me like they can't believe I read it and loved it.

I tell them I agree and that I'd like to wait awhile before reading another book BUT I hear Book #9 is soooo good, so I think I'm going to just keep reading.

A student raises his hand in the back. 

It's before lecture, so raising hands isn't needed, but I appreciate his formality.

HOW are you reading all these books this quickly?

I smile. 100 pages an hour means a 400 page book in 4 hours. And I told myself if I hate a book I'd put it down, but every book I've been assigned has been so good, I feel like this is Christmas and my Birthday and I'm tearing through a pile of the most thoughtful precious gifts ever.

He's happy with my answer.

We go on to liberate Panama from Columbia, negotiate and build the Panama Canal and pay canalimony.

After class I go to my office and read a few pages of Book #9. The author is so shockingly irreverently funny I can't help but laugh so loudly a colleague comes to my door to see what's going on and if I'm OK.

I'm Ok. I'm OK. I read her the passage where the author says his mom was crazy, but not "paint the kitchen red" crazy; his mom was "make toothpaste sandwiches and believed she was God" crazy.

Satisfied I'm not losing my mind, she goes off to class and off to her world, but I spend the rest of my day peeking into the candid colorful world of Book #9.