Friday, September 07, 2007

Okay, so I'm back a little bit and this summer reading project has just become a really good way to track, remember and reflect a bit on what I'm reading. I don't exactly spend hours crafting these posts but they are really just for me anyway. I sometimes read so quickly that I don't take a lot of time to reflect on what I've read, how its made me feel, what topics it has triggered in my own life and how I relate to the characters in the books. These are all really important reasons that keep me reading. I like to be able to relate in some way to the characters or people in the books I read, I also enjoy escapism reading but more so I enjoy reading books that allow me to understand different people, how they think, feel, react, live their lives, and in doing so it allows me to look at my own life, past, present and future choices and experiences. On that note I devoured two books yesterday while I was home sick, between sleeping the afternoon away and trying to fall asleep with my stuffy nose and scratchy throat last night, I read Where and When by Anita Shreve and Jesusland by Julia Scheeres. They were both really great reads for very different reasons. Where and When is a fairly short novel about two teenagers who fall in love over a week spent at a summer camp in Rhode Island. The book is set in the 1990's with now 45 year old lovers finding each other after spending 31 years apart, and rediscovering a love that they thought had faded back when their week at camp ended in the summer of 1963. The two reconnect and discover a passion and desire that they did not expect. Both are married with children, married to people that they may or may not love, and certainly don't feel a strong passion for. I'm torn by this book. I'm the kind of person who has never cheated on a partner, could not conceive of cheating and would be hard pressed to forgive someone who cheated on me. So while I hate the fact that these two lovers are commiting adultery together, the compelling love story, the exquisite and detailed writing, and the dramatic ending really made this a good read all around. It also made me really grateful for my happy, passionate, fulfilling marriage!

Jesusland, the other book I read yesterday, was a memoir by a woman who grew up in an extremely religious Calvinist family. Julia was the youngest of four children growing up in 1970's, when her fanatical mother and father, father a surgeon and mother a nurse, decide to adopt a three year old little boy, her same age. And in the racist backwoods Indiana countryside where they live, this little African American child, David, and his white "twin" sister are faced with some nasty bigotry and prejudice. If this were the only drama in their lives that would be plenty. But the family adopts another little African American boy, this time an older child, 7 years old. And Jerome, with a serious history of being bounced from foster home to foster home, is a troubled little boy, by turns cruel and loveable, dangerous and sympathetic. And things get worse. Julia is molested by Jerome during her early teens, Jerome runs away, mom and dad severely beat both boys, breaking an arm and scarring their backs with welt marks from a belt. And David, reacting to the abuse at home, the bigotry and nastiness of high school and the constant chaos that reigns over their home, tries to kill himself. So he gets shipped off to a religious reform school in the Dominican Republic. Julie soon follows if only to keep her brother company and keep the good part of her family together. Over a year spent at the brutal, dangerous and incredibly strict boot camp, the kids survive, make it out and start their lives as adults. This book is excellent. The writing style is so blunt and open that you almost can't believe its a true story. The abuse and harsh treatment that the children suffer is startling and disturbing. Their parents have so little healthly interest in the children on a daily basis that I felt sick to my stomach. So quick to ship them off and so quick to cut them out when something isn't perfect. They are cheap, nasty, selfish abusive people, but somehow they made these wonderful kids, in spite of themselves. I highly recommend this book.

Back to work for me, I could write about this one all day. For some reason I am really drawn to stories about crazy families and children who find a way to dig themselves out of the muck of their parent's home and make their own healthy and satisfying lives. I wonder why that is?