Unsheltered View

I read a lot, all kinds of books.

I haven’t read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I learned about the book from one of those “lists” that proliferate this time of year: books most checked out in the Public Library.

Any library is my good friend. I’m rarely in my public library for more than a few minutes. I pick up my books that are “on hold’ and maybe glance at the “fast reads” that, along with self checkout, are just steps inside my local branch.  My city also has over 300 “little libraries” that are homemade book exchange boxes in front of homes, schools and businesses. We have two on our block.

Linkleas Avenue Little Library

I recently picked up the well-read title, Educated,(that i’ve avoided for years) and award winning 419 by Will Ferguson (yes, brilliant) from the little library nearest me.

Okay, back to not reading The Midnight Library.  I overlooked the sci-fi/fantasy genre label as I read this hook:

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever.  Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.  To see how things would be if you had made other choices…  

Why do I read so much? It is more than to live another life through the story—real or imagined or the fine line in-between. I read because other peoples’ words and experiences name a little tiny bit of the mystery of my life.

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, the integrated and parallel tale of two eras. It’s not unusual for me to fall in love with a book like this, but what was it exactly?

More than writing.  Barbara Kingsolver has a gift, not only with words, but in her ability to express things I cannot or do not easily name, not just with words, but with nuances of relationship between husband and wives, between adult children and parents, between mother’s and daughters, and between me and worry and the security of “home.”  In this novel, she subtly unfolds belonging I desire but can’t easily express.

The way the protagonist Willa sees her children, now adults, somehow made me see through the puzzlement of my own experience.  Willa’s sense of them evolving—the illusion of her son Zeek from childhood as accomplished and driven and her seemingly wild and untethered daughter Tig.

Touch your own mystery in this conversation between Willa and Tig, mirrored in what Mary Treat told her neighbour, Thatcher.

[Willa] “My mother used to say when God slams a door on you, he opens a window.”

Tig gave this two seconds of respectful consideration before rejecting it.  “No, that’s not the same.  I’m saying when God slams a door on you it’s probably a shitstorm.  You’re going to end up in rubble.  But it’s okay because without all that crap overhead, you’re standing in the daylight.”

 “Without a roof over your head, it kind of feels like you might die.”

“Yeah, but you might not.  For sure you won’t find your way out of the mess if you keep picking up bricks and stuffing them in your pockets.  What you have to do is look for blue sky.”

Along side this conversation is Mrs. Treat’s wisdom: 

“Without shelter, we stand in daylight.”

Either way, I figure, I have to look for the light in the blue sky and let go of my own bricks.

Oh, and I put The Midnight Library on hold at the Greater Victoria Public Library, Oak Bay Branch.  I’m 84th on the list but there are 42 copies—evidence that I made a compelling choice, but I will see in a few months—unless a copy shows up in one of the little libraries I might pass.

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