Books

Breaking Dawn

I read Breaking Dawn with the same crazed obsession as I read the first three Twilight novels. It was just painful to put it down. And I apologize again to my book club ladies, but there's no way I'm waiting another three weeks to post this. You can string me up by my toes if you want. Better yet, find Edward or Jacob to do it for you.

I have to hand it to Stephenie Meyer, it wasn't at all what I expected. I could just see the wedding and transformation being drawn out through the entire book, maybe not happening at all. I wasn't sure she'd really turn Bella into a vampire ever. The transformation did have to be a life or death situation. I just couldn't see Edward turning her any other way. But a baby! Yeah, didn't see that one coming. Not that there's never been a plot line where a vampire had a baby before. They did that on Buffy years ago. There it was more an issue of vampires not being able to have babies because they didn't have souls, and Angel being the exception to that, actually managed to procreate. Here, it's more an issue of vampires being physically unchanging, so a female vampire could never carry a child, and it never seemed to occur to anyone that a male vampire could get a human pregnant. More than likely, the woman would die in the process even if it were attempted. And it does pretty much kill Bella, Edward just transforms her to save her. Surprise! A half-human, half-vampire child, very interesting. I certainly hope we get to find out more about Nessie. I love that Jacob nicknamed her after the Lock Ness Monster. Too freaking funny. I just love Jacob. How can you not? Even Edward loves him. In the narration, it's his head I enjoy being in more than anyone else's.

I'm not at all disappointed that Bella ends up with Edward. I did rather expect that, despite my fervent hope for Jacob. There's just been so much demanded of Jacob, and he's gotten so little in return for it. I couldn't help but root for him. There could be no Bella and Edward without Jacob. He's been to their rescue so many times and in so many ways - protecting Bella when Edward left, fighting with the vampires to save Bella, breaking with his pack and refusing to kill Bella when she becomes pregnant, agreeing to let Bella be turned without it violating the treaty, keeping watch around the house though it pained him to be there, helping Edward keep Bella alive through the birth when there was no one else there to help. He's done everything Bella and Edward have asked of him, even though it was tearing his heart out to do it. It just didn't seem fair. No friend should have that much demanded of him. But somehow that all seems to even out a bit when Jacob imprints on Nessie. Don't know about you, but that surprised the hell out of me. First, the pregnancy was a surprise, then the whole gestational process only took a month, and Bella was expecting a boy, and the child's half-vampire and Jacob wants it dead for killing Bella. Jacob, Bella's son-in-law? Nope, just didn't see it coming, though perhaps I should have after Jacob's conversation with Quill about the two-year-old he imprinted on. Somehow it just seems fitting, in a really bizarre way. And, yes, I do see the whole Midsummer Night's Dream correlation. Who's running around the forest in love with who again? Let's sprinkle some magic fairy dust and see what happens.

It's nice to see Bella finally strong too. She's no longer the accident prone, weak human. She's physically stronger, her powers dwarf just about all others, and there's little feminists could criticize her for at this point. Edward is no longer a controlling, dominating male in her life. Now she's his equal. In fact, he's more in need of her protection than she is of his. Reminds me of the end of Pretty Woman when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts what happens after the prince climbs the tower and rescues the princess, and she tells him the princess rescues him right back. Bella may have had to become a vampire to do it, but she's no longer weak and in need of protection. And it doesn't seem she's had to give much up in the process. She has Edward and Jacob, her daughter, her father - everything she's been dreaming of and even some things she didn't even know she wanted. She makes it seem possible that a girl can have everything, in a completely fictional vampire/shape-shifter/half-ling sort of way.

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Eclipse

Eclipse manages to boil itself down to one question - Edward or Jacob?

Now, I love Edward. At the end of Twilight, I was all Edward's. But then he left, and New Moon was all about Jacob trying to help Bella put the pieces of herself back together, and I wasn't so sure about Edward any more. He left because he thought it was best for her. He says that he was a mess without her and never thought she'd have so much trouble moving on. I believe that, but he also opened the door for Jacob. I quite agree with Jacob - in a normal world, without Edward, vampires and werewolves - Jacob and Bella would be together. As it is, Edward is there, and for Bella, there doesn't seem to be much of a choice. She knows now that she does love Jacob, but there's not even a contest in her mind. Edward is her life.

The metaphors for Edward and Jacob, the contrasting representations and character traits are interesting. Edward is the moon - cold, dark, mysterious, brooding, calculating. Jacob is the sun - hot, happy, energetic, passionate. Edward is experienced, wise, self-controlled, refined, and rich. Jacob is young, rash, innocent, quick-tempered and poor. Edward is almost omniscient, being able to read everyone's mind except Bella's. Jacob is all-known, his mind being read by Edward and his fellow werewolves. Edward knows what everyone is thinking, he knows everyone's secrets but no one knows his. Jacob can keep nothing to himself, and has no choice but to be an open book. To choose Edward would be a life of immortality, beauty, and darkness, at the expense of her friends, family and humanity. To choose Jacob would be to embrace a life of family, friends, light and humanity, at the expense of losing Edward, whom she doesn't think she could live without.

As much as I love Edward, I think I'm on Team Jacob. I have terrible soft spot for underdogs, and I don't think Bella's ever given him a fair chance. He's wrong for forcing himself on her and kissing her without her permission, but he loves her and doesn't have much time to get her to change her mind. He's also young and impetuous. It's not so much that he has a character flaw as that he's desperate and immature. Jacob will grow into one incredible man.

It only stands to reason that in Breaking Dawn, Bella's going to have to make a choice. She thinks she's already made it, she and Edward are planning their wedding and her transformation, but it can't be over for Jacob already. I see a few potential roads this could take:

  1. Jacob imprints on someone else. I find this highly unlikely, since he only has eyes for Bella, and it would just make it too easy for everybody. I also wonder if he's already imprinted on her and is hiding it from her. We already know she's exempt for other supernatural forces, so maybe she wouldn't succumb to a werewolf's imprinting.
  2. Bella becomes a vampire. If all goes as planned and Bella marries Edward and becomes a vampire, then Jacob's going to have to give up. He'll probably still love her, but he's going to have to accept his defeat. I have to say, I don't see Bella becoming a vampire. Not sure why that is. I think she's just accepted it too quickly and wanted it too unquestioningly for it to be the path she takes.
  3. Jacob or Edward dies. This one makes sense to me. One of the two of them sacrificing their life for her. Though I'm not sure who wins in this scenario because the one who gets Bella will win by default, and probably never have her heart.
  4. Bella chooses Jacob. Edward's made it clear that the only way he's leaving is if Bella changes her mind, but if she were to choose Jacob, he'd let her go. He'd never love anyone else, but he'd let her go. I can't imagine what turn of events could cause her to choose Jacob over Edward at this point, but it seems more likely than her becoming a vampire.

I'd also like to point out that the title, Breaking Dawn, well, we're talking about the sun aren't we? And Jacob is her sun. Any other ideas?

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Addendum

I'm feeling a bit guilty about something. I made it sound, in my previous post, as if all the guys I dated before Blackstone were losers or leaches, and that's not true. I did date some very wonderful guys, but I always knew before the end of the first date that it was going nowhere. I imagine some women must not have quite the instinctive and unquestioning response to a person so quickly. I've heard girls/women speak of being confused, of not knowing whether to stay with a guy or break up, if they want to keep dating or not, maybe there's just not someone else on the horizon and they'd rather have the here-and-now guy rather than no guy. I've never been really able to understand that. I always knew almost immediately, and it was difficult to spend time with a guy once I knew we weren't suited for one another. And that is how I looked at it too. I wasn't looking for my true love or anything, but there was always this strong gut reaction I had to a guy that told me we didn't belong together. I also had no problem being without a man, and I know some women have trouble with that. I can't be so sure I'd be comfortable on my own now, it's been 15 years. But back then, I was all too prepared to spend my life single.

Anyway, I did date some truly great guys. Guys that I hope are happy and found someone special who appreciates them, because I was certainly not that someone. I wish I'd known how to convey that better at the time. I was great at ducking phone calls and making myself scarce until they got the point. There were also those few poor souls, that we're only too willing to let me torture them, even though they knew I was not interested in a serious relationship. I even brought Polly on a date with me once so I could avoid being alone with a guy. He was so sweet, I should have just told him I wasn't interested. Not exactly my finer moments in history.

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New Moon

Is there anything more romantic than star-crossed lovers? Apparently, not. As much as it does make a great love story, it's always bothered me too. Why do Romeo and Juliet have to die for it to be the greatest love story of all time? *Sigh* I know why. Because reading about their forbidden love fading from hot, sizzling tension and controversy to a slow-cooker, long term marriage just isn't that sexy. It's why I've never been a great fan of the genre of romance. It's almost always the beginning of the love story, because that's the most exciting part. It also the shortest part if you're lucky and you find a romance that lasts. Even The Notebook, which I loved and is about a romance that lasted a lifetime, is still mostly the story of the complicated beginning of love, fraught with parental disapproval and rivaling suitors.

Despite the fact that the Twilight series is about new and forbidden love, I still love it. Just as I love Romeo and Juliet. Young, forbidden love has to be done well to keep my interest, because it's been done before and will be done again. It only makes sense, really. When you fall in love for the first time (for me, the only time, hopefully) - it's something you never forget. It doesn't trouble me at all that Bella finds herself in love with a vampire or discovers that her best friend is a werewolf. I think I prefer my fiction way out there, because at that point I tend to stop trying to make things make sense and just accept the story. I find it much harder to accept that two men are so in love with her. Does that ever happen in real life? I can accept all the stupidity - believing all too easily that Edward simply doesn't want her all of the sudden, thinking that Jacob can just be her friend. Teenagers are stupid. But I've never known a girl or woman to have two men so intensely in love with her. Am I wrong or just sheltered? It makes a great story, a great fantasy, but I've yet to see it happen.

So Polly, the seemingly endless adolescent tension reminds you of me and Blackstone does it? It's not just me over-identifying with Bella, then. I'll indulge you.Those months of waiting seemed like years, I swear, and I really couldn't think of anything else, and it was all leading up to high school graduation.  Am I confusing myself with Bella again? Oh right, in my story there are no vampires, werewolves or competing suitors.

I'd never dated anyone like Blackstone before. I'd never met anyone like him before. I didn't really think that a person so genuinely kind, trusting and innocent existed in the world. Certainly not in the form of a seventeen-year-old boy. I utterly corrupted him. Had we known more about each other before we started dating, we would have run in opposing directions from each other. As it was, before we knew how much we had to disagree about, actually truly disliked about one another, we were completely gone for each other. And he had all of the characteristics I find completely seductive - tall and handsome (in that gawky teenage way at the time), musical, passionate, intelligent, great sense of humor, well-read and a good writer. I also found that despite how sweet he could be, he was completely willing to stand up to me when I asked for it. Being with him put me completely off my footing. I was accustomed to fighting off guys who seemed to have sprung more arms that genetically possible. What made me even more uncomfortable were the mooney-eyed boys who professed their love while I tried not to visibly cringe. I preferred the kind with tentacles. Blackstone was neither of those, and it proved quite an aphrodisiac. We dated a month or more without ever quantifying our relationship. It was already the longest I'd ever dated anyone. I usually lost interest before the second date, and once I'd lost interest I really didn't see the point. I'd rather not go out than spend the night with someone who bored me.

Within the span of weeks, I was ready to lose my virginity to him. I really didn't know why I'd held on to it that long. I suppose I could get all mushy and say I was waiting for the right person, that I wanted it to be special. Back then I wanted it to be fast and with someone I never had to see again. I knew the first time wasn't cut out to be all that pleasant. But maybe I had been lying to myself, I think that subconsciously I'm way more romantic than I want to know about. After two months of kissing and parking, I was about ready to jump out of my skin. I started wondering if he was saving himself for marriage or something. The reality was that he was too gentlemanly and afraid of scaring me off, and I had no idea how to be the aggressor other than shamelessly throwing myself at him which was getting me nowhere but hot and bothered. You can see how I identify with Bella just way too easily.

Anyway, Polly and Bookgirl got to witness all this first hand. And when I say I was about ready to impale myself on a fence post, I think they'd agree that's not much of an exaggeration. I would guess it would be at about the six week point, yes, we went out for Polly's birthday, right? Me, Polly, and another of our best friends, lets call her Necie. I didn't need any illustration of how sexually frustrated I was by then, but I wasn't aware that it was physically apparent in my behavior. I'm still not sure I believe Polly that people were actually staring at me. Necie never really confirmed or denied Polly's observation, from my recollection, but she's much more modest than we are. According to Polly, the way I was eating cheesecake was completely indecent and making a scene. If that's the truth, I was completely oblivious. I'm sure my mind was on something other than cheesecake, though. My sexual frustration was only irritated to a further frenzy when Polly and her new boyfriend (the one I introduced her to the night we went out for her birthday and she later married and divorced) started getting busy before we did.

In the end, it took me three months to get up the courage to just be vocally direct and ask him to make love to me. I considered using words much more vulgar than that, but I'm not sure he could have handled it at the time. I never really saw love and sex being related back then, truthfully I had thought love was completely a fictional notion to begin with, but surprisingly the two came hand in hand for me. All that waiting made for some good memories. I don't regret it, but boy do I feel Bella's torture. And I totally get the role reversal. It's amazingly painful when you're boyfriend has your best interests at heart but is mostly succeeding in driving you insane. I have no idea how people wait until they're married to have sex, not unless they marry in their teens. I also don't believe how I could possibly hit a sexual peak in my forties that was more intense than in my late teens.

I can also relate to Bella's despair in losing Edward, though what I went through was nothing as severe. Since we started dating at the end of our senior year, we had eight months of bliss before college. He was only two hours away, but when he left I had no idea when the next time I was going to see him again would be. And me, being the entirely practical person I am, expected him to be like any other college guy and forget all about me the moment he was surrounded by all the very close and available girls on campus. I mean, how many couples survive a four year long-distance relationship through college? Especially, one that ends up being five-and-half years while he goes to grad school. Compound that with the fact that almost every friend I had except two left the state at the same time and I got to stay behind - and I was a mess. I loved him, but I never expected we'd make it. The odds were over-whelmingly against us. But to my utter delight and surprise, his parents let him keep one of their cars so he could drive home on the weekends, and we spent almost every weekend together, at least the parts of it when I wasn't working.

Oh, and lets not leave out the part where my mother hated Blackstone. She actually thought he was a bad influence on me. Unlike Bella, I was a very good liar. They manage to tolerate each other now, not much unlike Charlie and Edward.

And now that I've been way too open and entirely too honest, I wonder what Blackstone will have to say about it. Of course, enough of our friends lived through it with us that it's no big secret. I'll have a while to wait to find out though, he's only made it up to May in my blog entries. How long do you think it will take him to catch up? Three months, give or take? Maybe I should go look for a nice fence post while I'm waiting.

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Twilight

The time of day between light and dark, metaphorically, the place between good and evil. Also an apt word for the time when phases/ages in our lives come to a close and we're facing the start of something new. A time of sadness, change, fear, hope and possibility.

I've always loved fiction, non-fiction tends to be a real chore for me. And I've always loved fantasy - I grew up on Stephen King, Anne Rice and Dean Koontz. I've read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think Ender's Game is one of the best books ever written, and I loved every second of the Harry Potter series. Needless to say, Twilight was right up my alley.

Fantasy does require that you suspend your disbelief. Whether you're reading about vampires, aliens, ghosts, witches, robots or time travel, before you can enjoy the story, you have to be willing to set aside your condemnation of all things impossible. That's where good writing comes into play. A good writer can draw you right into their fantasy world. They describe the setting and the characters, so vividly, that they seem real. They create a story that you can't put down, even though you know it's not real.

Reading fiction is obviously about escape. Escape from our day to day realities. It may be a love story, horror story, mystery or drama, but for whatever reason, it makes our pulse quicken and our minds empty of all mundane daily duties. I've always had a particular soft spot for vampire novels. I think it's something about the centuries of knowledge packed in an eternally youthful and unnaturally beautiful package. It's also about seduction, forbidden desires, and possession.

I remember reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien in college, which is a fictionalized account of the Vietnam War. Some of the stories in the book get quite gruesome and also quite absurd. One of the topics we discussed was why would someone want to write fiction about the war. True, autobiographical accounts of the war would be just as powerful, just as moving, wouldn't they? Maybe, but probably not. Sometimes fiction can reach us in way that reality cannot. While the author's stories may have been fiction, the horror, shock and revolt they evoked from their audience was real. O'Brien used fiction to make the readers experience true and honest emotions about a real war. Sometimes fiction is the only way to evoke a true response. This is what I want from my fiction. Stories that make me feel and respond powerfully.

Twilight certainly does this, and I don't appear to be the only one so taken with the series. While Twilight may be about forbidden love, even more strongly, to me, it's about first love, true love. Edward and Bella belong together. It brings me right back to age seventeen when Blackstone and I met. The experience of falling in love with him was no less powerful, no less magical, than the story of Edward and Bella. But if I were to attempt to tell you that story honestly, without any scenes added for dramatic effect, or any removed for detracting from the romance, the physical and emotional tension - would I be able to evoke the response I want? Would I be able to get you to feel the truth of the intensity? I doubt it. The romantic lead in my love story may not be a vampire, I may not have felt my pulse racing because I was putting myself in mortal danger to be so physically close to him, but it doesn't mean that my skin didn't feel like it was on fire when he touched me, or that kissing him goodnight, physically separating myself from him wasn't painful.

Stephanie Meyer has done such an incredible job of capturing the confusion, the fear, the desire, the completely overwhelming intensity that is young love. It's the kind of emotion you can't keep in a relationship, arguably a big reason why so many people divorce. Oh, you can still recapture that kind of passion once in a while, but it's not the all-encompassing drama it was in the beginning. It just can't be. Eventually, a sort of comfort and relaxation develops with a person, which is the way it should be. But we miss the excitement, the heat, the fear and hope, that Twilight brings back to us.

Thanks, Polly, for recommending it.

 

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Children's Book Recommendations

I've started compiling a list of Children's Book Recommendations, you'll see a link to it in the left column. I'm interested in getting some recommendations for myself. I know some of you have mentioned some titles and series to me that have slipped my mind. If you could email them to me with the title, author, and general age range, I'll add them to the list. I'm primarily interested in books for Grades 1-3 personally, but I'll add books for any age group.

Thank you for any suggestions!

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Jodi Picoult Might Be My Soul Mate

I love Jodi Picoult's books. I haven't read all of them. My Sister's Keeper brought me to tears. If you read it and it didn't bring you to tears, then you're a freak. Nineteen Minutes shook me to the very core. To read a story, even if it's fictional, about the horrors of a high school shooting told in such intimate detail, to really question what it would like to be the mother of the shooter - it kept me up nights. Because I worry about my kids fitting in, especially my oldest because he's so sensitive. Trouble is so open and trusting, going up to kids he's just met and asking them to be his friend. But other kids are not always so receptive to this sweet and innocent behavior. He's been rebuffed because he was too young, called a loser by his peers, had kids run aways from him on the playground. He has seemed to make some friends at school and to have found a place for himself. But I worry that he will be that kid. The one that's always teased, tripped, laughed at, pants-ed, humiliated. I think his wit and quick sense of humor will help him here. It's really no wonder that these so-ordained "misfits" sometimes snap and become violent. And to be married into a family that likes to hunt, and learning to shoot a shotgun is practically a right of passage, I practically needed valium to read Nineteen Minutes.

Our book club is currently reading Change of Heart, and we went to hear Jodi Picoult's reading on Friday. I haven't finished the book yet, but I am enjoying it. I have to admit though, after reading the first few chapters I was wondering how Stephen King hadn't sued her. There are so many parallels to The Green Mile. But the novel definitely takes off in its own direction as you go on. To hear her speak about her motivation for writing this novel was inspirational. To know there is someone out there who shares my disgust with the terrible bed-fellows politics and religion make, is encouraging. For a novel to showcase the way religion divides us, bringing so much hatred, anger and misunderstanding into this world - Amen. I sincerely hope she's reached a few of her readers, particularly those overly-pious Evangelicals.

Jodi also talked in great detail about her research regarding the death penalty and her experiences touring death rows in New Hampshire and Arizona. It is so interesting to know that none of the people she spoke to who work on death row, actually support the death penalty. They find in their daily jobs that justice is not being served by it. Somehow I had some mental picture in my mind that the guards and wardens working death row would be vigilant supporters of it, feeling somehow vindicated that they were keeping our society safe. I'm glad to know I'm wrong, at least by Jodi Picoult's accounts.

After listening to her speak, I feel I need to read all of her novels. She is such a knowledgeable, intelligent and compassionate woman. Her novels make you consider controversial subjects from the perspective of characters in crisis, who often are forced to make decisions they never thought themselves capable of making. Her novels force you to confront your own opinions and stereotypes, though Jodi is not using her novels to preach the answers and morality to her readers. Instead you're instigated to consider issues from varying perspectives and come to your own conclusions.

To listen to Ms. Picoult speak, I wish she could be my new best friend. I applaud her efforts in making people think outside of their little boxes. I can relate to her as a wife and mother, a person who is not willing to accept the status quo just because that's how it is. She is a person who looks at the problems today in America, and tries to find a way to discuss them intelligently, with respect and understanding. Because even though her novels may be fiction, they are based on a world that is all too real.

Not to mention she has great sense of humor.

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Love in the Time of Cholera

If you loved the English Patient, or are a big fan of Dickens, then Love in the Time of Cholera may be a book for you. For me, this is the kind of book I can appreciate, but I'm not sure I would go so far as to say I liked it. But even if you fall into this category, you might find the book offensive, because the content is more than a bit racy. The prose are beautiful, the description elaborate (hence the reference to Dickens, whose elaborate prose were at least partly monetarily induced since he was paid by the word), but the novel moves at the speed of molasses. I've never read a book that's content was so thoroughly mired in sex that put me to sleep quite so quickly. In our book club, we normally give ourselves about a month to read a book. This time we spent six weeks and I was the only one who finished it, and by finished it, I mean thirty minutes before the meeting.

The book does spark some interesting concepts. It made me truly appreciate being a woman in modern day America, where I can live as a free woman without having to be widowed. The novel follows the romance of Florentino and Fermina through their innocent adolescent courting, love letters, Fermina's rejection of Florentino and marriage to another man, Florentino's string of affairs with over  600 other women, the death of Fermina's husband, and their ultimate reunion in their seventies. It provides an interesting perspective on love, marriage and sex. Though, honestly, if love is what Fermina has with her husband or with Florentino, I find that terribly depressing. Perhaps it's her own fault though, because the woman seems intent on living her life in misery. Though maybe I should be looking at her in more historical terms and see her as the woman trapped in a patriarchal society where she has little control over her own destiny.

Fermina spends most of her married life angry and frustrated with her husband, Dr. Urbino. She is unsure of whether she loves him during her marriage, and also once he is dead. The novel begs the question of what is more important in a marriage, love or security, and if a marriage that provides security is not a marriage of love? But ultimately her faithful and devoted husband who adores her in his own way even if he does take her for granted, gives into temptation and has an affair with one of his patients. She, in her direct but subtle way, confronts him, and he ends the affair immediately. Even his affair is depressing. He's so consumed by guilt and hiding his actions, that his sexual encounters are focused on being accomplished in five minutes and he's so distressed about it that neither he nor his partner enjoys it. Yet, he's also unable to end it of his own accord.

I found Florentino a truly unlikable character. Some readers may pity him for pining away for Fermina all these years and using woman after woman to try to fill a void in his heart, but I have no pity for such a sexual pariah. Broken heart or no, his actions cannot be excused in my book. And while I know societal standards were different decades ago, and that we have statutory rape laws that didn't exist in his day, I can only look at him as the modern day woman I am, regretting he wasn't castrated by the novel's end. His encounters with the countless widows and prostitutes I do not have a problem with. But the married woman whose husband slits her throat after he discovers of her affair, that didn't seem right. The way he raped his maid, got her pregnant and then paid her off to blame it on someone else, also rather deplorable. The way he seduced the young adolescent girl in his care while he was in his sixties, carrying on with her for several years, then suddenly and without explanation, breaking it off and sending the girl into a spiraling depression that ends with her suicide, yeah the guy's a scum bag. A truly unlikely and unlikable romantic hero, spouting his poetry, undying love, and even professing his lifelong virginity to Fermina in the end.

I mentioned to Blackstone that it looked like none of us we're going to finish reading this book. He said, "Oh, you mean the one with the woman who needs to suck on a binky to get off?"

Yeah, that would be Love in the Time of Cholera.

If you have time to burn, are looking for a novel to put you to sleep at night, or want to expand your knowledge of sexually deviant behavior, this may be just the book you're looking for.

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I Could Skip the Eating and the Praying

It seems everyone and their mother are reading Eat, Pray, Love lately. And I do mean that literally. My mother wants my copy when I'm done. And I hear most people raving about it. I'm not raving. Isn't a spiritual journey somewhat tainted when you're paid to write about it beforehand?

There were parts that I liked. I appreciated that this woman going through a horrible and trying time in her life was making an attempt to pull her life back together. She was making an effort. I give her credit for that. But I just couldn't relate. If my marriage went the unfortunate way of divorce, I doubt I could afford to spend six months in Italy. Nor, I'm sure, could I afford the house she lived in while she was married. We just don't live in the same class, or possibly the same world, the author and I. I also have kids, so the freedom to travel for a year on my own and discover myself is not in the realm of possibility for the next 15 years or so. Of course all that's beside the point, because I have no desire to embark on a journey of self discovery. I want to travel and see more of the world, but with my husband and kids, or at least my husband. Not that I'd be afraid to travel on my own, perhaps if I was a single woman, or wanted to be single. No doubt I might be a single woman once I returned, if I took off for a year on my own.

It is postulated during Gilbert's journey that when it comes to meditation and enlightenment, people fall into one of three categories and I'm paraphrasing - those blind and closed to enlightenment, those who have been enlightened, and those who need to "have the veil lifted." Gilbert falls into the third category and I suppose by the end of her journey she has reached enlightenment or is in the process of getting there. She certainly seems more at peace with herself, so I guess it worked for her. It makes me wonder, though. I don't, as Curls (one of the members of my book club) aptly put it, have this itchiness that the author feels. So when it comes to searching for enlightenment, then I'm either enlightened or close minded. I don't feel all that enlightened and the idea that I'm closed minded is insulting. Though I suppose if the old Irish guy sitting by his fire can be at peace and enlightened, perhaps that's where I'm at. I am rather at peace in my life. Not that my life is peaceful. I'm a working mother of two boys. As long as no one's been to the ER, it's a relatively peaceful day in my world. But I am rather at peace with the life I have chosen and made for myself.

I do love Ketut's explanation of meditating and rising the seven levels to heaven and down the seven levels to hell. Gilbert seemed a bit befuddled by his explanation that everything is circular, so whether you go up or down, you still arrive at the same place. And if heaven is love, then that makes hell also love. The difference is not where you end up, but the path you take in getting there. This makes so much sense to me. This is my kind of religion. I tried explaining it to Blackstone. He didn't quite follow me.

"How can you go up and down and arrive at the same place?" he wanted to know.

Because it's circular, that's how. And I suppose you could try to look at it literally like a circle, but that's not the point. It's abstract. I suppose it requires that you have faith. I can have faith that love is what makes the world go round, that regardless whether your path is one of happiness and faith or one of sorrow and misery, in the end all that is left is love.

Blackstone wanted to know if I was going to start meditating now. The answer is emphatically, no. I enjoy yoga, but have no patience to sit and concentrate on my breathing as the minutes go by. How enlightened can I possibly be?

P.S. Click here to read Bookgirl's review. We didn't have the same take on the book.

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The David Books

We read No, David! by David Shannon for the first time about a year ago. It was just a random book we borrowed from the local library. And boy did Trouble and LT get a complete kick out of it. We read it over and over again. Trouble had it memorized. And then I realized through the Firefly and Scholastic book order forms, that there were more David books. We now own No David!, David Gets in Trouble, and David Goes to School. Both boys love them. Trouble reads them to us now. There are also a few other David books that we haven't read, but I think my boys might be a bit beyond those already.

The David books are simple to read and the illustrations resemble those of a first grader. David hears the word "No!" a lot, which little kids can totally to. He spills his juice, breaks windows, tells fibs, forgets his homework and generally finds himself in trouble all of the time. But in the end, David is a good boy and his parents love him. The books are funny and very endearing. They've become so well-known at our house that when Trouble burped at the dinner table the other night and announced loudly, "Excuse Me!", Blackstone said, "No, David!"

Trouble responded, "I'm not David!" Of course, the jokes on him, because he is David. And so is every other six-year-old boy.

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