Surrendering to a story

Between the personal upheaval of 2016 and the political uneasiness of 2017, it feels like an eternity since I lost myself in a novel. (The last one I devoured was Catacomb the third novel in a trilogy by Madeleine Roux.)

Instead of fiction, I’ve been glued to breaking news updates on my phone and introspective self-help books. All of which I feel justified in reading. Movies were my escapism, with Rogue One and Wonder Woman restoring hope.

stationelevenhcus2Because I stack my to-read list in the order I received the books (with priority given to the books given as gifts), the book on the top of my to read list was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I started it as soon as my brother gave it to me one Christmas, enjoying the prologue but getting caught by life before the heart of the novel picked up. Then as the risk of nuclear war returned to the collective consciousness, I lost all interest in reading a novel set in a post-apocalyptic North America.

Why not just pick up a different novel when the urge to read hit me? I don’t know. And honestly the urge to read fiction didn’t really hit. I was pushing myself hard in 2017 and left very little time for the leisure of reading.

That changed last night.

After two years of collecting dust, I reopened Station Eleven and in just two reading sessions (pre-bedtime and bus ride to work) I’m one third of the way through the book. I don’t want to put it down. While my general feelings having changed regarding reading about a post-apocalyptic America in our current state of global politics, I’m intensely invested in the two women at the center of the story. Something about them, their weariness at life’s struggles, and the sparks of hope they cultivate with their art speaks loudly to me right now. (I also love that there is a Star Trek: Voyager reference – the first Star Trek series I was old enough to watch live for all seven seasons.)

NPR reviewed the book in 2015.

As I read this book I feel like my soul is exhaling after a long-held breath. I’m melting into the story and finding a freshness and rejuvenation there, like how you feel when you step out into a dewy meadow at dawn, with the first warm rays of sunlight cutting through the trees at the edge of the forest.

Here’s to more reading in 2018!

What was the last novel you read or enjoyed?

7 thoughts on “Surrendering to a story

  1. Cachalot by Alan Dean Foster, a science fiction novel about a water planet populated by sentient (sapient?) whales. It was a gift from my father-in-law, a retired Coastie who loves the sea. After a couple of intricately written fantasy novels with large casts, difficult-to-follow intrigue, and not-wholly-satisfying relationships, it was refreshingly simple: a mystery, a few characters, and a setting at once exotic and familiar. Though the ending felt a bit a rushed, and the climax a bit predictable, on the whole it was an enjoyable read for someone who’s had very mixed experiences with sci-fi. It was a great reminder that not every story needs to be an evocative, unsettling, or world-changing experience—a pretty good story can be good enough. 🙂

  2. I read this book last fall and LOVED it. Right now I’m working on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s a beautifully constructed philosophy book in the form of a story. Other favorites I’ve reread lately are The Shadow of the Wind and Shantaram.

  3. This is a good question in that I’ve started a lot of books this year, and put them down after 50 pages. If I can guess what’s going to happen at the end by page 50, I get to skip to the last ten pages to check. And if I just don’t care how they got there, I hang it up. And because I went to college and worked on the student paper, some of these books were written by people I know.
    So, I am rereading Moby Dick.
    I’ve been reading it ever since I realized I could finish it And Then Start All Over Again. It’s half ‘the story of a man vs a whale’ and half ‘the history and importance and science of whaling’. And sometimes I like one half more than the other. It’s rich and strange and full of science and poetry. Also one of the few books that is almost more interesting in the Illustrated Reader’s Version (but it’s missing the sciency stuff). I should read other Melville.

    Sadly, Phillip Pullman’s The Story of Dust is …um….accumulating dust. I’m having trouble getting back into that world (and I ATE the original trilogy), but I will keep at it.

    Have you ever read The Night Circus?

      1. (scoops jaw off floor) Two master magicians challenge each other to a very long term bet, that they execute through their heirs (a daughter, an apprentice). The resulting ‘night circus’ is a touring circus, one that owes a big debt to The Seven Faces of Dr Lao/The Circus of Dr Lao; you find yourself in it.Only you don’t go to hell and there are no biblical ramifications. And it’s all in black and white. You can get it through spl. It is not in any danger of being made into a movie anytime soon, which is a horrid shame, as I think the weak bits would be fleshed out in a film.

        Also: another pal links to her Rey sewing project. I’m sure she did not get paid what they are charging for it

  4. I read Station Eleven and loved it. It made me see many of everyday life’s worries and fears in a different light whilst still filling me with a profound sense of hope. It is one of the best books I have read in recent years. I just finished “Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett which I also enjoyed very much. Meanwhile, I am trying to get over my disappointment and anger over Margaret Atwood not being awarded the Nobel prize yet again by committing to only reading female authors in 2018. 🙂

  5. I loved Station Eleven, too. It’s beautifully written.

    One of my major highlights of 2017 was rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s an incredible experience to read a book again and again be floored by the author’s vision.

    Another highlight — this one discovered in 2017 — was China Mieville’s The City and the City. Mieville’s imagination is incredible.

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