Monday, 9 May 2016

Stories and Shout Outs

Meditation class often throws up exactly what I need to hear.

Last week our discussion and meditations centred around clarity of mind. Our teacher said "what we put into our mind, we experience."

It was an ah-ha moment for me.

It made sense and helped me to work out why I have been avoiding some books and some authors lately.

I take on too much of the bad feeling and the meanness until I also feel icky and messed up. So unless the story can give my mind a way out of the bleakness, or I can somehow keep my distance emotionally, it's simply not worth it to me any more.

So you may be surprised to hear what I'm reading at the moment.

LaRose by Louise Erdrich:

In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. 

The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them. 

LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a co conspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal. 

But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.
Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

The beginning of this story is based on a tragic devastating accident. Grief, heartbreak and vengeance lurk behind and inside most of the characters. But so does love. And that's what hooks me.

I'm not trying to deny or ignore the pain of life. I'm not trying to shut my mind and heart to the darkness that can affect us all. Sadness is okay. Angst is part of our human experience. I just can't do hopeless. I just can't let a book be responsible for bringing me down.

I need to believe in the better side of human nature. I need to do my bit to bring this out in others and myself. It's what I choose to read.

I feel like I'm becoming more jealous and protective of my time - I don't want to read books that bring me down - there are enough other things in life that can do that.

Books are my escape, my solace and my chance to live in a better world. They are my door to new worlds, new ideas and new possibilities. Books are my hope.

And hope is what I want to experience.

Before I leave you tonight let me give a quick shout out to Laura @Laura's Reviews for exemplifying my reading philosophy. Her recent review of William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow highlights why we read - to explore and create meaning of our own experiences. To be moved and challenged and to feel connected.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! I was just reading about LaRose the other day and wondering if it would make a good future book club pick. I love Louise Erdrich, but its been a few years since I've read any of her novels.

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    1. I haven't read any Erdrich before, but I will be after this!

      It packs an emotional punch, but it's a fascinating story with great characters too. It would make a really good book club read - lots of social, moral and ethical issues that could be discussed and debated.

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    2. PS which of the earlier Erdrich books would you recommend?

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  2. I also need hope in my fiction. I'll read any amount of grim history, but that's real; in my fiction, I don't want relentless grimness. Real life is quite difficult enough without adding to it in fiction.

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  4. I've read a lot of Louise Erdrich novels and although she deals with the realities of life on the reservation I've always found her novels uplifting. Looking forward to LaRose.

    I agree with avoiding the novels that offer no hope. I've just read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler and although I'm a big Tyler fan and it is beautifully written I just find it so depressing and devoid of hope. I will not return to that novel.

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