Saturday, November 6

Unhappy in its own way

I actually sat down and read a book yesterday. It was lovely. I haven't started and finished a book in one night in a long, long time. I think I needed the quiet, the thinking without thinking, the immersion in a different world. I bought Family History a year ago, but never got around to it, like so many of the books waiting for me around here. I've loved Dani Shapiro's writing since I read Fugitive Blue in one convulsive gulp back in high school. There are pieces of that book that haunt me still, and despite seeking and finding everything else she's written, it remains my favorite work of hers.

Family History flashes between current and past events to tell the story of a family's dissolution, to show how quickly the things we take for granted -- husband, children, parents -- can fall apart. Shapiro's writing makes you feel like you know these characters, this family, so quickly that you begin to feel their pain before you even know what's caused it. And while the mystery of exactly what has happened to this family draws you forward, their palpable pain almost stops you. You can't help but compare and contrast your own family history with the fictional. When I was finished, I wanted to call my mom and tell her I loved her. Mostly, I just wanted to make sure that I didn't let little moments pile up to become insurmountable obstacles.

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