What I Know about What She Knew

What She Knew

When preparing for a recent work trip which promised much time on airplanes/in airports, I went through the familiar ritual of checking out the “Kindle Daily Deals” in hopes of finding something inexpensive to occupy my mind. With much reluctance, I selected What She Knew by Gillian Macmillan.

As the mom of 7 and 9 year old boys, I had much trepidation about diving into a story that centers around the disappearance of 8-year-old boy. I promised myself that if things got rough, I’d put the book down, back away slowly and resort to crosswords and gossip rags.

To say that I ended up devouring this book would be an understatement. I spent more than one night in my conference hotel reading until my eyes shut on their own, compelled and obsessed to know how it all turned out. It’s not only that the story is an exquisitely-crafted mystery.

This story delves so deeply into the many ways we humans punish one another and ultimately ourselves in times of crisis. When things go awry, we’re so quick to judge one another, judge ourselves…blame one another, blame ourselves. Too often, little room is left for being human, showing compassion…even and especially to ourselves.

In the end, I was left feeling that this wasn’t just a good book for me to read…but an important book for me to read. I found myself weeping and whipping out my notebook to write down passages more than once.

Those who know me well will not be surprised to read that—like lots of folks—I’ve seen some things, survived some stuff. There are dark corners in my mind that are sometimes hard to escape. When I got to the part of the book that reads, “…There are some events and uncertainties that you take to the grave, and they threaten to tumble you every single step of the way…” I wept and wrote and felt understood.

I wept and wrote some more when I read, “I understood in that moment…that being a mother had given [her]…a single silken strand, strong as a spider’s web, which had tethered her to her life. It was the string that had led her, time and time again, out of the enveloping, dangerous depths of the labyrinth that was her depression. It had prevented her from slipping fatally and completely away into the dark seductive folds of melancholia…” I thought of the days when I’ve only had strength to sit sandwiched on the couch between my boys and hold onto them for dear life…the days when I put something light and funny on the TV and just wrap myself around them until I regain the energy to get up, make something to eat, behave like a proper mother.

When I read, “…here’s the thing: none of us deserve a thing. That’s an illusion we all exist under…I should simply have been grateful for what I had. I should have celebrated my life as it was, imperfections, sadness, and all, and not forensically examined its faults…” I loosened the grip on some grief, some guilt.

And finally, when I read, “…I count my blessing every day for my blemished, damaged family, which is full of love, and this is fine, and that is all we need…” I thought, “Amen, Sister!” What I know about What She Knew is that I’m glad I read it and I hope others will do the same. There are books that are read to fill the time and there are books that are read to fill the soul. For me, this book was definitely the latter.Classic

Beautiful Ruins: A Beautiful Book

There are times when one wants to escape, read something beachy but also compelling. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is the perfect selection for such a moment. With a whole host of engrossing characters, vivid descriptions of places (including coastal Italy), and thought-provoking discussions of the complexities of life, I found myself eagerly anticipating every word, every scene.

The author strikes the delicate balance between tying things up satisfactorily and keeping the story believable. I found myself feeling that everything was turning out OK even when things didn’t turn out as expected or hoped. There were plenty of twists and turns, paths crossing and diverging and crossing again.

The book so eloquently depicts how–in the end–life is such a hodgepodge of where we start, what happens to us, and the turns we take along the way. Even when one dramatically veers from a particular path, there always remains the possibility of circling back to tie up unfinished business. Even if circling back never happens, it is still possible to find great happiness on the new path and retain wonderful memories from the old one. With lines like “And even if they don’t find what they’re looking for, isn’t it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?,” I never wanted the story to end.

Gift of Fear: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Years ago, I read a book that changed my life. I was coming out of a period of living in real and perpetual fear. I had made it to safety but I didn’t feel that way yet. I had developed this hypersensitive neurotic dread that made me constantly afraid that something terrible was about to happen. Later, I would realize that what I really had was a version of PTSD and I would be treated accordingly. During those dark days when I was constantly fighting my own unreasonable fear, the only book I read that gave me great comfort was The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. This book helped me to start seeing fear as a gift that has been given by nature to keep me safe. It helped me to see fear as friend rather than foe. I still remember the lessons I learned from that book and feel safer for having read it. I think it’s an important book and recommend it to anyone who wants to live a more secure, aware existence.

Tie the Knot!

If you’re looking for an AWESOME, UNIQUE gift idea for the men (or women who can rock men’s attire) in your life, you LOVE to look fashionable and support marriage equality, consider a gift/gift certificate from Tie the Knot. Proceeds benefit efforts to MAKE MARRIAGE EQUAL for ALL AMERICANS. This foundation was started by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (of Modern Family) and his fiancée, Justin Mikita. In addition to awesome attire, there are hilarious videos on the site to enjoy. It’s worth checking out–even if you’re not in the market to purchase something.

Two Tales of Secrets

In recent months, I have read two historical novels centered around secrets and the Second World War. The first is “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay.  The second is “The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton. Both books are structured so that modern-day women are delving into the secrets of the past, trying to make sense of said secrets, and right the wrongs of the past. “Sarah’s Key” centers around the Vel d’Hiv Roundup of Jewish citizens in 1942 France. “The Secret Keeper” takes place in and around London, dealing extensively with the 1941 London bombing raids. Both books were well worth the read. While “The Secret Keeper” took a little longer to grab my attention, once it hooked me, there was no putting it down. The twists and turns at the end more than made up for the slow start. Both books left me thinking about the past…about how important it is to learn lessons from those who came before and how it’s never too late to try to make things right.