This Weird World – Summer Vacation Read Recaps

4 Aug

I brought five books with me on vacation (plus a jam-packed Kindle, just in case). Not surprising, one of them was easy-reading fiction, one of them was historical non-fiction and the other three were biographies. Because when given the choice, I always prefer real life stories about heroes and war OR about regular people.  I don’t think I will ever cease to be fascinated by reading about the choices and decisions people make, the memories they have, the way their past shapes their future.  Fiction just doesn’t do that for me.

The first book on the list was Beyond Belief by John Hamilton.  A baseball book.  Also, a Christian book. It wasn’t incredibly well-written but no one chooses to read a baseball biography for good writing.  There was a lot of repetition (after the eighteenth time he insisted that his parents sheltering him wasn’t the cause of him going off the rails, I stopped believing him) and it was a hard book to read (you feel the pain when he alienates his wife and his family because of his drug addiction) but it was also pretty uplifting. I’d recently read the Sports Illustrated story on the book so it was good to flesh out the details (how did he change, why did he change, his baseball comeback).

Also, on a sidenote, as a Red Sox fan, it was pretty cool to read about his friendship with Carl Crawford and how he and Josh Beckett were each other’s “rivals” as they waited to see who would be picked first for the draft.

The second book had been recommended to me and was The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan.  The middle place refers to the years of adulthood when you are still a child (your parents are still living) and also a parent (you are raising your own children).  Or, as she puts it much better, “that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap.”  When she is diagnosed with breast cancer in her earlier 30s and then learns her beloved father has late-stage cancer, she begins to think back on her past and prepare for her future.  It’s mostly written as a memoir – flashing between current day and childhood memories.

Not only were the descriptions of childhood and summer and memories and sunshine memorable, but you come away realizing how much Kelly loves her father and how much that relationship (and the one with her Mom) have made her the person that she is.  Her husband, Edward, is also pretty awesome. If you’ve ever taken your parents for granted, read this book.

The last book I managed to squeeze into a vacation packed with Disney days and vodka + card nights was Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. Caught up in grief after her older sister passes away at the age of 46, Nina decides to take a year off and read a book a day (and post a review of it) while still living her life (raising 4 sons).  Her hope is that the books will help her wade through grief.

It’s a short book so luckily not every book she read that year is described in detail. And her parents’ tales of surviving World War 2 are terribly tragic and incredibly stirring.  But what stuck with me the most (other than the list of 365 books, some of which I may read) was this:

“The weird world rolls on.” – Paul Auster

“The world shifts, and lives change. Without warning or reason, someone who was healthy becomes sick and dies. An onslaught of sorrow, regret, anger, and fear buries those of us left behind. Hopelessness and helplessness follow. But then the world shifts again – rolling on as it does – and with it, lives change again. A new day comes, offering all kinds of possibilities. Even with the experience of pain and sorrow set deep within me and never to be forgotten, I recognize the potent offerings of my unknown future. I live in a “weird world” shifting and unpredictable, but also bountiful and surprising.  There is joy in acknowledging that both the weirdness and the world roll on, but even more, there is resilience.”

Learning to balance as the world shifts around us – with baseball drug addicts and cancer scares and death and people moving and friendships disintegrating and careers on hold – does not mean forgetting there is beauty and joy even in this weird world.

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