June Reads: Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Tyler, & Cheryl Strayed

Lately I have found myself in the company of some amazing women.

I know I already wrote a little about Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert, but when I realized I had been on a winning streak of women writers, I had to include her again. Plus I have more to say.

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”
Committed unflinchingly explores the history of marriage (it hasn’t been so awesome for women) while fleshing out Gilbert’s own worries and concerns over her current and past relationships, her divorce, and her upcoming nuptials. I’m getting married in less than 2 months, and have been thinking a lot about my past relationships, what my future holds, and what my marriage will be like! So this was a timely read. I’ve read so many articles about weddings and marriages, and one thing that continues to pop out at me is “being intentional” in your relationship. Ha, I see this most often in Christian, stay at home mom blogs, which could not be further from my reality, but there’s a good lesson there- communicate clearly, choose love, compromise, put your marriage first. But to me, being aware of the history of marriage is also important. I’m entering into this crazy legal bond for the rest of my life, I need to be prepared! Gilbert ultimately finds solace with the idea of marriage as a subversive act of 2. No matter how the state or church tries to regulate marriage, it keeps happening! The family unit of 2 committed partners has stood up to dictators, priests, legislature, and has thrived against the odds. I liked that idea, too. I’m glad I read this book. I might include that quote up there in my wedding ceremony. There were other passages I highlighted in my kindle, here are 2 more:
“The emotional place where a marriage begins is not nearly as important as the emotional place where a marriage finds itself toward the end, after many years of partnership.”
and:
“Marriage is those two thousand indistinguishable conversations, chatted over two thousand indistinguishable breakfasts, where intimacy turns like a slow wheel. How do you measure the worth of becoming that familiar to somebody—so utterly well known and so thoroughly ever-present that you become an almost invisible necessity, like air?”

I read Anne Tyler’s latest novel A Spool of Blue Thread, and liked it. I like all her books. I like living in her world for a few days, it’s my favorite thing about her novels. Total immersion in this every day life of a fictional family or person. I always laugh to myself about trying to describe “what I’m reading” to other people – with Anne Tyler books, it just makes no sense. “Well, it’s about this family, and the oldest son is a deadbeat, and the daughters worry, and the parents are aging, and they can’t figure out what to do with their family home, built by a long deceased grandpa.” Doesn’t sound that interesting, it just sounds like life.

I don’t even know where to begin with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Tail. I think I might have found the perfect time in my life to read the perfect book. Wild is about Cheryl Strayed losing everything in her mid-twenties and hiking the PCT. Her mom died, her young marriage fell apart, her family disintegrated, she was using heroin, bouncing from city to city waitressing. I feel like I could have been her! That could be me! In the early 90s as a young twenty-something… its just so utterly relatable for me, the taking stock of your life at age 26 and wondering “wtf.” Actually none of her life experiences are similar to mine, and I think that’s the beauty of her writing. She gives her awful, individual experiences a place in the cosmos, making them universal to everyone. Especially to women of a certain age. Actually, all women, since everyone was once a confused 24 year old.
I’m looking at quotes from Wild on goodreads, and I’m just like “YES”
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
and from the end, which I love and cherish:
“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was, like all those lines from The Dream of a Common Language that had run through my nights and days. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.
How wild it was, to let it be.”
Yes, my life and my present, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. Ugh. I love it. I must buy a copy for myself, to highlight and dog ear. I returned my library copy with such a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude. Thank you Cheryl, for writing!

This has been a long post, a rambling post.. I just wanted to share some quotes from these amazing books I’ve been reading. I know I’m late to the game on Wild, but has anyone else read it and loved it? Did you hate it? Go out and get it from the library so we can talk about it.

Advertisements

Recently Read: Nonfiction

deadwake

I borrowed 6 books for my 5 day trip back to Sacramento over Memorial Day -did I have a jam packed schedule of things to do while there? yes. Was I so tired every night that I crashed before doing any bedtime reading? yes. Was my only time to read the time I spent traveling? Also yes.

So 6 books was excessive. I started Death in the City of Light before finishing the Painter – I was very emotionally invested in the Painter and needed something more “light” for the plane – so of course a book about a deranged serial killer doctor in Nazi-occupied Paris was the perfect choice. I could not believe this book was true! It was nuts! David King did a great job with the pacing and bringing this story to life. If you like Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, you’ll like Death in the City of Light.

Speaking of Erik Larson, Dead Wake stunned me. I think it was better than Devil in the White City, which I’ve read a couple times. I had to return it to the library on Saturday afternoon, so I spent Saturday  morning finishing the last half of the book. Oh, I cried. I was anxious. My heart raced. I cried again! Even though you KNOW the ship is going to sink, you want to believe up until the last possible minute that it won’t happen. I think that’s the sign of a good history book – when the author brings you so close to the people and the events that you believe it won’t happen, or that it’s happening organically now, and things could be different… A++ from me.

The night before last I finished Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved The Signature of All Things last year, and really enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love. I like Gilbert a lot! So I finally got around to Committed, and it was interesting, especially since I’m getting married later this summer. Really interesting history of marriage and it’s historical/cultural/religious significance and how it’s changed over the thousands of years we’ve been doing it.