{some spoilers included. consider yourself warned. also, and this is a just in case, cover my bases reminder, there are a couple of parts in the book that may offend some. ask me if you want the details.}

A lofty goal, indeed.

How about this. Once a month, and it may be the first week, but chances are ... probably not ... we'll chat, you and I, about these book club picks.

And for December, this pick would be The Outlander (Gil Adamson).

Earlier this year, during a horrible bout of bronchitis, I hid in my apartment. Hunkered down, using my couch cushions as fort walls, hiding from my co workers and clients (whom I normally love. It was just ... a season), Shoes had brought over a stack of books for me to befriend.

Initially, I did not befriend this book. The imagery seemed stale, the plot barely moved and the character development seemed largely absent (who goes through almost the entire book calling the protagonist "The Widow"?). I drove through the book at a high speed, willing myself into expediency, too prideful to allow myself to not finish it.

And in doing so, I missed ... everything.

The second time around it was a completely different experience. I bring this up because it was also the experience of another book club member. For some, we read it the first time and think, "Point being?"

In short: In 1903, Mary Boulton has killed her husband and has recently lost a child. Her escape through the Alberta wildnerness, with her two, red haired, giant twin brothers in law tracking her, affords her the opportunity to become something she did not know she was capable of: being whole. Up and down through the mountains, eventually arriving at a primitive, early mining camp, Mary allows herself to enter into relationship with people at will. Enter and exit a host of archetypal characters: a Good Samaritan, a Reverend, a Dwarf and her new object of desire: The Ridgerunner.

I found myself most drawn to the issue of Mary's "madness" ~ nightmarish visions visit her frequently. "She forced her eyes down, away from the vision, and as she did, tears surged up. Defeated again by an imagined thing" (p 15).

In Mary's life, she is "defeated" by many things: the death of her mother; a pious, superficial grandmother, a father incapable of affection; a dishonest husband; the loss of her child; her insanity. She waits to be happy, as one of our book club members pointed out. She waits for her visions to pass. If only this one thing or that issue were resolved, her madness would pass (aren't we all like this?). It's only when Mary leaves her world, albeit at first quite un-purposefully and completely without direction, that she is able to re-gain control. The start of her escape finds her feeble, without vision, almost starving, afraid of people and pushed higher and higher into the mountains. Eventually, this escape turns out to be the one thing she has been able to control in her lifetime.

In one of the closing scenes, Mary picks up a shotgun and points it off the tent's deck at her pursuers. I didn't know she had it in her; it was as if meeting a new character altogether.

I think I missed it the first time around completely.

And for January ... The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz).


  1. Kylee on December 7, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    A few things my dear one. Thank you for you comment on my blog, you are too kind when speaking about me. Really. I think that I am going to read this book, keep me posted about the books that your book clubs choose. I would like to follow along for the ride and read over here in our little valley. Lastly, Katelyn wants to know what book club it is and she wants me to tell you she hopes it is not Oprah's :)

  2. Lisa on December 7, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    WELL. Tell Miss Katelyn that she would get her OWN comments on her OWN blog if she would update it, and I wish she would!!!! Obviously, it's all Lisa all the time around here. Book club = Me + 4 people from the MSW program + a lovely tax auditor (I'm sure that is not her ONLY self descriptor, of course!) who sit around discussing literature. Because we are soooooo smart. (Right.) We vote on the books we're going to read, read 'em and then talk about 'em. First time I've ever done this and I'm loving it. BTW, I forgot to post this, but I'll fix it in a minute, this book has a couple of Christian no-no alerts in it. Not a big deal, but sometimes I think I'm losing my morality, so I think it may offend some people. Really, though, if you can get past that, I LOVED it. Oh Kylee. I've been on here way too long. Christmas break is terrible. Oh Kylee. All those things I said about you were SO TRUE!!!!! ;)


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