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).