The Mystery of Life and All Those Big Questions…

Confession time and don’t raise your eyebrows – I am not about to disclose that I am giving up life to lead an ascetic life on the Himalayas nor am I going to give up my job to spend the remaining life as a poster painter of the streets of Paris. I have nothing against the ascetic living individuals or poster painters, especially the latter since it does kind of have a 1920s glamour associated with it, but I can’t imagine myself as creature deprived of home delivery, cab service and Kindle!

Anyway, as usual I digress; where was I? Oh! Yes! Confession time – I am a crier! As in a bawler! As in I cry over books and movies. I bawl and drown the world in my river of tears. For someone who takes life stoically and bounces through heartbreaks through cherry optimism which even I find nauseating in myself at times can spend hours crying when Elsa is left to fend for herself in the Jungle- yes Born Free! I cried buckets when Boo rescued Jem Finch and takes him home – yes To Kill a Mockingbird! I cried when Maria left without meeting the children – yes Sound of Music. Let’s not even get into the hours of uninterrupted tears shed on reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. My new year’s eve 2013 was ushered with me shedding buckets of tears for while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I even cried when I understood how poor Snape repented through his life in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (I mean who cries while reading a Harry Potter? I do! I cried for one whole day when Sirius dies!) I am sure I forgetting a million others, but the point I am trying to drive home is that I CRY!!!!

One of my all-time favorites reads, which inevitably leads to a lot of crying, thereby increasing sales of Kleenex and I am so surprised I have never written about this book is called “Welcome to The Great Mysterious” by Lorna Landvik. I had never read Ms. Landvik before I picked up this book and I have never read anything since. But, boy! Am I glad that my flatmate picked up this book one summer afternoon three years ago when our community library was selling of some of its older collections due to space constrains.

The Great Mysterious” is not a mystery/thriller – in fact it is one of the best happy books that I have read – true there are some heartbreaking moments, especially around chapter 10 and 11 (My Kleenex quotient jumps from 3 to the whole box Now!) but in the end when you close the book, you will have a smile on your face.  The book is about dive Geneva Jordan, a broadway star who is in between projects and nursing a broken heart and menopause. It is at this serene moment of her life that her twin sister Ann, arm twists her into babysitting Ann’s 13 year old son Rich, while she and her professor husband take a much needed work/vacation for a month in Italy. Geneva Jordan is not particularly happy at the thought  of spending time in the back woods away from the glamour and comfort of New York where  she had decided on spending this time indulging herself and taking a much needed vacation while coming to terms with the crucial changes in her life. The other worry she had was that Rich suffers from Down Syndrome and she is not quite confident as to how she would manage such a child. After much pleading and emotional turmoil, she agrees to take on her nephews care and moves into her sister’s house for a month. It is there that her transformation begins – how she begins a warm relationship with its natural ups and downs with  her nephew Rich, new enriching friendships with Barb, who is mother to Rich’s best friend Conrad and James the mail man and the discovery of small joys that are far more beautiful than the most expensive indulgences. Intertwined with this journey of self-discovery via a memory book that a 13 year old Geneva and Ann created seeking to find answers to the big questions in life called “The Great Mysterious” and the understanding that all relationships have several layers and a person may not be the way they seem and that the past gives strength for living for the future, when you know how to look!

It is not, and I repeat NOT a pedantic book.  Written in an engaging first party narrative from the point of view of a very warm but very human Geneva Jordan, the book does not aim to be a high brow literature. Instead it tells you an unstoppable story which makes you turn page after page until you reach the end. It’s a funny book – there are many ha ha moments and critics can say that it’s a very linear story and far too simplistic etc. but the book is what it’s meant to be – an entertainer! There is nothing holier than thou or oh! look at the bright side of things and Down Syndrome is god’s gift etc etc. Instead it’s a joy ride of a book – where you laugh, scream and the cry your way through. It’s like talking to a great companion and realizing at the end of 2 hours, that the companion is actually a great friend to whom you can go back whenever you are happy or sad or just need company time after time!

One girl, some books and Nazi Germany

New Year, New Books.

I recently read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Though this is not a new book per se, since it was originally published in 2005, but I read it just a couple of days ago and for me therefore it has all the joy of unchartered territory, especially since I had never read any work by Markus Zusak prior to this.

Markus Zusak is an Australian author who has written some great children’s work including The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and When Dogs Cry. Though he received several awards and recognitions for these works, his breakthrough came with the The Book Thief which was as I mentioned first published in 2005 and since then has been translated in 30 languages and garnered the #1 position in The New York Times Bestsellers.

Now about the book –

the-book-thiefThe Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II and it spans the years from 1939 -1944 in a town called Molching, Germany. The story’s narrator is Death (Yes! As in THE DEATH) and  begins as an eight year old Liesel Meminger is taken by her mother for adoption to a foster family – housepainter and accordion player Hans Hubermann and his wife Rosa Hubermann, whose washing and ironing for the richer households. The story then describes Liesel’s relationship with her foster parents, other residents of the neighborhood including Rudy Steiner, who becomes her best friend and Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife and a Jewish fist fighter, who hides in Hubermann’s basement to escape the Nazis.

While the back cover synopsis may look very To Kill a Mocking Bird meet’s Schindler’s Ark, do not go with that kind of mindset, for this book is completely unexpected.  I do mean unexpected – it does cater to certain cliché’s like the German who does not want to be a Nazi or the German who risks his life to save a Jewish life, but that’s where the cliché’s end. This book is beautifully crafted, written with great depth and while the language is simple, since its attributed to a young girl, there is a lot of sensitivity and originality in the whole work. There are several instances of dry humor as well as some very upsetting moments, including one scene where I cried in buckets. (Yes! I do cry when I read books and no, I am not sentimental, just someone who is extremely sensitive!)  The plot is unusual not so much in the characters as much in the details and events of the tale. Another extremely rare aspect of the book is that at the very onset of each book (The novel is divided into 10 Books), the reader comes to know what will ensure in that book as well as the next, so in a way, the author gives away the ending, right at the beginning. However the power of the tale as well as the brilliant writing will keep the reader going despite knowing the obvious end.

New York Times wrote that “It’s the kind of book that can be LIFE CHANGING.” – I am not sure if it can be life changing, since we are all different people and we all react to things differently, but I can say this, that not to have read this is a loss and a big loss at that. This is a must read for all those who consider themselves books/novels/literature connoisseur, for this novel may be considered a  modern classic one day!!! It’s a poetic, touching and absolutely heartbreaking work that scopes out the immense generosity that humans posses.

Some Books and One Wish

Book reading 2As another year draws to an end, I wonder at my last post and think what would be the most appropriate ending for the year. Should I do a scorecard again, like I did in August? Should I carry on with my usual posts on books, friends and sundry? What would be the most befitting farewell to 2012 and then suddenly I knew – for someone who loves books, I would want to list some of my best reads of the year in no order of preference – it’s hard to really always scale things you love; especially if they are tied to a place. So without any further ado, here goes –

Book reading 1

Some are just darn good tales, while others are serious body of literature, while still others are morality tales of modern kind  – no matter what they are, I enjoyed them thoroughly and my life is so much more enriched, because I met these novels and their characters!

While I signoff for the year, here’s wishing all my readers a wonderful 2013 with all the joy and laughter! Thank you for tagging along with me through this year and for sharing your thoughts, experience or simply your likes! Thank you most importantly for taking the time out through this year to read through my random musings!

Cheers to 2013!

P.S. Here’s a special wish for all the follow book maniacs – wish you all a joyous and wondrous reading in the New Year! May we all get new books and brilliant new authors to savor! Happy Reading!