Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sisterhood Everlasting

I read all the Traveling Pants books years ago and loved every moment of them.  Each girl had her unique personality and they all eventually ended up back together and back on the same page no matter what obstacles got in their way.  I guess I identified most with Carmen as I read the books.  I saw this new one on the shelves and had to pick it up.  The girls have grown up and are 30 now?  I'm 30 now.  What are these ladies up to?  I had to know.

I will say this.  I was shocked as I read the first few chapters.  I couldn't believe the girls had let themselves go.  No one had kids yet.  Each had a career.  But they'd lost touch.  So when Tibby reaches out from Australia to bridge the divide finally, I was just as excited as Bee, Lena, and Carmen to get a ticket to Greece for a reunion.  However, the reunion isn't what they imagined.  From early on Brashares throws you a curve ball with this book.  For the longest time I wasn't sure what to think, but I went with it and I finished the book.

I can't really say too much more, but I can say that you get a look into each girl's life, of course.  Each of these sisters has faced challenges that many of us young ladies face every day:  questions about life, marriage, children, career, balance, etc.  It's hard.  It's hard for the.  I appreciated what I saw each woman working through because I did think that their problems were real.

I did have a few issues with the characters, though.  When I first met back up with Carmen, she's a famous actress on a crime show and she doesn't eat and she's a size 2??  I seriously wondered if this really could have happened to her?  Carmen was proud of her curves.  She didn't let people bully her around, and now she's just a robotic actress mindless attending premiers and parties with her executive producer fiancee??  I didn't buy it.  Bee's store made sense to me, and Lena's too, as well as Tibby's, but I think I was most disappointed in Carmen when I saw where these girls were years later.

It was a fast read, and I did like it.  I wanted to get to the end and piece everything together.  And of course, like all the other books in the series, what matters here is friendship.  Life will bring us changes.  Life will disappoint us.  Life will shock us.  Life will lead us places we didn't imagine going.  But in the end, we have friends to help us on that journey.  These girls always end up back together and they pick up where they left off.  That's what real friends can do.  They can forgive and move on.  They can start over every day if they have too.  As a young mother, wife, teacher, friend, daughter, sister, everything - I know how it can feel like you are not meeting the needs of everyone in your life, but you just gotta do your best.  And you must find some people to lean on.  Real friends are hard to come by, so you must reach out and try again, even if it's been a while or even if life seems too busy.  It'll be worth it in the end and sharing life's moments with those you love is the most important thing of all.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

It took me a bit to get in to this one, but in the end it was definitely worth it.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell whose father was killed in the 9-11 terrorist attack.  When Oskar accidentally breaks a vase in his parents' bedroom, he finds a mysterious little key in a small envelope.  Determined to find out what the key meant to his father and what lock it opens, Oskar journeys all over New York city meeting people from all walks of life and asking questions about his dad and his feelings and life and the universe and so much more.

Oskar is a peculiar child to say the least.  Not a huge fan of child narrators, I was a bit annoyed with him at first.  He'd say things that, in my opinion, didn't sound like a nine-year-old at all...even a very strange one.  However, as I continued reading the book, I did get to know him as a character better, and I felt that perhaps some of his strange behavior was ok because of what he'd been through.  It was clear to me that he was a strange kid before his father's death.  I liked him in the end, and as you read the book, no matter what you think of the narration or feel for the kid.  He's been through a horrible tragedy and I think we'd all be allowed to do whatever it took in order to deal with those feelings.

The book has an interesting subplot involving the Oskar's grandparents.  I enjoyed this plot line but didn't feel that it really connected to Oskar's story in the end.  To me it just all seemed a bit much.  Unrealistic.

What I can say, though, is that there are some heartbreaking moments in the novel.  Oskar's mother struggles daily to understand and move on from her husband's death.  As a reader, it hurt so much to see how strained and awkward the relationship between Oskar and his mother was at times.  They are a new kind of family now that Thomas (the father) is gone, and it broke my heart to see them struggle with finding ways to feel and think and be without their dad.  It's been ten years since the tragedy, yet it seems like we are all still figuring it out.  Yes, people move on.  Yes, the smoke and dust settle, but lives are never the same.  After reading this book I was reminded of the importance of family.  Every day on the news we see that people have been hurt or killed.  By weather, storms, tornadoes, accidents, terrorists, gunmen who kill people in public doesn't really matter what gets you in the end.  Death comes for us all.  People are left behind by their loved ones every day, and it's never easy.  We do what we can to deal with the loss and hopefully we are surrounded by a few others who can help us through the days that follow.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11 and as I digest this book, I feel like we need to simply remind ourselves how lucky we are to be here living and learning in this country.  Each day is a gift.  It's so easy to get swept up into the business that is life and school in America.  Yes, we must work hard.  Yes, we must do our jobs.  Yes, we must read books and complete assignments and write papers.  But let's always remember that people and relationships matter and that the books and papers and discussions help us to understand ourselves and our world better.  Let's remember that life can change in an instant and it won't matter what score you got on your last Calculus exam or English essay.  I count myself blessed that I am not Oskar, that I did not lose someone I know in the terrorist attack.  By reading his story, however, I am reminded of what I must do.  I must love my family as much as I can each moment because you never know what each day holds.  So, I do recommend this book.  It's different, but moving.  I am glad I read it and my heart goes out to all who lost loved ones ten years ago and those who lose loved ones at any time.  Life is never the same, but love is still here on earth for those who are left behind if we hold on to the people around us and make the most of every moment.