I don't often post reviews of books I've read on my blog, but this one is definitely worth the space.
I've just finished a book that tugged each and every one of my emotions out. I knew it would, and for that reason I saved it as the last book to read of the bunch I'd bought. I hate feeling that exposed, that vulnerable. There was a time I loved these movies/books for that reason, but once upon a time I went through a severely emotional trauma (how's that for a little added drama?) and became afraid of letting those emotions go for fear of not being able to rein them back in.
As a result of reading said book, After Forever Ends, by Melodie Ramone, I am now compelled to purge my soul (aren't you glad you stopped by to read this today?) so please forgive me for a bit of saccharine sentimentality. This is one of those books that sucks you in. Taps into your emotions. It crosses generations, so there's a bit in there from all viewpoints, from teenager, to newlywed, to parent, to grandparent.
Here's a link to the review (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/458739643), but I want to use my blog space to share a little of myself today.
In talking with friends, I've often heard people complain about their dysfunctional family life. Their parents don't understand them or they don't have any relationship with their parents. They hate their parents, their parents hate them, etc. I think that for the most part, that's par for the course. I know I went through it with my kids as they were growing up - when you discipline them, the first thing out of their mouths is "I hate you!" or "Why do you hate me so much!" when in truth the decisions you make are because you love them.
As children get older, sometimes they begin to understand, and sometimes they don't. The funny part is that as a parent, you still feel like you're a kid yourself. Your children may never understand that you know EXACTLY how they feel when you have to discipline them. That's part of our jobs as parents. This book takes you on both sides of that coin through the main character's adolescence and subsequently into her parenting and her realization that her own parents weren't quite so off base as she first thought. It's a 360 degree view of children and parents and grandparents, and I think that was one of the things that most struck me.
As people, we all have different personalities, different ways we deal with the world and with the people we love. On a personal note, I can tell you that my children know that I love them, and I did the best I could while I was raising them. Now, as adults and taking charge (or nearly taking charge) of their own lives, I saw things in this story which gave me pause. I stopped to wonder if some of our interactions might have been misinterpreted, because it's natural that they would be. I know I did it with my own parents. Something you said while trying to teach them to fly on their own that they took offense to, something that they felt displayed how much you loved one more than the other, when that was never the case and the furthest thing from the truth. We always have our children's best interests at heart, and sometimes when we give them a little push, it's so that they learn to fly on their own. More than hearing my child say "I hate you!" or "Why do you hate me!" I think the thing that strikes my heart deeper (because I know that the other is just the anger speaking) is "I don't want to argue with you for fear of saying something I might regret later." That phrase is the one that throws up walls and says "I don't want to talk to you, I don't trust you with my true feelings." I'm not sure adult children realize that they can open up to their parents without fear of retribution, and that comes through in this book as well as the main character comes to terms with her anger toward her father. Instead of harboring hurt toward me, I hope my children always feel comfortably arguing with me if the situation warrants it. Much better to clear the air than to hold in the hurt, and that hurt goes both ways. I know one of my children knows that lesson!
Another poignant part of this novel was the viewpoint of the main character as she ages and her friends and family start to die. One of my favorite quotes in the book was at Oliver's funeral: "None of us promised to see each other again when he left that evening. We just hugged again in the front garden and wished each other well. That was fine with all of us. We'd seen each other once more if never again, and that meeting we'd keep with us forever." As we get older, we know that we're older. We see it in the lines in our face and the way we have lost a step, but when we are with those people we have grown old with, we still see the young people we were. In our minds, we are the same age we were when we first met. It isn't denial, it's blindness. If I've known you since we were both 17, in my mind, we will always be 17 together, having fun, talking about the silly things we talked about then.
Yes, this book moved me. Profoundly. Its filled with all the life stages and life lessons you learn. A little regret over the things you cannot change, a little hope that people can look at things from the point of view of the people around them so that it is a little less one-sided, even when they are lost in a singularly personal emotion that demands a touch of selfishness. We all suffer during an emotional crisis, and those things are better shared than worn as a personal badge of pain.
And this, my friends, is why I don't like to read books or watch movies that make me cry. It leaves old wounds raw, opens up feelings that have scarred over and, personally, I don't like a good cry. I've had my share of tears. That being said, this book is excellent, and I think mainly that is because in the end, it makes you smile. It turns that vulnerability into joy. It reminds you that love is magic and, ladies and gentlemen, I'm soft in the head when it comes to true love. I believe in the magic of love.