The Biggest Mystery of All

So, today, I finished a novel, The Department of Speculation, in the bathtub, and I thought it was right and proper that I was absolutely, stark naked because this novel is such a wonder that it humbled me. Feeling absolutely humbled and totally naked and revealed–well, it’s been a while since a novel brought me to my reading and writing knees, breathless. It’s a stunner, and I’m going to reread it and then send it out to a lucky reader, the first to  PM their address.

Today, dearest readers, I am writing about mystery in the following sense:

I love Jennifer Offill’s incredible novel (www.jennyoffill.com) for its nakedness, its form, its narrative structure, its telescoping out universally in terms of wonderfully knotted up thematic threads and its microscopic examination of the narrator’s thoughts, and the unnamed couple who traverses marriage and its fracture and fragile repair, and bringing a child into the world, and terror and grief and love and work and thought and reading and thinking about the thoughts of others. And the words, beaded together to create something so truly awe inspiring I sometimes paused because I felt I shouldn’t be reading it–it was so close to the bone. No! It’s the marrow of the bone.  I’m not writing any more about it–no spoilers. Just trust me on this one, and PM me and I will send it to you so you can drink in this wonder, for real, and pass it along to someone who has to read this book–which is THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Another near perfect breath stealer is Roger Rosenblatt’s Making Toast. I finished this finely written, slim hardback last night and I pressed it to my heart, even though it had already found its way there.

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I have always enjoyed nonfiction, but this winter break has confirmed what I’d suspected: A full blown love affair with nonfiction is happening. It’s on like Donkey Kong. And Rosenblatt’s straightforward, sentimentality-free sentences are sewn with great care and precision. Making Toast chronicles the year following his daughter, Amy’s death, and the way this loss transfigured and transformed the family. He writes, with brutal honesty, about what we often don’t talk about–how we go about living without those it seems unfathomable the world can continue without. He reveals, without sensationalism, what all of us know (those who have had to learn how to traverse a world made terrible and nearly unnavigable by loss)–the rage that often seethes just beneath the surface, the love that finds its way into the cracks, what it is like to feel joy, unexpectedly, and then feel guilty for it. He and his wife assist in co-parenting, with Amy’s husband, their three grandchildren in the terrible wake of their beloved daughter’s death.

This book, oddly and unexpectedly, made me feel my smallness too and take comfort in it. And it made me wonder at our resilience, the strange workings of our hearts and minds, and how hard we must work to decipher the hearts and minds of others, and how gloriously worth it such deciphering and investigating and puzzling out the clues actually is. Because love.  If you’re interested in Making Toast, drop a line with your address and I’ll send it your way.

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