Tag Archives: isolation

Books For Those Alone On Valentines Day

You know what, Valentines Day is a jerk!  It’s a pompous, gloating, narcissistic blowhard and it’s time we recognize that the standard definition of romantic love is, often times, seriously weak.  When love is right, it’s a unicorn.  But when it’s wrong, it can be painful or even dangerous as books will tell us.

So I wanted to pull together the ANTI-Valentines Day reading list for those who are without a partner this weekend, whether by choice or not.  These books can help you remember why it’s better to wait for a good match than settling for the illusion.

Where dreams go to die:  Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. This book is a beautifully written story of a marriage built on grand dreams unfulfilled, and how the compromises made for a relationship can whittle a person down to nothing.  It’s my top pick for the person who thinks that all love is perfect and marriage is the end all, be all.

How well do you *really* know your significant other?:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins , Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum.  These are all stories about the consequences (at varying degrees of danger) of romanticizing love.  Without spoiling anything, there are characters in these books that have unrealistic expectations of what love is supposed to mean and are in for rude awakenings.

Having friends is more important than romance- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  Go back to your high school years and remember what it was like to dream of love but be thwarted and passed over at every turn.  Then watch him make friends that change everything!

Do you really like emotional torment? Go with the classics- Romeo and Juliet by that Shakespeare fellow. Or Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.  How about Rebecca by the amazing Daphne Du Maurier?  No more needs to be said about those brilliant books.

You still think you want to be in love? Try Women by Chloe Caldwell. This is a brutal and emotional novella of a woman who is trying to piece her life back together after a love affair with another woman ends.  Or how about Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion?  Go deep into the year after the death of her husband, while her daughter is also on death’s door.  In the words of Jim Morrison, “No One Gets Out of Here Alive”.

Want to just wallow in your antipathy and distain for love?- Dorothy Parker for the win! I mean, just ruminate on this for a while…

“By the time you swear you’re his,

Shivering and sighing,

And he vows his passion is

Infinite, undying –

Lady, make a note of this:

One of you is lying.”

Bottom line- look for love from your friends, family, acquaintances, and in the little moments of kindness in life.

XO

Book Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

I picked this book up after hearing about the story’s premise, which I found endearing and lovely.  Having just finished reading The Stranger by Albert Camus, I was feeling a bit unmoored and desolate.  I needed a boost of something more heartfelt.  I could not have planned this better, if I had tried.
A lovely hardcover of Our Souls at Night from the public library.
A lovely hardcover of Our Souls at Night from the public library.
It was a chance situation, in fact.  I had been forced from the coziness of my apartment to go down to the local library branch to prove that I was still alive and living in the area, as they request their patrons do every 2 years, in order to renew my library card. I primarily use the library for digital books, so I didn’t want to be without access to new reads for a weekend. (I’m a little anxious like that.) While I was there, I looked at their recent arrivals area and found The Cartel by Don Winslow which was recommended to me by a good friend, the Buddha manga series by Osamu Tezuka, and this gem of a book.  I was delighted!
The story is about a 70 year old widower, Louis, who is asked by a widow neighbor, Addie, whom he only knows in passing, to sleep with her in a surprisingly matter of fact manner. She is lonely and assumes that he is, too. She doesn’t want sex, but the comfort of talking to someone in the dark and laying next to someone as they drift off to sleep. They begin an intimate and caring relationship which is deepened by the arrival of her young grandson. I won’t go further into the plot as I don’t want to spoil the book.
What I loved about the book was it’s narrative style and the themes. One of the first things you notice when picking it up is the lack of quotation marks.  It threw me off balance at first, but once I adjusted, I found that device ended up drawing me in more closely. This is a quiet, slow and tender book. When I had to put the book down and then return to it, I was repeatedly shocked by how much of the story was compressed into a few paragraphs. The actions taken are small, but resonant.  The conversation is sparse, but meaningful.  It is a pleasure of a book to read.
The setting is midwestern Americana- a quiet suburb near the country. The descriptions of the scenery were beautiful, as was the delicate interplay of Addie and Louis. I especially loved how I felt safe to let go and falling into this story. I didn’t feel there was going to be a huge twist near the end that would shock or break me. I did worry about the characters, but I trusted that the author wouldn’t crush my soul. And my trust was well placed.
 I truly fell in love with these characters.  The widow Addie is so sensible and plain speaking while warm and loving. Louis is considerate while he is playing catch up to her idea. Jamie is a good kid who is scared and confused, hungry for parental love and Gene, Jamie’s father, is the scarred son who can’t move past failures. The town is also a big character in the story- reigning in, observing, judging, approving and disapproving, trying to set the pace for what should be acceptable of people their ages.
The themes Haruf are conveying hum clearly throughout the book- the crippling isolation of aging, the need to continue to take risks in life, and the importance of human touch and interaction. This is really a gem of a book.  I gave it 5 of 5 stars and I would recommend it for people who like life affirming stories, discerning readers who need well crafted books as well as strong substance, those who like character driven books, and anyone who just needs to get their heart muscle pumping again.
Our Souls at Night Book Cover Our Souls at Night
Kent Haruf
Fiction
Knopf Publishing Group
May 26, 2015
Hardcover
192
Public Library

A senior-aged widow and widower forge a loving bond over shared loneliness and respective histories, provoking local gossip and the disapproval of their grown children in ways that are further complicated by an extended visit by a sad young grandchild.