Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Coming of Age

Currently Reading: The Alcotts by Madelen Bedell and The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I finished the book The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls under a full moon, in my car as I drove home. The two most terrible words- "The End"- echoed through the car and I reluctantly turned it off. The night was simply lovely, ringing with the fullness of life. The perfect end to a rich book. I turned over the ending in my mind- Thea at the train station, the young recognizing that she too will be old, watching the future fly by like a train pulling out from the station. Lighter than air, heavier than water, I felt so small under the large harvest moon, but also expansive. In that moment, I felt like I discovered a mystery of life, a mystery that brings with it a feeling of imbalance, like the dizziness of standing on the edge. It is aloneness and togetherness all at once, and it hurts with an ache of cold slipping under my clothes. I had the urge to open my arms and gather the night up, to sift through it and make sense of it all- of this living and this dying, of each terrible sweet moment, of actually feeling so intensely it hurts, and of not knowing how to find the words to accompany the understanding. Suddenly, I was giddy with the not knowing, with the no words, addicted to the feelings of bigness and openess, cradling the weight of feeling inside my body like an unborn child. Right then, I wanted to see it all, to be that transparent eyeball, to be nothing in order to be everything. There are books that make me feel the answers are out there, but I just don't have the right questions.
Last night, I closed the covers of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I leaned back on the pillows, the room quiet with sleep, and cried for the poignancy of childhood left behind. Evocative in its simplicity, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn took me through the emotional wringer this week. Twelve pages in, an uncanny feeling swept over me, like an out-of-body experience, that this book was a piece of me that I had never known about. My breath caught in my throat. Since then, I have found my own thoughts and musings and concerns reflected in the characters living in the book, and each time, I inwardly stagger. How, how could part of me exist in something else that I did not create, whose birth occurred decades before my own? Could it be that we are not as different and singular as I have always thought? After reading Brooklyn, I feel so connected to the world, connected to life, and to those around me, reassured that I am not alone in my thoughts but that we are more alike than we realize, all part of each other. That is undoubtedly why Brooklyn is still a favorite, more than sixty years later, for just as I see pieces of myself in Francie and Katie and Johnny, so has every other reader who has ever pulled it from the shelf. That is true magic- a book that speaks to everyone.


  1. "Twelve pages in, an uncanny feeling swept over me, like an out-of-body experience, that this book was a piece of me that I had never known about."

    That feeling didn't hit me as soon as that with A Tree Grows Brooklyn (it took me a bit longer), but otherwise I know exactly what you mean. How had I been missing out for so long? It's amazing when that feeling occurs in a book published in the present-day, but I often am more impressed when it happens with an older book - it's weird how the universality of the classics can still catch me off guard.

    1. Exactly! I kept asking myself- why have I waited so long to read this book? And you are spot on about the connection to older books. It is pure magic that "universality of the classics", as you say. Reading books like that reminds me that I truly live in a beautiful world. Thanks for feeling it with me, Christy!


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