Friday, January 27, 2012

A Little Escape

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." 
That's exactly what I was thinking last night as I realized I was on the last chapter of the third book I've read this week. The book had started with a young girl, growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania in the early 20's. She was dreaming of opportunities...a chance to go to high school, an opportunity to be a teacher, and the dream of living in town. When tragedy strikes her family once and then twice, I wanted to cry with her over her lost opportunities. I mourned the loss of her childhood. When she made unconventional choices, I could relate. And when she found love, I rejoiced. For two days while I read "Queen of the Big Time" by Adriana Trigiani, I shared Nella's life. I grew up with her. For those two days, my own life faded away while I attended her wedding, the local fair, and dinners with her family. 

And isn't that the best part of a book...we can drift away to some far off place, in a different time, with people we come to know and love?

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."

Even the act of picking out a book can be a refuge, a peaceful endeavor. I'm going through a stressful time right now. Rob is recently unemployed (a long story that I don't want to go into right now). We're looking for a new house, more affordable. I've got a trip looming that I don't want to cancel but don't know how I'll afford.

Anyway, needless to say, I need some escape. Books have always been my escape. Some people turn to tv, the computer, or movies but they just don't engage me like a good book does. So last weekend, I remembered I have credit at the used bookstore and made a trip. I spent over an hour in the store browsing. I had no idea what I wanted to read or which author I'd choose. I perused the fiction, the historical fiction, the non-fiction, and the murder mystery section looking for the perfect refuge. I finally settled on two books by Adriana Trigiani, and a book by Lisa See. By the time I walked out of there, I was smiling, relaxed, and ready to snuggle in with a new friend and listen to her tell me her life story over a cup of hot tea.

I started with the book by Lisa See - "Shanghai Girls." I picked it because it was the shortest and I wanted to read it all in one day. This is my guilty little pleasure - scandalous I know! I had read See's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" and loved it so I was excited to start this one. I wasn't disappointed. The story of the two sisters somehow resonated with me. . . the youngest was the beautiful one, the oldest the smart one (this is how my sis and I have been described our whole lives). Similar to the Queen of the Big Time, it begins with the story of a charmed life that's changed by hardship and tragedy. I walked the streets of Shanghai with May, rode the boat to Angel Island with the sisters, and was in the room with her when she lost her baby. I rejoiced when in the end, there was triumph and happiness.

Hmm, I see a trend in my book choices this week. I know that the stress I'm feeling right now will pass. It's only temporary. And there's a part of me that relates to the strong characters in these books. Characters who persevere, who remain happy even while under tremendous stress. Characters who are strong, independent, and hopeful.

I have one more book to read before another trip to the library or bookstore is in order. What will I choose next time? An author unknown to me right now? A love story? A sad story? A piece of non-fiction that makes me think?

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. 
Any books you'd recommend?

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