It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to read after finishing The Best of McSweeney’s. I usually have a plan, and this time I really didn’t. I usually read one of my boss Cathy’s booksm, then one of my Indiespensible books, then one of the myriad hardcovers that I’m supposed to read before they are released in paperback. Occasionally I deviate from this rotation, like when Cathy gives me books from her friend Jerry and I need to get them read before she sees him again, and I’ve read three of those books already this year, which may be why I’m feeling like my rotation has become discombobulated lately. I ended up deciding to start another of Cathy’s books because it’s fun to return books to her that she doesn’t remember ever reading since I’ve had the ones I’m reading now since mid-2012.
My current Cathy book is Rose Tremain’s The Road Home. It’s the story of Lev, a widower from an as-of-yet unnamed Eastern European country, who emigrates from his home country to London in search of work. I’m not very far into the book yet, but Lev strikes me as a likeable fellow who is overcome with grief of all kinds: grief for his wife, for the loss of his old life and friends, for leaving his home for a country where he barely understands the language and knows no one, for losing time with his mother and young daughter while he forges a new life for all of them. I find myself feeling awful for Lev and hoping that he is able to make a good living for his mom and daughter. Much of the novel has been told in flashbacks to happier times in Lev’s life, with his wife, his friend Rudi, so far. I’m not sure if the story will begin to focus more on the present day or if it will take place primarily in the past, but I expect I’ll find out soon enough. Tremain’s style is straightforward and emotional and lovely. Take this paragraph: “And he could feel it overwhelm him then—at it seemed to do from time to time—his sorrow for the death of Marina. Just thirty-six years she’d lived. Thirty-six years. She was a beautiful woman with a voice that was full of laughter. She went to work every morning at the Procurator’s Office of Public Works in Baryn, wearing a clean white blouse. In the evenings, she put on a striped pinafore and sang as she cooked supper. She rocked her child to sleep in her tiny bed, patient as a Madonna. She danced the tango on a summer’s night, wearing red shoes. She fashioned a rug from rags, over months and months of time. She made love like a crazy Gypsy, with her dark hair falling around Lev’s face. She was perfect, and she was gone…. (55).” I got such a vivid picture of Marina, just from these few sentences. I also knew how much Lev loved her, and how happy they were together. I’m looking forward to the rest of The Road Home, but I hope things start looking up for Lev soon. It’s going to get hard to read about more than a few nights of him sleeping in stairwells.
In other news, my parents bought me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday this year (it’s in about a week)! I don’t know that I ever wrote on the blog about my mother and my first Kindle, a first generation Kindle Fire, that sat in a drawer at my house for almost a year before my parents went to Europe in the fall of 2013. I lent it to my mom to use on the trip, and never got it back, despite multiple requests. I’m not trying to voice my anger at my mom, just stating important background information. My dad’s sense of right-and-wrong decided that it was time to make up for me being short an electronic device, so he asked me if I would use a Kindle if he bought me one. I said I would, and there you go. I’m the proud owner of a Kindle Paperwhite! I am glad I got the Paperwhite over the regular Kindle—the screen back-lighting makes it look more like I’m reading on actual paper. And I was torn between the Voyage and the Paperwhite initially but now that I’ve used the Paperwhite I think that the resolution on it is just fine and I’m glad I didn’t spend (or ask anyone else to spend) the extra close to $100 for a few extra ppi of resolution. My Kindle came with a free month of an Amazon service called Kindle Unlimited, which is like Amazon Instant Video for books. Amazon has a ton of books available for download on Unlimited which are included in the cost of membership. And there are actually quite a few that I want to read. So I’ve put quite a few books on my Kindle for free. I’m sure the second I discontinue my Kindle Unlimited membership they’ll disappear, but for now I have lots of reading to do. My first reading project on my new Kindle is one of those Kindle Unlimited books, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, a young adult dystopian novel from back in 1993. I’ve only read a few “pages” so far, but it seems to be more well-written than Divergent. I’ll let you know how things turn out.