Between Here and April

Just finished Between Here and April, the first novel by Deborah Copaken Kogan, whose Shutterbabe I loved long ago. A quick read (I haven’t been able to read anything real for months – basically just magazines and very light fiction- my concentration seems to be shot) and interesting, dark but also hopeful. Mostly I just really like Copaken Kogan’s voice, it feels like talking to a friend. A couple of passages:

With all of its invisible frustrations and sacrifices, motherhood was also a remarkable mosaic-in-progress, with such moments, like handmade tiles, painstakingly inlaid: up close, just a jumble of colors, haphazardly placed in no particular order; from ten feet back, so beautiful you could cry.

“It is funny, the way life turns out, no?” Now he was kissing my cheek. The curl of my ear.
“No. It’s not funny, Renzo.” Tears began to form again at the corner of my eyes. “It’s not funny at all.”
“Oh, mon Eliza. You cannot have one without the other. The comedy without the tragedy. You should know this by now.”

Gratitude for what is and an aching for what is not

I’m crying and I’m laughing and I’m sad that it’s over. The Middle Place is everything I anticipated and more. Mostly, it’s unexpectedly light – easy and fun to read, like talking to your dearest friend about her family that you grew up with too. I told a friend I was reading a book about generations and about cancer, heard back “wow that’s upbeat,” and realized I need a better way to describe this incredible book.
I don’t trust myself to figure that out right now, so I’ll just take refuge in some of Kelly’s words.
I’m sure her words will sell her book better than I ever could!

“This was one of the man things I had learned since crossing over into the middle place – that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap … It’s a giant Venn diagram where you are the only member of both sets.”

“By the time I was old enough to bother noticing, my mom and dad had settled into a marriage that was high functioning but not especially romantic. It had all the characteristics of a healthy, established corporation. My mother held the power positions: finance and operations. Her real covered allowances, dress code, and chores. My dad took care of sales, like convincing us that snurfing (the precursor to snowboarding) down the eight-foot drop into the backyard was as good – better! – than a weekend in Vermont. He also defined our corporate culture. Corrigans, my dad conveyed, were scrappy corner-cutters who could always find a way into any place. They knew how to shake hands and make eye contact and tell a joke. They had reason to be proud. Under his leadership, employee satisfaction was high.”

“It’s good, like a miracle is good, to know that there’s somebody who will follow you down whatever path you choose.”

“I get another email from a particularly grown up friend of mine, Jen Komosa. She just says, ‘You are stronger than you think. You are strong enough.'”

“…a mix of gratitude for what is and an aching for what is not.”

“Someday, some later day, I’ll find out what it is to be an adult – to bury someone essential, someone you don’t think you can live without, someone attached in so many places you almost afll in after them.”

Mountains beyond mountains

“The idea that some lives matter less than others is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
A closing quote in Mountains Beyond Mountains, which I finished this morning. The sentiment encapsulates Paul Farmer’s guiding philosophy (in my view). Tracy Kidder does a marvelous job portraying Farmer as a real man, full of contradictions and complexities. It would be easy to deify him, but Kidder resists that. Nevertheless, the book is inspiring and worth the read. I also love the Haitian adage from which the title is taken:
Beyond mountains there are mountains.