Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Words in Expert Hands

"There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic." 
~The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

There are certain books that stay with you. You can't put them down, and when after you read the last page, and close the tale, whether with a sigh or a sniffle, they stay with you. They follow you around as you wash the dishes you neglected that day. They tug at your heart and mind as you get supper, grade papers, write lesson plans. They stand at your shoulder as you talk with your family and friends. There are some books that you excitedly recommend to every single person with whom you come into contact because the book is so amazing that you are convinced that every person on God's green earth absolutely must read it. And there are those books that just stay with you because they have touched you so deeply.

As I look back over my reading life, I can bring to mind numerous titles that have deeply impacted me in various ways. Some are delightful reads, masterfully wrought. Some are intellectually or spiritually challenging, and some have simply stopped me in my tracks.

I now add Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to the number of books that are my "favorites". This one carries the tag of "Haunts Me". Its such a beautiful story. The narration switches artfully between 1940s Seattle and 1980s Seattle. We see first generation Henry as a young teen trying to make sense of his traditional Chinese family in a time fraught with patriotism, fear, and suspicion. We also meet him as an adult, looking back at his life with new insight.

This book has gotten me thinking a lot about the questions of what does it mean to be an American, and what is the American identity? Over the centuries so many people have come to America with hope for success, for freedom. So many have proudly taken citizenship.  Then there are those who were already here or where brought against their will. Yet so many of these same people have been treated as less then human, let alone less then a citizen.

This book is haunting me. Even as I try to write about all the thoughts and questions that it has brought up, I realize that I am still meditating on it. I'm going to have to revisit my thoughts on this book. I know that I want to read Farewell to Manzanar, but I think it would be wise for me to wait a bit, to read something a bit different.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you liked this one. It stuck with me for a long time too.