"Life After Life": Is it worth a read?
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If you've read it, what's your bottom line:
Not worth the effort?
Challenging but with a great payoff?
PLEASE NO SPOILERS.
I particularly liked her treatment of the life changing events particular to women's lives, and the depth and diversity of her women characters. I read it rather quickly out of curiosity and wish now that I had lingered over it more.
I enjoyed the scenes with the Blitz and Nazi Germany. And I'm glad we weren't left hanging about Teddy.
When that finally dawned on me, it had great emotional impact. To realize that things you have done in the past that you regret may not have changed the outcome in the way that you expected, and that you are not in control of your own destiny or anyone else's. It was distinctively not a redemptive arc. It was a liberating one.
That was my take anyway.
Like many people who have received bad medical news, I find myself in a support group, about which I have very mixed feelings. There's a lot of thanking God, talk about mind over matter calling your own shots about which I am very skeptical. (And even then I fall prey to strange moments of the most childish magical thinking, i.e., the pope will arrive in the States the same day I get some important test results so good omen! Man. Doesn't get more pathetic than that.)
Certainly, at these times, one's thoughts turn to the what if this had or had not happened at key (or even seemingly insignificant) moments in life over which we have no control.
I have a colleague who has had a very difficult life who read Life After Life and told me that at first she just didn't understand the powerful emotional reaction that she had to the book. She said that she suddenly burst out sobbing, and didn't understand why. Redemption, she deduced, but a redemption like one she had never encountered. It came from a deep understanding that she was not responsible for everything; that even if she could have foreseen how things would end up, there was no way that she could know whether another choice could have changed things for the better.
But we must try to do the best we can. That's all we can do.
Be well, and may the dice roll in your favor.
In a somewhat related vein, I heard Erica Jong talking about Fear of Dying on the radio yesterday. I'm not a fan of hers, but she was really funny in describing a female character who signed up for a no-strings hook-up Web site. Jong said the character thought this would be a tidy solution to her desire for sex in the face of her husband's illness but she ended up meeting nothing but "lunatics."
The NYT review of books today didn't give the book a great notice, but she was so engaging in the NPR interview it made me want to read it.
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