Sunday, December 16, 2012

Books, Tragedy, and Life

This Friday I was without daycare, so I stayed home with my two-year-old daughter, Pauline, and I dropped my seven-year-old son off at school. It was the first time all year I've been able to walk Eli into school, chat with his teacher, see his classroom as the kids file in, and catch up with the parents of his friends. I was thrilled at the opportunity, and I love his school. There's such a good, friendly energy there, one which I'm sad to say is lacking at the high school where I teach.

So it made it all the more heartbreaking to hear later that day about the school shooting in Connecticut. I imagined that school to be like my son's school, full of promise and enthusiasm on a Friday so close to Christmas. Like most of the country, I am horrified by the news, feel helpless and terrified at the possibility that it could happen again, yet grateful that it wasn't my kids to which it happened. I was haunted in my dreams Friday night by images of violence and guns; the world became an even scarier place this weekend.

Another thing I've been thinking about is the book Matched, by Allie Condi. Besides being a teenage romance, this is a story about a "perfect" society, where people don't have a choice about anything - not their spouse, their job, what they eat, where they live, or when they die. But everyone is healthy and reasonably happy. Cancer and violence don't exist, except in the "outer provinces", which nobody really worries about. But art and self-expression don't exist anymore either. The society believes that too much choice and stimulation will break down the utopia they have worked so hard to create. Maybe it would.

But is it a fair trade off? Normally I wouldn't think so, but I bet if asked, all of the parents who lost a child this Friday would say that it is.

(And just to be clear, I don't think we need to eliminate choice, art, and stimulation to do something about gun violence. I pray that this tragedy will be the start of stricter regulations.)

I also recently read The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker. This is also a story of a young girl, but she is growing up as the world begins to end. The earth's rotation for some reason has begun to slow, and this sets off a chain-reaction that brings about a slow apocolypse. I don't know much about physics, but it all seemed realistic to me, and the story was haunting because it felt so plausible. Yet at the core of this narrative there was a girl who experiencing all the normal roadblocks we're confronted with while trying to become an adult; family drama, trouble fitting in, and young love.

In the end, I reccomend both books because they're well-written and compelling. They will cling to your thoughts after you've finished them, which I believe every good book ought to do.

1 comment:

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