Monday, July 21, 2008

The book I won't forget

I finished a book today that I have to write about, and I don't really write anywhere else but on this blog, so here I am.



Out Stealing Horses by Per Peterson

I started this book a few months ago and I did something I've never done before.

I stopped reading it half way through because it was so good that I didn't want to finish it just then. Then I got into some other quicker summery reads and just went back to it two days ago. I finished it today and immediately turned back to the first page and read the whole thing again.

I'd love to quote you some passages but I can't. They don't work out of context.

The narrator is an older man in Norway who is simultaneously living a very quiet and peaceful life in a cabin in the woods and trying to work through his past, specifically his past relationship with his father and the secrets he had to keep for him.

The writing style is different than anything I've read. It's quiet. It's soft. It is simple and slow. I felt as if the narrator whispered the whole thing into my ear.

It also made me think about my dad a lot, but not for a specific reason. Just because the narrator was my dad's age when he died, and because it was about a father, and because it took place during WWII, and because it was in Europe, and because it was in the wilderness. The narrator's relationship with his dad was very complicated and sometimes heavy. There is nothing complicated about my relationship with my dad except that he died. And he didn't get to see me as a mother. Something about this book made me really feel that loss.

I'm not even sure that I'm recommending this book to you, because it is not a book everyone would love. It is sparse. It is entertaining only to the extent that is so beautiful it makes you want to cry. But it is most certainly not a page-turner.

I ask my students every year to think about why they love a book, how much of it is because of the story and how much of it is because of the writing. My own answer is if I love a book, it is usually 25% because of the story and 75% because of the writing. This book fits perfectly into that ratio.

I had to finally put it down when Reed woke up from his nap today. And I had a feeling I've never concsciously had about a book before: when I walked out of the room where it was sitting on the table, I was physically drawn back towards it as if I was leaving behind someone or some place I loved deeply. I have been walking past it all day getting that same feeling.

Can you even imagine being able to write so beautifully that you could make someone feel that way?

2 comments:

Leigh said...

Glad to hear that I am not the only one who actually puts books away because they are too good to finish, and you want them to last longer. List more books and your bread recipes!

The Pagleys said...

Em,

If you wrote I book, I know I would feel that very same way about it!