Like a photograph, every book I’ve read has a context and a bit of a back story that no one but yours truly is likely to know.
A few years ago I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao while we stayed at a wonderful little inn in western Massachusetts. I always read with a pencil, and make little lines and squiggles when I see a delightful turn of phrase. My husband Jim was at my side and our children all were together for one son’s and one daughter’s appraisal of colleges in the area. I remember our children laughing at a word game as Jim and I rested and read on top of a snow-white quilt on a hot August day. Our family of six had clambered into the mom van for the trip, and I had swayed in the back as I clenched and gritted my way through a daughter’s first sustained highway driving.
The eponymous lead character was bedeviled by a particularly virulent family curse, the fukú. One of many passages that rated a pencil scribble was his sister’s reflection, at an all-too-tender age: “you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”
Of course I didn’t see the words the same way then as I do now. Now the same passage speaks to me of grieving: there’s no way out, nowhere one can flee to escape it. “The only way out is in.”