There were other issues too: forgetting to charge my phone and missing out on an entire commute's worth of reading (well, listening), Spring Break and family in town disrupting my normal schedule, struggling to find back-up audio books that were available for immediate download and hating one enough (Astonish Me) that I just couldn't finish it. Excuses and problems aside, I did manage to finish three books this month, and the ones I finished were all generally very good (and mostly short, which helped).
This one had a rough start for me. A few chapters in I thought I had this book's shtick figured out, and I thought it was going to be overly sentimental and saccharine. Then, things shifted, new characters came in and changed the tone (lots of swearing from one of them), things got more complicated, and it wasn't necessarily the journey I was expecting. This book is slow, meandering, at points boring, but in the end it was quite sweet, full of emotional healing and hope. I might have a thing for books with geriatric protagonists. I really do recommend this one (even if this review doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement).
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This was the one time I actually did luck out with my holds list this month (a bunch of people must have dropped, because last time I checked, I was #587, or something ridiculous like that). Have you heard of this one? It just came out earlier this year, and it's being hugely hyped right now. I've got to say, all the hype is spot on. My only complaint is that this book is far too short, but it's length is part of the powerful story behind it's existence. At age 36 and his final year of neurosurgery residence, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He spent the rest of his far-too-short life writing this beautiful, poetic reflection on life, death, literature, medicine, the body, the mind, the meaning of life, his marriage and decision to have a baby (after he was diagnosed), and facing death with some measure of grace and dignity. I only cried at the very end, during his wife's epilogue when she wrote about his final descent and death, and charge to make sure this book was published even though he probably wouldn't have considered it finished. Paul Kalanthi was a brilliant, talented, and most importantly, deeply good man, and I'm grateful for the chance I had to come to know him through his words. While this book was tragic and heart-breaking, it was also beautiful and inspiring, and I fully recommend it.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Another short but powerful one. So I was vaguely aware that Thornton Wilder was one of those classic American authors I should've read in college at some point, but I didn't know anything else about this book when I picked it out of the "available for immediate download" offerings. Imagine my surprise when I realized it takes place in Peru! (When's the last time you read a novel set in South America? I know...). This is a fascinating, if brief, exploration of five lives, all of which were lost one day in 1715 with the bridge of San Luis Rey snapped and sent them falling to their deaths. The beautiful thread connecting all of their lives is the love and loss they had all experienced, their human connections, which led them to be on the bridge that day. This book may not be interesting for everyone, but I definitely want to revisit it someday (with a highlighter, I think, and taking notes in the margins). Plus, it's short, so there's that. It's a beautiful little piece.
Have you read any of these? I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions!