IN SEARCH OF “SPECIALNESS” — AN ELUSIVE JOURNEY

15815333The six of them met when they were fifteen, sixteen years old, during the summer of 1974. A time when the country was poised to watch President Nixon resign his office in disgrace. That event was not as pivotal to the self-absorbed teens as their own agenda: discovering their creativity and finding their special niche. They were attending, for their first summer, a unique camp in the Berkshires called Spirit-in-the-Woods.

They were so special in their own minds that they labeled themselves “The Interestings.” Yes, perhaps the title was meant to be ironic, but their narcissism was also showing.

Over the many pages that follow, we see the group of them morph into their young adult/college age selves, followed by their twenty-somethings. And on and on. And with each year that passes, life chips away at their “specialness,” until some of them are shadows of their former selves. Tragic events reduce their numbers, but the core of them remain connected, sometimes only occasionally.

Ethan Figman, Jules Jacobson, Ash and Goodman Wolf, Cathy Kiplinger, and Jonah Bay. Who among them would find success and happiness, if only for awhile, and who would lose huge pieces of their original selves until there was nothing recognizable remaining?

Narrated from different perspectives, we come to know the hopes, dreams, insecurities, and flaws of most of them, some more than others. Whose startling success will surprise, and sometimes diminish, the others? Who among them will hold a secret that lasts for most of a lifetime?

Of the six major characters, Jules and Ethan felt the most like people I wanted to befriend, even as others seemed so narcissistic as to arouse feelings of disappointment and even anger. Those with a sense of how special they are—that entitlement—would cause me to turn away from them.

Having grown up in those long-ago years, I could relate to the times that were a-changing, from the 70s, with their artistic, liberating, and creative focus, to the 80s, with all the shiny moments and brilliant wealth, followed by less gilded times as the years flew by.

Themes of friendship, loss, the meaning of talent, aging, and how time changes us all resonated with me. Through the years, as the financial and social disparity between some of the characters seemed to result in feelings of envy and even bitterness, it became harder to recall why any of the friendships remained. The fact that some loyalties survived the onslaught of change is a testament to the strength of youthful experiences and those connections formed then. But as the story draws to a close, and as some of the characters attempt to recapture that time in their lives, they realize that you really can’t go back. And, in going on, sometimes the secrets and lies that erupt change the landscape of their lives forever. But what still connects them will see them through.

In some books of this length, I often feel like I can’t wait to get to the end, for the book to finally conclude. But in The Interestings: A Novel, I realized that I wanted to be part of these characters’ lives indefinitely. A resounding five star read!

SAVORING OUR JOURNEY THROUGH THE OBJECTS WE CHOOSE — A REVIEW

 

 

 

One of my favorite things is turning the pages of a decorating/design book and enjoying the photos of wonderfully created and recreated rooms.

Nate Berkus’s The Things That Matter had lovely photos…but all in black and white in this Advanced Reader Copy, which made it challenging to imagine the rooms in color, as they will be in the final version.

However, after the initial disappointment about the photos, I was immediately captivated by the text and the author’s story. For his mission in designing a home came through very clearly: “each object tells a story and each story connects us to one another and to the world.”

And as he leads us through his back story and through the wonderfully captivating tales of his friends whose homes are featured, I could feel the passion, the zeal, and the sense of how each object connected to this person’s life and how putting everything together became a denouement of their life moments.

We can imagine how the things that surround us do tell a lot about who we are. We have probably experienced these feelings in our own lives. I know I have in mine.

When Berkus describes how his pursuit of harmonious homes is a lifelong one, I can relate to him. He says:

“Some people sit in their family rooms at night rehashing their day or thinking about what’s on TV. I sit in mine, and wonder, Would that wicker table look good in the bedroom? Should I put two more chairs here? Should this bookcase be moved two inches to the right? Why are there two chests of drawers in here?”

When I closed the final page–and even during my perusal–I found myself leaping up to rearrange something that I had seen with new eyes as I read this book. And I know that I will grab it frequently to reread a passage or check out the rooms. It will find a home on one of my tables where it is readily accessible. Five stars!