Sunday, July 06, 2003

This Body: A Novel of Reincarnation by Laurel Doud

The only good thing about traveling for 14 straight hours is that it provides an ideal atmosphere for starting and (almost) finishing a book.

This Body is a book about a wife and mother, Katharine, who dies, only to be reborn into the body of a 22-year-old drug addict, Thisby. The rest of the story tackles Katharine's struggles to reconcile her old life with this new one, and ultimately come face to face with the failures of her past life in order to forge a new one with this new hybrid consciousness. Deep, right?

Perhaps it's because the book coincided with a trip back home, but turning the idea of reinvention over and over in my head was the perfect culmination to a week of reconnecting with old friends and family, talking about my life out in San Francisco, and answering the question that was asked a million times, "So, when are you moving back east?" I've always had a bit of sand in my shoes - eager to move from one thing to the next, and this book made me stop and think about why that's the case. I stayed at my first college for two years before I felt it was time to move on to another school - different people, different environment. After I graduated, I stayed in Boston for a year, but it was different than the collegiate experience since I was working at my first career-type job. After a year of that, time to move on again, and I moved to SF without ever having laid eyes on the city. I think the impetus for each move isn't so much displeasure with the status quo - in fact, quite the opposite. I was content at Holy Cross before I left; it was there that I discovered independence. Life at Harvard was nice; there I was better about making choices, instead of letting things happen to me. Living in Boston was fine - great on a professional level, while everything else kind of stalled; leaving Boston was a good decision. But ultimately, it's being merely content that compels me to keep moving, to shake things up, to give myself enough distance to see where "being content" could turn into more. I think that's why I like San Francisco so much. After a year, I still feel like I'm full speed ahead, while at the same time, better understanding the things of my past.

When discussing the book with Jane, she mentioned that she didn't like some of the choices the author made towards the end of the book. I think a reviewer on Amazon made a similar point, but I'm inclined to disagree. I like that Katharine/Thisby ultimately decides not to abandon her (or more appropriately "their") experiences, but that she is willing to take them and move forward. I suppose you could make the argument that she's running away or begrudge the fact that she opts not to fight for certain things -- and you would have a point, but the idea of creation and building something new with the wisdom of two life times guiding the way is just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

I don't want to sound too enthusiastic - the book was good, but not the best I've read recently. If I had read it under any other circumstances (ie. nothing else to do with 14 hours but read, think about the past week, and mull over the direction of my life), I might have found it somewhat less poignant. The last quarter of the book sees the protagonist crashing through a crescendo of bad decisions followed by the nice and tidy period of introspection that puts her back on the right path, but the subtle links from one point to another that make good books great just aren't there.

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