I like to think about the different flavours around my palate and avoid gobbling down any food even if I am in a hurry. I would rather skip a meal or just have a warm drink quickly if I happen to be busy. When I need to read a book quickly, it feels like I’m gobbling down some food, but that is the only way I can plough through my purchases. I have bought far too many books to devour. I need to read more before I add any new ones to my collection. But I am a glutton when come to reading.
I like the idea of serendipity and randomness thus my selection of reading can be erratic. After reading Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho and Braised Pork by An Yu, I wanted another light read amidst all the other books that I am currently reading.
Last weekend, I read One Day in December by Josie Silver. It reminds me of Nora Ephron’s films. So now I’m going to read Nora Ephron’s writings. It was sheer coincidence that my elder daughter happened to borrow One Day in December from the local library where she is and her mother happened to have just bought the same novel.
Josie Silver is a good writer. I find the premise of the story a little implausible as in how one can obsess incessantly for a year over a total stranger whom she caught a glimpse of through misted-up window while she was on a bus. Often it is an idea that we attach ourselves and the idea grows. But then life can be whimsical if one opens one’s heart to all possibilities. Even though life has taught me to be grounded and get real, I still believe that life can still be magical, fairy tale love stories do exist for the brave ones. After all it started on one cold December night in London. The story spans from 2008 to 2017. Its narratives alternate between the characters, Laurie, Jack and Sarah.
It is December 2008, the main girl, Laurie is on the bus home from work. After a tiring day, she cannot wait to get back to her flat. There seem to be too many stops then suddenly the bus shudders to a halt and from the bus window, she notices a guy who is perched on one of the fold-down seats in the bus shelter and he seems oblivious to the pushing and shoving that is happening right before him because he is engrossed in the hardback book in his hands. Just as Laurie tries to duck her head to see what he’s reading, wiping the steamed-up window with her coat sleeve to get a better look, he looks up and he sees her. Call it wistful thinking, she sees recognition and a certain ‘thunderbolt’ connection. He is staring right at her ‘and then a slow smile creeps across his generous mouth, as if he can’t hold it in.’ Laurie sees him making a sudden decision walking forward but the bus doors have started to close before it pulls out of the stop. This is when Laurie starts imagining what if she has gotten off the bus. She tells Sarah, her flatmate who is her best friend about the boy at the bus stop. The search for the ‘bus boy’ begins. They look into cafés, bus stops, Friday-night bar and everywhere. A year later, at their Christmas party, Sarah introduces Laurie to the new love of her life who is, of course, the boy from the bus. Laurie does not tell Sarah as the boy is making her friend so happy.
Throughout the story, the ‘bus boy’ behaves like how he behaves in that first scene. The writer is clever in plotting the story because even though you know the ending yet you do not know how it is to going to end. Perhaps Laurie and Jack are relatable in that they are ordinary as they tend to make their choices by default just like most of us. Laurie’s best buddy, Sarah shines in the story rather than Laurie who seems to take a long time to come around to pursuing what she wants even though she already knows she wants. Laurie is a good person and in her kindness, she is always trying to do the right things instead of following her heart. In her best intentions, she ends up hurting people who love her. You feel sorry for the other characters who are innocent in that they do not know the back story about Jack and Laurie. Of course in this fairy tale like setting, there are these nice guys who seem like the dream guys for both Laurie and Sarah, except that one of them is ambitious and focused on his career path never mind that he is wealthy, romantic and seemingly considerate but not so sensitive because he omits to take into account the fact that the woman he loves may want to do something with her life besides procreation. The ending is a good one and it reminds me of the rom-com by Nora Ephron. Now I might watch Sleepless in Seattle and Love Actually again if I want to get into a sappy mood.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation between Sarah and Jack that rings true.
‘ We were good though, weren’t we ?’ She reaches out for my hand, her cold fingers wrapped round mine.
I can see her now, leaning on that stop button in the lift until I’d agree to ask her out to lunch.
‘ Really good, Sar. Close-to-perfect couples, for a while.’
‘ Close is enough for some people,’ she says,’ for a lot of people. The world is full of close-to-perfect couples.’
The ultimate question that any couple should ask will be :
It may be enough for most people but is it enough for a lifetime? But then to do that you must first know who you are and what you want to make that decision.
One day in December is an enjoyable read if you are looking for a romantic love story to read in one sitting. It is definitely heartwarming to know that there is this one person somewhere out there who is a perfect fit for you and you just have to find him or her. It is also realistic to know that you might not find him or her or that he or she might not be available.