If not for law school, I had no idea what I had wanted to do after school. I had found it hard to read the law and the language in those judgments was difficult to grasp. A friend whom I made in law school quit after first year because she felt that you should quit if you were not going to be good at it. She was better at science subjects. I had always lacked discipline as a student in school. I never cared enough about the subjects that we did in school. I enjoyed languages, reading and plays. At varsity, I had found comfort in reading literary fictions and writings on existentialism by Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. For my seventeenth birthday I had been given Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and I did not like the story because I did not subscribe to the concept of fatalism. I had felt that we should have some control of our destiny. I had thought that determination would get you where you want to be. But then what was determination without putting in the hours of work? I fell in and out of love easily, mostly it was just great being young and carefree. So I drifted along and then as you near your third decade, you realize it is time to grow up. But then what does that even mean?
In my youth, there were traits that I had disliked about myself and I certainly felt rotten about lacking certain sensibilities. Looking back, I should have loved that version of me more because as a grownup, I no longer can feel that sense of lightness of being. I have since joined the throng and become calculating, practical and useful and more so these traits are integral part of a lawyer. Life mostly happen by default but becoming a mother has grounded me as a person and taught me to be less self-centred.
Recently, I read Olive by Emma Gannon. After both my daughters have read it, their friends now want to borrow it. Perhaps I would have given more thoughts to motherhood if i had read books like Olive and We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. click In hindsight, it was good not to overthink the whole issue of parenthood and becoming a parent has been one enriching experience for me. If it happens for you, it happens.
Sometimes parenthood lands on you when you are least suspecting just like what happened to A.J.,the main character in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, the grumpy owner of Island Books has lost his beloved wife, his bookshop is experiencing the worst sales ever and he drinks to drown his sorrow. He lives in the attic apartment above the bookshop that he had set up with his wife Nic whom he met in college. They were both unhappily working toward a PhD, his was a dissertation on depictions of disease in the works of E.A.Poe, and hers was on 20th century female poets. They decided that owning a bookshop would be better and happier ways to have a literary life. Sadly, one winter evening Nic had been driving an author home after an afternoon event and she accidentally drove into the lake and drowned. She could have possibly swerved to avoid a deer or was speeding to catch the last automobile ferry back to Alice Island. The accident was not anyone’s fault . A.J. is miserable. One evening he drinks until he passes out, he wakes up to find that someone has stolen from his shop a prized rare first edition of the book Tamerlane and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe. There are only fifty copies in the world thus it is extremely valuable and a copy can fetch up to four hundred thousand dollars depending on its condition and the rare-books market condition. A.J. had picked it up for only five dollars at an estate sale in Milton and he had kept it in a special glass case. The investigation lasts a month but unsolved. Since he has lost his valuable book, retirement is no longer on the horizon, he resumes his daily work and starts running after closing the shop. Now that there is nothing worth taking, A.J. decides to leave his front door unlocked when he goes running.
It is now December. One night snow begins to fall, when he returns from his run, his front door is left open. He hears a baby cry and finds her sitting on the floor with the store’s lone copy of the picture book Where the Wild Things Are.
‘ The baby is wearing a pink ski jacket. She has a full head of light brown, very curly hair, cornflower-blue eyes and tan-coloured skin a shade or two lighter than A.J.’s own‘.
Maya is the name of the two-year-old . The baby cries and holds out her arms to A.J. who has no other options but to pick her up. He notices an Elmo doll sitting on the floor with a note addressed to the Owner of This Bookstore. Maya’s mother writes that Maya is very smart, exceptionally verbal for her age, and a sweet good girl. The mother wants her to grow up to be a reader and she wants her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things.
He gets help from his expectant sister-in-law, Ismay who had been Nic’s older sister. Ismay is married to Daniel Parish, a handsome and narcissistic published writer and they have been trying for a baby. To Ismay, A.J. and Daniel are selfish and self-centred men. She is surprised to see how the baby has a refining influence on A.J. The plot thickens when Maya’s mother is found dead the next afternoon. A state champion swimmer, an avid creative writer who has attended Harvard on a scholarship, Marian Wallace has killed herself by swimming into the icy waters of the Alice Island Sound.
From Marian’s note, A.J. believes that she had wanted him to keep the baby. He decides to adopt Maya.
Officer Lambaise is the cop who seems to be present for significant moments in A.J.’s life. He is recently divorced. Although he is not much of a reader aside from the occasional Jeffrey Deaver mass-market paperback while on vacation, as he begins to visit the bookstore to check on Maya, he ends up buying books. He reads them because he does not want to waste money. When news about Fikry the widower / bookstore owner adopting an abandoned baby break out, it seems inconceivable that such a man would adopt a baby just because it has been abandoned in his store. Once the town florist left a pair of vintage Ray-Bans sunglasses in Island Books and she returns to the shop only to find that A.J has thrown them out. He said to her that his store had no room for a lost-and -found. It becomes apparent that Maya has the best influence on Fikry and the bookshop has attracted many people, amongst whom are mothers who end up buying books and magazines.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a charming tale about characters who live around books. It is also a story about how a baby can soften a man and touch his heart. Its author, Gabrielle Zevin has created a delightful read for all book lovers.
Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle is a time travel story about love and loss. It is also a bittersweet tale that reminds us that the people we love never truly leave us even when they are gone.
In Italian Summer, Katy has just lost her mother to cancer. To Katy, her mother, Carol Almea Silver was her friend and pillar. Since her mother’s death, Katy cannot conceive of a world without her. Her mother, Carol is not just a mom, she has been her best friend. Her mother and her were supposed to make a trip to Positano in Italy. Her mother fell ill and died. Katy decides to go to Positano alone, leaving Eric, her husband of seven years behind. She has lost the centre in her life and is need of a break from her life in LA to figure things out .
The story is narrated in Katy’s voice.
‘ I want to see what she saw, what she loved before she loved me. I want to see where it was she always wanted to return, this magical place that showed up so strongly in her memories.‘
When Katy arrives at Positano, she has the most amazing encounters.
In her narratives,
‘Positano is not an easy place to get to. First you have to fly into Rome, and then you must make your way from the Rome airport to the Rome train station, at which point you board a train a Naples. From Naples, you need to find a ride down the coast to Positano.’
Alone in Positano, Katy arrives in the town where her mother says changed her life. Positano is representative of Katy’s mother’s youth. In becoming a mother, Katy’s mother loses a little of her old identity.
In the story, Katy meets the young version of Carol before Katy was born. She has to ‘reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue‘. Rebecca Serle has crafted a picturesque setting for the story. She has created a beautiful story about meeting your mother before you were born.