Book irony. Or something like that.
When I read a book, my internal editor is always yipping at the back of my mind. Editing, to some extent, is about the taste of writing, and the flavor of the resulting product has a lot to do with the personality and propensities of the editor and the author combined. So, even when I don’t like how a book is edited, I’m not necessarily suggesting that the editor and author have it wrong; lots of times, it’s simply a matter of taste. But, it does take a powerful story — and perhaps some other mitigating factors — to win me over when the book has editing that gets on my nerves.
A while ago, I read a review of This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman. The book is a memoir of an off-the-grid family in the late sixties to mid-seventies. In short, it’s about how such a lifestyle, while set upon with much conviction and enthusiasm, led to the unraveling of the author’s family.
If my husband shared my own propensities, we’d surely be homesteading off the grid somewhere… I’d have sheep wandering about the yard (whose wool I would shear and card and spin into my own yarn and knit into cozy sweaters, which I’d give as gifts or sell for a million bucks), collecting barrels of rainwater for our organic garden, and my children would run around barefoot, building dams in the stream that ran through our back yard, and we’d all be able to name every species of flora and fauna, and know which herb to forage when someone had a sore throat. 🙂
I’m sure I think so ideally about such a life because I have not actually lived it. Reality would be much different, I’m sure. So, perhaps that’s why the book initially appealed to me so greatly: “She’s actually lived it!”
I finally picked up the book last night and started reading. Thanks to the Phoenix Library policy of perpetual renewal, it has been on the corner table in my family room for a couple of months, untouched whilst I read other books which clamored for my attention. (In fact, I’m already reading another book — re-reading, actually — Christy, by Catherine Marshall, for my beloved book club. I don’t often read two books at a time.)
The editing of the book is driving me NUTS. The author uses a conversational tone, which, in the past, I have liked immensely. However, she employs a plethora of incomplete sentences and hyphenated phrases (“Mama returned with Heidi as I stood long-hair-braided and six-years-brave, holding my breath.”). It also has a seriously foreboding tone, hinting that if I continue, I’m sure to shed a lot of tears. I’m not real big on books (or movies, for that matter) that manipulate my emotions and make me cry. Under normal conditions, I’d seriously consider plunking the book down in disgust, with no regret over not having finished it.
I’m starting to wonder if the book might be a word from God to me.
Anyone who has read her for any length of time has listened to (or ignored) my pining for the shores of Maine, as typified in some of my favorite books, like Calico Bush and One Morning in Maine. Well, guess the setting — entirely unbeknownst to me — of this book?? Literally, around the corner from Buck’s Harbor of One Morning in Maine. Melissa Coleman even refers to McCloskey’s classic picture book on page 10. The book starts out with a map, and as I peered at it (I love maps), I said to myself, “Hey! I recognize that! Eggemoggin Reach! Deer Isle! No way!!” As the crow flies, the farm which is the setting for This Life is in Your Hands is about, oh, one and a half miles from where Sal’s house was located in One Morning in Maine.
While McCloskey’s trio of picture books set in the picturesque Maine coastland have a highly idealized perspective, Coleman’s book seems to be exactly the opposite. While the premise of reading a anti-back-to-nature book doesn’t thrill me, it seems like maybe I need to read it, to pull me out of my desert-dwelling sighing state of, “If only…” (How’s that for hyphenated phrases??)
I must admit I’m not enthused about reading books just because It’s Good For You. Add that to the editing quirks and the downcast tone of the book, and I’m REALLY not enthused. But, I am interested. And, now, I’m compelled. I’m also only on page 26. I’ll let you know how it goes.