3 Books for Coming Home, A guest post by Maggie Cramer
2017 is coming to an end and ‘tis the season for ‘Best of’ book lists. The Times just released their much-anticipated list, and there’s a few on there that I want to be sure to read in 2018.
I, sadly, haven’t read enough books published in 2017 to warrant my own best-of-the-year list. If I’m honest, I’m not sure if I’ve read ANY.
My excuse, if I’m allowed one: I finished up the school year (I’m a high school English teacher) in London at the end of July only to start up school here in Chicago at the end of August. Couldn’t crack into much personal reading and crack open a new syllabus, ya dig?
But my excuse, sorry as it is, has also influenced my reading choices of late -- books about journeys. Since, for me, this year has been about journeying home. My husband and I had moved to London in the summer of 2015 for his work. We were married only 46 days when we moved. And although we promised my parents ‘one year’ when we set out, it was clear early on that we needed to stay longer. Maybe Samuel Johnson was right when he said, ‘You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.” I guess that doesn’t say much for me this year, since this year I willingly left London to move home to Chicago. Not looking very intellectual these days.
You’d be surprised, though, if you haven’t done a move like that yourself, how it can affect you. My husband and I have both mourned the slow demise of our ‘cool’ status. We were ‘cool Americans’ there and at home we were ‘cool expats.’ Here we’re just here, white people with nasally Midwest accents and heaps of blessings.
But there’s mostly a lot of joy. I can see my siblings and their kids weekly, have dinners at my parents and with friends, and try make an impact on my community and my city. And that’s so good.
And so, with a nod to Mary and Joseph and the ass and all that -- as well as my own journey -- I thought I’d compile a (short) list of books, old and new, that tell us something about home. Or journeying. Or journeying home. Or maybe just one for each.
First, for home. Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Tender at the Bone, takes place at home and, even better, at the kitchen table. Her stories are a strong reminder of why we gather around the table during this season.
2. Second, for journeying. I finally read Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Days later, I’m still haunted by its harrowing images, inspired by its brave heroine, and wondering why I know so little about slavery and how people escaped it (or didn’t, more likely).
3. Last, for journeying home. I’ve got to shout out to my homie, Kazuo Ishiguro (Nobel Prize winner for 2017). I love everything he’s written, but none more than The Buried Giant. The story follows a husband and wife, getting on in years, who are living in a medieval world shrouded by mist and carelessness. They embark on a journey to find something they’ve lost, although even they don’t seem certain of what they’re looking for. On the way, they unwittingly uncover the past and expose deep wounds in the process. Like everything Ishiguro does, it’s darn beautiful.
Hope you can find comfort in a good read this season, at home or wherever you may be going.
Cover photo by Design Sponge