#bookeveryweek Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.
Maggie Hoskie is a wonderfully complicated character at the center of an epic struggle with cosmic implications. A fast and engaging read that left me wanting more without leaving me unsatisfied with the ending of this first book in the series. I hope it continues well!
The best part: a woman character with tragedy in her past who is realistically impacted by that and who grows through her relationships with others without finding that love is a miracle cure. Maggie is functioning in a difficult world despite her pain when the story begins and I found myself cheering for her from the get-go, hoping that she'd find her way to a better and fuller life on her own terms. Really liked a lot of the supporting characters as well.
The second best part: the mythological bits. Big Water and the Sixth World, Clan Powers, Coyote (Ma'ii), Neizghání, witches. This is not mythology I've read over and over again, so it felt fresh to me, and I really loved the way magical/mythological elements were commonplace and known to everyone without question.
The less good parts: the makeover scene (I think I'm too old for that "she cleans up so hot" moment to have the impact it might if I were actually a young adult), the wandering (I was never clear on what was guiding this journey, but they were always right about where they went next to look for a clue), and. Neizghání.
When we finally meet Neizghání, Maggie's former mentor, "in person" he is NOT AT ALL what I was expecting based on what we'd heard about him up to that point. He seemed, well, stupid (as in un-intelligent, brutish, no subtlety) and I had trouble parsing that with Maggie's obsession with him, even given the rescue angle. I like surprises, but only when they fit in with what I do know. He didn't fit.
So, I would read more, but the story is not without its flaws.
This was a re-read for me. I read it when I was undergraduate studying Spanish and newly obsessed with all things Spain, and taken with a romantic desire to live overseas and have literary adventures. So, back then, there was a lot I loved.
Since then, Hemingway has mostly soured for me, with his toxic masculine stoic long-suffering schtick. I have to take him in small doses, so I can appreciate the art in his writing without choking on the philosophy too hard. But my classics book club took this one on, so I'm back to revisit it, twenty-some-odd years later.
My favorite thing Hemingway ever published was "Hills Like White Elephants," a short story which is a tour de force of dialogue. It works, though, because of its brevity.
That same technique of implication over statement and tone rather than interiority became annoying in this novel. Dialogue reads like a script with no viewpoint or judgment or thought about what anyone feels until there's suddenly a boiling point. A little drunkenness, harsh words, and violence, and we're back to witty repartee with nothing having changed for anyone.
I found Jake, the protagonist of this novel hard to connect to because he stood at arm's length to everything. Even himself. His passivity in his own life was annoying. The closest he comes to growth is the last line of the book (Isn't it pretty to think so?) but even that feels like a momentary epiphany that will not make any difference in the man's life. I liked him best the couple of times he was alone in his room talking about how things were harder at night and let us see how hard he worked to suppress his pain.
The novel doesn't have much plot, and is part travel-logue, part drunken banter, and part heartsick self pity. Moments in all of that are gorgeous.
Lady Brett Ashley is a hot mess of a character, and much more interesting than anyone else in the book, but if I'm supposed to be cheering for Jake, what I'm yelling is, "Run for the hills! She'll eat you alive!" I guess that means I did connect with Jake more than I thought I did, because I hoped he'd find something better for him in the long run than hopeless attachment to someone who will only bring out his own worst aspects.
Poor Robert Cohn became the demonstration of Hemingway's quite obvious anti-Semitism and it was a smack in the face each time those attitudes bubbled up to the top in the dialogue and attitudes. Cohn wasn't a Hemingway-type-man, and the plot needed him to be needy and difficult, but the implication over and over again was that Cohn was the way he was because he was Jewish and any Jewish man would have been the same. Lots of people give this a pass because of the times he lived and wrote in. I don't.
Still an affecting and interesting portrait of a lifestyle and a time. But leaves me happy to know that I'll never have to spend any time with any of these people.
Caroline Herschel, at least as depicted in this novel, kept a Day Book. I'm so attracted to the idea of this!
I've kept various kinds of journals throughout my life, but never something quite like this. It seems to be less about reflection and confession than it is about tracking. Caroline wrote down things like purchases and prices, task lists, major life events.
I do a fair amount of tracking. I keep a database tracking my word count on various projects. I've used tracking apps to monitor my sleep and my exercise. There's something comforting in being able to go back and look at something like that and have "hard data" rather than faulty memory of what happened to rely on.
So, I'm thinking of keeping an old fashioned Day Book in 2019. Part journal, part tracking artifact. If I can be consistent about it, it might make a nice, reflective habit. I could see it bringing me some brain quiet when I need it, by letting me offload. I already get a lot of comfort from different kinds of lists, and this seems like an expanded version of that.
Some categories I'm thinking of using:
- Schedule Notes/Goals:
- How I feel:
- What happened:
- What I ate:
- What I’m reading/watching/listening to: