I often read novels that carry me away from my comfortable life. Fine literature can force us to face difficult times and situations. Good fiction takes us into war, presents us with evil, and shows us cruelty, poverty, and moral degradation. Not all stories end well or “happily.” The joy of reading is that we can witness other lives, though sometimes at the end of one of these books I long for something uplifting, a change of mood in my reading life.
I just finished two wonderful novels that gave me a sense of hope. Both were pure pleasure from the first page to the last.
The first was Us by David Nichols, a novel that often had me laughing out loud. The novel begins with a wife who decides that her marriage has “run its course.” Her husband, an endearing scientist, is ill-suited to his artistic, flamboyant wife. While traveling in Europe with their nearly grown son he doggedly tries to save their marriage. Nichols has a wonderful wry British sense of humor and the travel scenes abroad are hilarious. Also, the ending was perfect – not predictable, but inevitable. I loved this book.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is another heart-warming tale. At first I worried that this novel would be too sweet, too fairy-tale like. Fortunately the realistic underpinnings and fine writing allayed my earlier doubts. This novel is a love story about books and bookstores. Every page is layered with literary references and the story and characters were just what I needed – an homage to readers and writers alike.