How Simon’s Book Affected Me

A few thoughts on Simon Van Booy’s The Secret Lives of People in Love

This book is a collection of short stories all relating in one way or another to different aspects of love. Not simply passionate or romantic love, but deep, caring love. The stories take place in various towns around the world and are unbearably real, but the writing is beautifully poetic. Van Booy’s themes are sad and dark, but each has a jewel of compassion or a glimpse at love through pain, sorrow or loneliness. I was moved to tears several times, but the story that touched my soul was Where They Hide is a Mystery. It’s about a young boy whose mother dies. He becomes distant from his father and they do not speak. He starts sneaking out to wander through a park that he had walked through with his mother. They had a special spot where they would stop and look at “Peter Pan roses” (tea-roses). On the anniversary of her death, he visits their spot but discovers an Indian in a turban sitting there. They begin talking and he tells the man that his mother is dead. The man laughs and says that no one dies. He says the boy’s mother is still there and his tears are falling on her hands. She is the bed of roses. She is what her son loves… what makes him think of her in his heart. The man then says, “My own wife is the blend of light in late summer that pushes through the smoky trees…” The man tells the boy that he needs to help his father and the story ends with; “The sea between Edgar and his father began to drain, and in the distance burned the fire of a man waiting to be rescued by a small boy he once knew.” When you have experienced loss, a story like this – that makes you remember the person almost as if she were with you – is sad and beautiful. Rain momentarily turns to snow. My mother died of cancer when I was in my 20’s. We were very close and I thought I would be crushed by the weight of the sadness. Over time, I have lost the details of many memories of her. But when I read this story, I felt like she was with me. I felt like I could remember her again.

sometimes we all need help

Another treasure from the book is the chapter Little Birds. “Poems are little birds which sing to you in a moment of darkness.” I always turn to poetry when I am tormented. Sometimes it feeds the pain. But maybe the pain needs to be nurtured to grow large enough for me to face and overcome it. I think this is a theme in my life. When I am faced with an obstacle or challenge, I initially feel crushed or overwhelmed by an inability to escape it. But I always do, eventually. I think this makes me stronger.. I don’t know why I do this. I watch other people, like my sisters, deal with difficult situations. Either they hide it better than I can, or they can deal with emotions more rationally. I have always felt deeply. Sometimes I wish I didn’t. Sometimes I wish I were a Vulcan… all reason and logic with no interference from emotion. I think life might be easier, but it would certainly not be as beautiful. “I suppose the key to a good life is to gently overlook the truth and hope that at any moment we can all be reborn” (chapter, Little Birds). I don’t know how one goes about gently overlooking the truth. Truth is raw, sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet. But it is there and refuses denial. I do wish, however, that I could be reborn. There is too much to see and do for one life! I think that is another problem I face. I have too many interests and too many desires. I want to experience as much as I can and do as many things as I can before I die. But, I am often too tired. Emotions are exhausting.

I will write more about my experiences with The Secret Lives of People in Love. It is an intensely deep book, but a very easy read. Expect more to come…

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