Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Why do we read books? To be entertained, to learn about other people and places, to learn about ourselves, to be shocked or scared or thrilled or... delighted.
Mathilda Savitch was a delight. Reading this reminded me of reading Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. I was enthralled by Christopher and Enzo and so eager to see how each of those characters interacted with their world, and so I was with Mathilda.
As Christopher and Enzo did in their respective books, Mathilda narrates in her own unique voice. Mathilda is a preteen (-ish, we don't really know) whose sister was killed after being pushed in front of a train. She is trying to make sense of her life after the tragedy, wondering how she fits into her family now that her sister is dead, how could Helene actually be GONE, as she also searches for the man who killed her. Her parents are emotionally absent, wrapped up in their own grief. That all sounds rather grim, but Mathilda comes up with her own, often very un-grim ways of sorting things out and thinking about things. Her observations are often spot on, sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, sometimes both at the same time.
She goes into a Catholic church on a weekday and meets a nun...
I ask her if she knows any prayers. Which makes her laugh for some reason.
"Oh yes," she says. She says she knows quite a few. She walks over to one of the rows and picks up a red book in a little book-holder built right into the bench. She opens the red book to a particular page and points to something. "This is a good one," she says.
I move a little closer to her. She hands me the book, but I'm not about to audition for her.
"Do you ever say something that's not from the book?" I ask her.
"Like what?" she says.
"Just something you made up,", I say. "Your own thing. Like stories."
"No," she says. "What kind of stories?"
"I don't know," I say. "About whatever's bothering you."
"If you say the words of the prayer," she says, "things won't bother you so much. That's why you say them."
"But they're not my words," I say.
"Yes, they are," she says, "they're everyone's words."
She was a lunatic, I decided. You'd almost have to be in her profession.
She talks about mothers...
"Ma's not even here and still she's everywhere. Mothers are like that. When it comes to biology, mothers are a real problem. They stick to you because you have a lot of their cells and everything. It's worse than a monster movie."
"Books again. I could scream. I mean, I like books just fine, but I don't want to make a career out of it."
I laughed out loud when I read this line in the first couple of pages. It was funny to me because it is in the beginning of HER book (and therefore perhaps a contradiction), and mostly I laughed because I DO want to make books my career. I guess maybe I already have.