Tuesday, January 17, 2012

If Modern Fiction is Making You Feel Blue, I've Got the Book for You

I am already in the process of preparing myself, physically and mentally, for a possible trip to Amsterdam with my husband on Friday. This would be only my second time accompanying him on a working trip in the almost 24 years he's been a commercial airline pilot. I'm a major homebody with an extreme fondness for keeping my feet on good old terra firma; but with our youngest son back at college and no one here to take care of, there's really nothing holding me back (other than that pesky little aversion to airplane travel).

When I went to Nice with my husband in early December, I took along my laptop and my digital camera, making it so that I could blog each morning from across the pond. This time, I've decided to pack a lot more lightly--and that means if a gadget is too big to fit in my pocket, I'm not taking it--in order to make the trip as stress-free as possible. All I'm going to have with me is a small carry-on rolling bag and a big purse. I plan to snap pictures of Amsterdam with my new iPhone4 (which has a great camera on it) and then I'll post them when I get back. I'm sure the few people (very few) who actually check out this blog every day will survive a couple of mornings without my inconsequential ramblings.

Whenever I'm going to fly, one of the most important items on my packing list is a good book. Reading is one of my great pleasures in life, and knowing that I'm going to have a brand new novel to devour gives me a reason to look forward to flights that I would otherwise mostly dread. I discovered on the trip to Nice, however, that if I'm sitting in business class, I don't read as much as I do back in coach. On that trip, I was so excited about my little personal T.V. set (and the long list of movies and shows I could watch) that I didn't get through more than a few chapters of my book. But even so, I liked knowing I had that book with me. It was my little safety net: the faithful friend who had my back and, if called upon, would do its best to help me forget that I was sitting in a chair 30,000 feet above the ocean.

I've already picked up a paperback for Friday's trip, a novel about a girl who inherits a cabin in the Adirondacks from her grandmother. At the cabin, she finds the journal her grandmother kept during World War II, and family secrets are revealed. I was drawn to this book because my own paternal grandmother had a rustic camp on a small lake in the Adirondacks, an idyllic place in the most beautiful spot imaginable, and our family spent many happy summer days there. And I'm also a sucker for any story that takes place during the era of the Second World War. The book is More Than Words Can Say, by Robert Barclay.

I'm hoping Barclay's book is a good read, but I've been burned before. I just wish that I wouldn't keep getting disappointed by modern fiction. I'm always looking for that great novel that's written like a literary masterpiece, has a satisfying love story in it, shows characters who practice their faith in a positive light (particularly devout Catholics--what a rarity they are in today's fiction!), and doesn't have any gratuitous, blush-inducing scenes of physical intimacy. Books like that are hard to find, I'll tell you. And that's why I'm also taking along one of my best-loved books with me, Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue. I've read it about three or four times already, but I could easily read it again and love it as much as I did the first time. It's set in Chicago during World War II, and the main characters are the three beautiful Heaney sisters, who write letters to soldiers fighting overseas and attend USO dances to keep up the morale of the troops. The sisters are part of a large Catholic family, and the book shows how everyone back home, even the youngest children, made sacrifices and did their part to help the war effort. There is a sweet love story in this book, as well as a shocking plot twist at the end. It is beautifully written--and eminently re-readable--and it remains one of my very favorites. If the other book lets me down, I know I can always rely on this one.

Well, today's post turned into a bit of a book review, I guess. And I give Dream When You're Feeling Blue five stars out of five. As for More Than Words Can Say, I'll let you know when (or if!) I finish it.

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