Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Life a la Mode"

For about two years now I have found relaxation in reading what some call "chick lit" which in some ways is an embarrassing, derogatory term. Why are books written by woman about woman considered chick lit but books like "Moby Dick" and "Great Gatsby" and "Old Man and the Sea" are considered great works of art and not called something like "guy-fi"?

There are often bits of information in these books that can reach a level of "a-ha" or deep sadness or requires a moment to stop, inhale, think and exhale. I found that in "Life a la Mode" by Linda Lenhoff. It's not the most apt title, since it is not really about pie, or pie as a metaphor, and actually begins and ends with the main character making drapes.

It's the story if Holly who works as an editor at a company that is going through changes, with a divorced mother who is in love with and moving in with a new man, a father who moved away with a younger "cousin" only to return to NY and a sister who goes through seven engagements before marrying. Then there is the ex-husband, the best friend, the snotty boss and the co-worker who may by a love interest, and a bike messenger who speaks words of wisdom.

The book is light, a fun read that is easy, and so enjoyable. It's about how life is, well, life. The balance of good, bad, sad, joyous unexpected, full of beginnings, endings and new directions. The first real moment of life entering in is on page 143 when a shooting occurs on a train upstate. The book takes on a new, brief, poetic turn, as the co-workers stand in silence, drift to the center of the office, listen to the radio announcer and then go through the process of processing and wondering if they knew anyone on the train.

On page 146, one character, a bike messenger named Roy, says "The world is often no place to be." he strokes his bike helmet. Holly says "I don't know, it beats other options." Roy sits up straight. "Envision the possibilities for hope and the true nature of meaningfulness."

Page 149 gets all ecotheological by stating "It's the kind of day that makes you wonder what we've done to the environment, what kind of sprays, powders, solutions and gasses we've used to give us artificial and yet spectacular spring days before we have any right to one."

Page 169 there is the threat of a hurricane and Roy states "There is much to learn from a hurricane with a good sense of humor." This makes me think of Genesis 1 and the idea of creation out of chaos.

Page 182 Holly finds comfort in thinking about whales and how even though the ocean looks freezing and dark, for the whales it is their home and it must be familiar, comforting and warm enough in its own way.

With work, family and love life in change mode, Holly's Dad asks how she is doing. Holly says "I'm OK. Everything seems to be in flux at the moment, though." "Disconcerting, change," dad nods. "But not always such a bad thing."

On 219 the women talk of Barbie and the reality she creates. "But everything you did learn with a Barbie, you can un-learn through self-help books," says Maria, a friend.

238-239, Holly talks with Roy. Roy, notices Holly has a bounce in her walk, states "Summer is the time for true confidence to overtake all of life's insecurities and direct the body in motion...Life is one of the funny things. It's the unsolvable riddle, but it's that way for a reason." "Should I know the reason?" Holly asks. "You can only know it through understanding it, live it through living it. We're meant to wonder."

I guess Roy, in his brief appearances, is the spiritual voice of the story, and perhaps it would be good to see him reappear and perhaps connect with Holly if Lenhoff decides to do a sequel, which I hope she does.

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