Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Gateway Book

A friend invited me to a lovely gathering at her home. She introduced me to her friends and colleagues, as a reader. Her tone was reverent and italicized. This is the kind of rare compliment that hits at the heart of a person.  But there's a qualification. I am an exclusive reader of non-fiction.

My keeping to one side of the library began with the death of my son Jacob.

Previous to this, I read everything. Fiction, non-fiction, you name it. I binge-read every Joyce Carol Oates book the libraries had.  I lived in the world of Edith Wharton until I ran out of her writing. I read my way through both sides of the New York Times bestseller list. I read the high-minded and the popular, the real and the fanciful. I was an equal opportunity reader.

It's been 14 years since Jacob died and in that time I've probably read hundreds of books, only one of them fiction. I don't know exactly why. I don't fully understand the relationship between my experience with Jacob and an inability to contemplate fiction. Maybe I felt I had no room in my heart for pretending. If it becomes any clearer, I'll let you know.

Very recently, the friend I mentioned earlier recommended a new book. I take what she tells me seriously. If she says read this book, then I read it. So even though it’s fiction, I read the book.

The book is called 'Til the Well Runs Dry and it's the first novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma.

I love this book. I think you will too. Here is why.

This novel is truly story driven.  You will want to know what happens next. You might not be able to put it down. This is exactly what happened to me. There is a lot to be said for a book that can do this.

The characters created will seem real. They are real. They are vivid and three-dimensional. You will feel like you know them. You will be invested in what happens to them. They will be members of your inner circle.

Hard things happen to people in this book. The price you pay for getting to know them is that you'll feel their sadness. I worried. But you'll draw strength from these people. I know, because I did.

You will luxuriate in the beauty of the language. Before the characters and the story roped me in, the pure artistry held their place. You'll smell the flowers and the food, feel the fabrics and the sun. You'll be transported in a good way.

If you're anything like me, you'll forget that this book is fiction.

Like most transformative experiences in my life, the act of reading this book was both earth shattering and ordinary. My reading identity has shifted. Living inside my head as I do, I can say that this is huge.

I have a feeling that Lauren Francis-Sharma didn't know that she was in the business of converting people when she wrote this book.  Her writing allowed me to jump in with both feet. There's no going back now. I'm on to the next chapter. Not the next chapter of the book, because I finished it already. The next chapter of my reading life.

I was in a jewel box of an independent bookstore the other day. I found myself drawn to their fiction section. I leafed through some newly released novels. I contemplated the number of books Joyce Carol Oates has written since I'd stopped reading fiction. I didn't buy anything. But I was over there.

Lauren Francis-Sharma’s website.

For more comprehensive reviews of this book, read what these writers have to say:

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!)

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