Saturday, October 3, 2009

While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty

I can remember one of my creative writing professors sharing a famous quote: there are only three types of stories in this world. All stories revolve one of three ideas. I wish I remembered the wording. But google searching for the answer seems to defeat the purpose. These three things are war, love and death. look at these categories and I think: what about loss, self-discovery, catharsis, victory, defeat? And yet I also believe that most stories are about the same basic ideas. Different packaging, same themes.  Most of the books I have read lately are about life choices.

While I’m Falling is a modern story. It ruminates on the sandwich generation, couples that get divorced after twenty-five plus years of marriage, career choices, college life. And yet, it is mainly a story that explores: what is the good life? While I was reading it, I stopped to consider my own life choices, the lack of a fire I feel in my belly somedays, the part of me that has wondered if being adult means accepting a more staid daily life. I yearned to be the protagonist, a junior in college trying to find her way, setting off course from the path she had previously chosen. I can’t even remember choosing a course in college. I was too busy having fun, learning, and living. Veronica’s life is nothing to really yearn for. But I suppose I just wanted to be back in an environment where it felt safe to make mistakes.

This evening, I started talking to a woman next to me on the metro platform. She asked about the book I was reading and I tried to explain it. A young woman in college struggles after her parents divorce, she realizes she doesn’t have what it takes to be pre-med, and a train wreck of negative events occur. And then suddenly her mother is at her dorm room, evicted from her apartment and living in her van. I explained to this woman that I felt disheartened reading the book. I didn’t particularly like the characters. Or I suppose at first I didn’t relate to them. I just felt propelled by the story. But something happened. An unlikely character emerged as the most compelling hero. The homeless mother, who doesn’t regret her life choices even as she has nothing to show for herself, made me feel reinspired. Even at her lowest moments, she is a true mother, a caring and considerate person, who truly appreciates the people around her, even the lowly waitress at an all night coffee place.

In the end, I loved this book. I love the way it captured the many conflicts of modern life. It showed that the choices we make alter our lives, but the most important thing is the attitude we use to face each day. The book is about a family unraveling, and yet it isn’t tragic. In the end, I believed that all of the negative events had to occur to get the characters where they needed to be.

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