It is a struggle to preserve history in a shrinking world. It is a struggle to live in harmony together when traditions and value systems clash leaving behind wreckage and fear. Yet what forces the struggle is the underlying beauty of life in its persistence to express all living things in such unique forms. Life is beautiful in spite of painful changes, paradigm shifts, evolving nature cycles. This issue of Bookisshh examines a novel and a work of literary fiction in which individuals struggle with their place in a changing world and overall the meaning of life. After reading both of them I felt as if I was wearing platforms with concrete heels–I was extremely grounded and fully alert to my surroundings as I amble along through them. Grave subjects make us confront crises of life. How we inform ourselves when translating them within our own life well–that’s just where the growing pains are..
Change is the law of life. And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future. –John F. Kennedy
“Chronicle Of A Last Summer: A Novel Of Egypt” by Yasmine El Rashidi
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“To be a witness to history is a burden for the chosen–” pretty much sums up the essence of this novel by Yasmine El Rashidi. Set in Cairo, Egypt beginning in 1984 we meet a young girl in an affluent household living her life innocently. “Chronicle of A Last Summer” takes us into three different phases of a girl’s life. During girlhood she sees class differences between her family and Egypt’s poor but attached little thought or feeling to circumstantial differences. She observes what has fallen and what is struggling to be rebuilt as a result of sociopolitical upheaval which has taken place within government and religious factions little of which she understands
During her teen years, she experiences a series of losses. She first loses her special-needs first cousin, followed by her grandma, temporarily her father, her architect uncle and later a significant male cousin. Unraveled from memories the girl narrator recalls the content of time spent together and the significant lessons regarding her changing country she’s lives in. She realizes the attempts at erasing history, memory for the sake of authoritarian agendas.
Readers feel the tension in the risks the narrator takes in spelling out why things change: flags, landmarks, history, education and that it’s not always in the name of progress and greater world participation. People who take individual risks disappear, are imprisoned, murdered, and scorned.
During her twenties she struggles with creating films and written works that foster reality or hide it in fiction. While her paternal grandma and male family members were political, her mother sustains conservative social practices to avoid conflict. Later, after all eyes and strong opinions are absent, the narrator and her mom become more socially daring and attend rallies and keep secret journals expressing the injustices they and their country men endure.
While the story moves quickly with huge gaps in narrative time and character change, it reads more like a photo album with memories of the moment narrated to the reader. The takeaway for this reader is that we all desire to see goodness whatever our circumstances and that it is complete good fortune to be born in a society that guarantees freedom.
There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. –Nelson Mandela
“A Man Called Ove” by Frederick Bachman
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When one of my friends discovered I was reading this she gently bit her lip wanting to tell me why she didn’t like it… After reading it, I could thoroughly understand why… “A Man Called Ove” is a melancholic, bittersweet meditation on aging, loss and loneliness that only the Swedes can do with a twinkle in their pen.
Bachman crafts a curmudgeon of an elderly gentleman, Ove for readers to care for. Ove is a childless widower who lost his nuclear family when he was near 16 years of age. He grew up quickly and developed skills that most people contract out for today. He can build and fix things and takes considerable pride in doing it correctly.
This book reminds me of a great movie, “Harold and Maude” without Maude. Like Harold, Ove has lost the meaning of life and instead embraces death. He can fix anything except the tools utilized in his suicide. Since Ove’s purpose in life has faded into his retirement, he schedules regular suicide attempts which prove ineffective at best.
Like a good neighbor, Parvana is there. She is Persian and too has suffered loss but is rebuilding her life with a husband, children and a new baby on the way. Her husband, the lanky one isn’t handy and cannot properly back up a U Haul truck which is how they meet when Ove does it for them.
This reader enjoyed watching their lives become intertwined and how Parvana and an old stray cat, reweaves Ove into the neighborhood fabric and wills him to live and participate in life and her family. We should all be so fortunate to have these neighbors who we help and help us. Such a lovely ideal…
For my dearest friends who prefer to be uplifted this book will not be your favorite as the ending while sad is not tragic and yet remains a truth most of us will have to prepare for. Hopefully, I will be able to continue my adaptation to a changing world as my last days come. Ove accomplishes this even if it felt too late. Readers, it’s worth the risk to read this tale of a man with a heart too big soon to be made a movie.