The Sunday Salon -Reading Through It

The Sunday

In a week of unexpected difficulties – an elderly family member hospitalized after a fall, then word of another dear friend in critical care last night – my books have been a solace once again, helping to pass the long, anxious hours while waiting for news, redirecting my thoughts from fears and worries, removing me from the scenes of suffering and sadness.

Luckily I was in the midst of a wonderful saga, one of those big books that carries you through the length and breadth of a character’s life.  Cutting for Stone  is an expansive tale of family love and betrayal, of politics and intrigue, of medicine and superstition, of love and heartbreak.  It tells the story of Marion and Shiva Stone, identical twins born of the union between a famous surgeon and a quiet nun.  Left orphans by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, the boys grow up in a makeshift but loving family.  The boys come of age as their country (Ethiopia) endures political revolution, while their love for the same woman brings a similar upheaval to their own preternaturally close relationship.

It’s not difficult to lose oneself in this sort of book, for Abraham Verghese’s writing draws you into the story wherever the page falls open.  Which is important in times of crisis, when  one is liable to drop the book at a moment’s notice as a doctor walks into the room or a telephone rings.  Even though it’s large and heavy to tote around hospital corridors and waiting rooms, it’s heft is something of a solace, knowing there is plenty of story there to keep me company.

It has happened before that books have kept me company during times of illness and strife.  I recall reading Gone With the Windduring the time my grandfather was hospitalized with lung cancer, and Scarlett’s troubles were the perfect antidote for a scared, worried 15 year year old.  When I went into labor with my son, I happened to be reading Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (strange choice, I know), so that book stayed on my hospital night stand for five days after his birth as he was treated for jaundice.  Two years ago, while my husband was having surgery, it was Piece of My Heart, the latest Peter Robinson mystery.

Any ravenous reader can attest to the fact that “there is no frigate like a book…”  a ballast of safety in a world unexpectedly gone awry.  So my book will go with me today, as I leave for my hospital rounds, a small comfort in a world of storm.

Now tell me, which books have sustained you during difficult times?


17 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon -Reading Through It

  1. I am sorry that life is so difficult right now. I hope and pray that those who are hospitalized will heal quickly.

    I also turn to reading to escape the trials of every day life, but when stress is high I find that I cannot concentrate on epic stories. For me, a good cozy mystery is just what I need to transport me to a different time and place: it is quick, light, enjoyable and requires little brain power.

  2. I can’t name a book at such times and I think it’s because I tend to read some brainless thing (no offense to the authors) when under duress of any sort. LIke a Nora Roberts or some such. Something that has nothing to do with anything.
    So glad you have a good fat book to keep you company. I hope all are healing and doing well. Warm thoughts!

  3. I’m sorry to hear you are struggling through a difficult time right now. Books can definitely be a comfort. When Caribou (my dog) died in January, I just happened to pick up a book which for some reason resonated with me and provided me that comfort which I needed. In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld was the perfect read for me at that difficult time.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your difficult week! It sounds like we turn to the same types of books – I love a good family saga. When I was on bedrest during pregnancy (my girls are now 19 and twins 16) I read long books. I loved And Ladies of the Club, and remember giving several copies to friends with the same ‘sentence’.
    I really need to read Gone With the Wind one day. Cutting for Stone sounds wonderful, too. I hope the week ahead is better for you – take care.

  5. I’m sending you lots of good wishes during this difficult time, Becca.

    Reading gave me respite in my childhood and it ranged from classics to Nancy Drew. In high school, it was science fiction, which lifted me out of the world altogether.

    Books are amazing aren’t they?

  6. Best wishes to you in trying times.

    I confess to turning to comfort reading,at such times, much as one turns to comfort food, for both the sweet and the salt: Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K Jerome), The Diary of a Nobody, The Flame Trees of Thikka, and Mary Renault’s The Friendly Young Ladies.

    I’ve just finished Ishmael Beah’s Long Way Gone, now I’m going to look for Cutting for Stone.

  7. It is wonderful to have a book to turn to in times of stress. I tend to turn to “escapist” books, a good thriller or mystery, I think because the themes are so different from what is going on in”real” life.

    I hope things take a turn for the better this week.

  8. I hope everything works out for the best soon. And I’m glad your books can comfort you! 🙂 In the worst times, I almost always reach for Austen.

  9. I am sorry to read of your difficulties; it is so hard to be a spectator when family and friends are suffering. Glad you have a book to keep you company, there is none better. (I turn to the poets–or a mystery, if there’s one around)
    May this be the beginning of a much better week. All hopes with you.

  10. I am so sorry to hear about the worries in your family circle, Becca. I have everything crossed that both loved ones will soon find themselves on the road to full recovery. Books are a wonderful solace, and most recently, the ones that have saved me have been by Gabriel Josipovici, whose quiet but brilliant novels are tremendously soothing, and E. M. Delafield, whose Provincial Lady is the only person who can make me laugh no matter what.

  11. When things get rough, I find myself turning to my “old standards,” books I read and loved in childhood: Jane Eyre, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, anything by LM Montgomery. Reading these books take me to back to a simpler time when my only worry was which window seat I was going to read on or who I was going to call in the neighborhood for a bike ride.

  12. Becca I’m so sorry to hear about the difficult time some of your loved ones are going through. I hope all is getting better and sending you some calming vibes!

    And, oh yes, thank goodness for the power of books. When I spent lots of time taking care of my dad when he had cancer I could only seem to read cozy mysteries. I knew all would be well in the end and that’s about all I could handle at the time.

  13. That’s a lot of hospital time, but I guess it’s as good a place for reading as any. I’m surprised to read about your son’s jaundice treatment, as I thought most infants experienced a day or two of this naturally. Were there any specific procedures, if I may ask?

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